Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Desperation or Inspiration?

Last night we attended a lecture at the Natural History Museum on the necessary transition to sustainable agriculture. Part of their ongoing Sustainable Planet:Food lecture series, the speaker was Dave Henson, Executive Director of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) in Sonoma. With a frightening collection of graphs and statistics, Dave highlighted how our current lifestyles are completely unsustainable. Our human population explosion, mass species extinction, pending climate crisis and toxic dead zones are a reflection of our inability to live in tune with nature. With peak oil now a reality, our ways will change- it's now just a question of how messy that transition must be. We could follow the model held up by OAEC and learn how to restore our ecosystem through sustainable farming techniques and the like, or we can continue down the path most of us are blindly following today, which ecology 101 teaches leads to inevitable crash.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Elf Cafe-Hidden Organic Eats

You might have to search all night to find the Elf Cafe, biking up and down Sunset Blvd. in Echo Park. Elf Cafe has no sign indicating their location and the dim lights inside the restaurant make it hard to identify. The cafe seats around 20 people with a few tables outside. It may seem like a challenge to get a table here, but once you are sat to eat it is worth the wait. The eclectic atmosphere and the Mediterranean menu transport you to another time and place. The staff is extremely friendly and the food is as god as it gets. Original, organic, vegetarian recipes. They also offer vegan and raw options. Elf changes their menu daily and they rely on local organic produce to craft their menu. This hidden gem does not have a formal website, but you can find them on myspace and yelp and they have also had articles in the Los Angeles Times and Flaunt Magazine to name a few. The restaurant is BYOB with no corkage fee, so a grab an organic bottle of wine, sip and savor.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Do We Have A Choice?

Most consumers in the U.S. today are not aware that the majority of foods they purchase in a typical supermarket contain genetically modified ingredients. That's because in the U.S., unlike Europe and most of the rest of the world, we do not have mandatory labeling laws for genetically engineered (GE) food. In fact, the only way to be sure that the food you purchase is not GE is to purchase certified organic food. The non-profit group The Center for Food Safety is working to change this. They are trying to force companies like Monsanto and the federal agencies that are supposed to be regulating them to adequately study these products before they go on the market. Genetically engineered sugar beets have been widely grown since 2008, with approximately 95% of the sugar beets planted this year genetically modified. But the consequences of this are not fully known. For example, the pollen from genetically-engineered crops could spread to neighboring non-genetically engineered crops. This would not only eliminate the farmer's right to choose not to plant GE crops, it could eliminate the consumer's right not to eat it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Do You Know What's In That Burger?

Warning: Do not read this if you are about to enjoy a meal. On the other hand, if that meal may consist of fast food or any other form of industrial meat- please do read this pronto. It just may save your life. After reading the recent New York Times article on E. coli in industrial beef, you may change your eating habits. As in, never eat industrial meat again. The heroine of this article is Stephanie Smith, a young dance instructor nearly killed from eating a single Cargill hamburger. She remains paralyzed. Others have not been so lucky. So why is this happening? Well, for one thing, the federal agencies that are supposed to be regulating the industrial meat industry are essentially impotent. The industry is just too big and too powerful to be regulated. Scary? Yes. So what is a burger-lover to do? Basically the only safe option, not to mention most environmentally-sound option, is to either make it a veggie burger or make sure the cow it came from was grass-fed. Why grass? Because most cows are fed corn, something they cannot easily digest, instead of grass. This causes very real changes in the cow's gut which allow toxic strains of E. coli to take hold, but which cannot survive in the gut of cows that eat only grass.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Still Addicted To Oil?

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. The devastation from this tragedy is still being felt today. The herring population that supports the fishery food chain in the region has never recovered. A jury awarded spill victims $5 billion (equal to one year of Exxon's average profits after the spill). Exxon fought this award for nearly 2 decades, until the Supreme Court last year slashed the award to just $507 million. Even worse, the Supreme Court set a dangerous precedent by ruling to limit the size of punitive damages in maritime cases to no more than compensatory damages. This decision removes the people's ability to adequately fight a multinational corporation. Get the whole story in the new book and film.

Black Wave - The legacy of the Exxon Valdez (Teaser EN) from Macumba Docs on Vimeo.

Despite this bleak legacy, California continues to flirt with the idea of ending the 15 year moratorium on new off-shore oil drilling. Claiming this is needed to raise revenue for the state, drilling proponents fail to recognize that simply enacting a severance tax on existing production would generate more than three times the revenue expected from the proposed new drilling. Did I mention Exxon Mobil posted record profits again last year, over $45 billion, making it the most profitable corporation in world history.