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Archive for May, 2008

That’s what the Sierra Club is telling us.  You need sun, still, since the fuel is electricity, derived from a photovoltaic system.   And then there’s the regular maintenance on the car.  But given that plenty of people spend over $45,000 on their cars alone, and if you really do keep your new car for a few decades, that’s not a totally outrageous sum.

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For some reason we here at EarthQuaker have become interested in the idea of ‘green’ deaths recently.

We’ve even been fantasizing about buying our own local redwood forest for a Quaker-focused green burial site, going so far as to investigate US state law on the subject.

But maybe we should be looking at alkaline hydrolysis instead, a method that’s been described as “dissolving bodies in lye and flushing the brownish, syrupy residue down the drain.”

That quote comes from a recent AP story on the subject, which promotes the technique as environmentally friendly and notes that a funeral industry newsletter has been calling it “a truly game-changing technology.”

The process leaves a dry bone residue, not unlike a cremation. But instead of the rest going up in smoke and adding to global warming, it goes into our sewers instead. While not toxic, one has to wonder what large quantities of the lye/flesh mix might do to our sanitary systems — maybe they’d help flush them out!

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– real urban farming

‘Urban farming’ can mean many things.  For some people it amounts to little more than growing herbs on their window sill — admirable, of course, but hardly what you could call a commercial enterprise.

Other urban growers, though, really are farming — in the sense of raising crops in volume that they then sell on to other city dwellers.

Here’s a recent profile of one such farm in Brooklyn, NY.  As journalist Tracie McMillan points out, the result is not only that environment gets beautified, residents gain a new source of fresh produce, and children get to see where their food comes from — people (often with very low incomes) are also making real money from these enterprises.  No wonder that after years of seeing agriculture and urban life as essentially incompatible, many cities are starting to look upon urban farming positively and developing policies to encourage it.

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So the Independent didn’t feel able to go long without publishing a rebuttal to their ‘contra organics’ story of last week. Here‘s the response, from Peter Melchett of the Soil Association.

Again, the comments on the piece suggest that the debate is far from over.

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It’s always worthwhile having one’s most deeply-held convictions challenged. That must have been the thinking behind the UK Independent’s decision to publish today an article arguing against organic food.

“The great organic myths: Why organic foods are an indulgence the world can’t afford,” is by ‘environmental expert’ Rob Johnston.

Among the ‘myths’ Johnston lists are that organic farming is good for the environment, that it is pesticide free and produces healthier food than conventional farming.

Judging from the general tenor of the many comments that the piece has already received, not too many Independent readers were persuaded by Dr. Johnston’s logic.

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Reuters journalist Kate Kelland gets excited this week about guerrilla gardening, writing a way-over-the-top article about the phenomenon keyed to a new book on the subject.

“They work under the cover of night, armed with seed bombs, chemical weapons and pitchforks. Their tactics are anarchistic, their attitude revolutionary.”

And that’s just the start in a story full of ‘enemies,’ ‘attacks,’ ‘troops’ and ‘a win-win war.’

Partly, Kelland just gets stuck belaboring her (already hokey) metaphor. And she’s trying to be funny — reflecting a common journalistic inclination to belittle anything to do with gardening.

But is something else going on, too? In the eyes of mainstream journalists, does gardening — or anything else for that matter — need to be so conflict-ridden that it actually becomes warfare for it to be deemed interesting to their readers?

Maybe the people acting as guerrilla gardeners really see themselves in martial terms. If they did, that might be interesting. But there’s no evidence of that in Kelland’s piece. She certainly doesn’t question them about the need to see gardening as fighting. Instead, the need seems to be hers.

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