There were a lot of great articles this week, and here were the highlights for me:

  • Vegeculture: Further Rethinking How We Eat (Casaubon’s Book) – We should be growing more root crops.

    “Hand produced polycultures of one acre that emphasize roots integrated with perennial plantings a la permaculture or vegeculture and include animals to eat wastes and maintain fertility can dramatically outproduce existing monocultures of grains.”

  • Can You Spare a Dime? Why We Could….But Won’t (Casaubon’s Book) – On the (impossible?) challenges we face in simply maintaining our existing infrastructure and way of life.

    “And the reality is this – we actually need very few fossil fuels. There is little question that human beings pee out enough nitrogen to keep us fed, along with judicious use of land. Our basic needs – and I mean very basic ones – are for food, shelter, water… The vast majority of what we use fossil fuels for are comfort and convenience, and we may find that without them, we do surprisingly well.”

  • Crop Yields Expand, but Nutrition is Left Behind (Worldwatch Institute) – We are growing more food than ever (apparently; I thought food production worldwide was declining), but our food is less nutritious than ever.
  • Vegetarianism and Environmentalism (Grist) – This article hits on a point which I plan to write about in a separate post eventually – “environmentalism” is difficult to define and is, in my opinion, counter-productive and misguided.

    “Is it true that you cannot be a meat-eating environmentalist? This is a deeply silly question. The term ‘environmentalist’ is socially contingent and highly contested. Environmentalism has no metaphysical essence. ‘You aren’t an environmentalist’ is moral judgment masquerading as an assertion of fact.”

  • On Meat Eating and Global Warming (Grist) – We need to be eating less meat.
  • Top 25 Censored Stories 2008 (Project Censored) – A scary list of news stories.
  • George Marshall on Our Personal Efforts to Reduce Climate Change (The Guardian) – This is a fantastic article, which I mostly agree with. I love the analogy I quoted below:

    “Why is everyone so keen to believe that tiny actions can prevent climate change? We are given easy household tips by campaigners and the government that will help ‘save the climate’… Lest you think I am being harsh, look at this from a different point of view. Imagine that someone came up with a brilliant new campaign against smoking. It would show graphic images of people dying of lung cancer followed by the punchline: ‘It’s easy to be healthy – smoke one less cigarette a month.'”

  • Can’t We All Just… Be Vegans? (Grist) – We can all be vegans and still eat meat! At least, we can be 50% vegans… An argument for a more critical analysis of the environmental impacts of eating meat.

    “Allowing a sustainable number of cows to sustainably graze natural grasslands is essentially a carbon neutral exercise, especially if the meat is processed and consumed locally with little or no fossil fuels. It is only when expansion of that grazing is accomplished by destroying grasslands or forests that it becomes carbon intensive.”

  • You Are What You Buy (Grist) – “On the impact of food purchases.”
  • Solving Fermi’s Paradox (The Archdruid Report) – Another fantastic article from John Michael Greer. This one is about the limits on technological advance.

    “Throughout the history of our species, in fact, each technological revolution has depended on accessing a more concentrated form of energy than the ones previously available. The modern faith in progress assumes that this process can continue indefinitely. Such an assertion, however, flies in the face of thermodynamic reality.”

  • Biodiversity, Trash Heaps, and the Evolutionary Origins of Crops (Earth Forum) – Discusses a recent paper on the origins of some domesticated plants in Mexico.
  • Traditional English Cooking: Nettle Pudding and Other Ancient Recipes (Daily Mail) – Interesting recipes from pre-Roman Britain.

    “Served with a wild duck or cinnamon sauce, hedgehog was the provenance of the rich, with its thorny nature meaning it would have been avoided by all but the most adventurous cooks. Barley bread was popular from around 5,000BC, while pottage, or meat and vegetable stew, became part of the Ancient Briton’s diet 3,000 years later.”

  • Grasshopper Stew (Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog) – This is a funny coincidence, as we are planning to harvest some of the grasshoppers that are currently filling our garden.

    “Apparently, harvesting grasshoppers mechanically to eat and sell them is not only good for your nutrition and income, it can also save on pesticide use.”

  • Jordan: The Kafrin Site, Part 2 (Permaculture Reflections) – Describes an amazing permaculture project in Jordan. There is also a great video about it on YouTube. One interesting local angle to this project was that they utilized our native foothills palo verde (Parkinsonia microphylla).
  • Rapeseed Biofuel ‘Produces More Greenhouse Gas Than Oil or Petrol’ (Times Online) – Another reason why biofuels (at least some of them) are bad ideas. The described study demonstrates why it is important to consider greenhouse gases in addition to carbon dioxide.

    “Measurements of emissions from the burning of biofuels derived from rapeseed and maize have been found to produce more greenhouse gas emissions than they save… Rapeseed and maize biodiesels were calculated to produce up to 70 per cent and 50 per cent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels.”