Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Family Values

I was saddened to hear of Lady Bird Johnson's death recently, but heartened by the way she has been remembered across the news channels. "Lady Bird Johnson was a true, strong, Texan woman," declared one current Texan politician. "She supported her husband's career, and some say she even saved it," said a news person. It makes you think for a minute about that expression "behind every successful man is an exhausted woman." Not only have we worked harder and done a better job for less money, we've been doing it on behalf of the whole family, and in Lady Bird's case, the whole country.

So different from some of the competing headlines today about the sex scandals of "Family Value" candidates and their prostitution escapades. I wouldn't care so much about what they do in their bedrooms, if only they didn't care so much about what happens in the bedrooms of their constituents. Hmmm... "Me thinks thou dost protest too much..."

As far as I can tell though, we've never really gotten over our chagrin at giving women the vote to begin with. The next thing we know, women want to read, have equal access to education, college admission, professional opportunities, and maybe some day - equal pay. We have a historical struggle with strong, outspoken First Ladies. Roosevelt has an entire chapter in Doris Kearn-Goodwin's book "Roosevelt" called "I Can't Do A Thing About Her," in reference to Eleanor’s incorrigible social reform agendas. I remember living in DC when Bill Clinton was elected and the Washington Post was obsessed with speculations about who would actually be wearing the pants in the administration. We know who was not wearing the pants, but more importantly, why were we so intimidated about a high profile woman with ambition, and why were we so disconcerted about a woman with visions for health care and education reform? Remember "It takes a Village"? Was Hillary wrong to speak out on the verge of globalization? Is it inaccurate to say the time has come to revisit the role of our local community economies? Stunning isn't it, that less than 100 years after being granted the right to vote that we would be after the White House. Lady Bird would be proud. Come to think of it, so would Martha, Abigail, Louisa, Eleanor, Jackie, Rosalynn...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Your Body Your Planet

Sierra Club

It’s easy to compartmentalize our choices in life - it’s what we need to do in order to dash through the exhaustive to-do lists beeping at us all day long on our blackberries and blinding us with pop-up appointments across the computer screen. What we sometimes don’t have time to reflect on is how those day-to-day choices intersect with one another. I’ve got my hand in several great books right now about nutrition, the climate change, the coming health crisis, the impacts of our global economy and the hidden costs of cheap consumer goods. It’s not usually my style to be involved in so many leisure academic activities at once, but I feel like I literally opened the NYT book review one Sunday and found the publishing houses under a siege of all the soap boxes and rants I’ve been chasing people around at dinner parties with for the last 15 years.

Thus, the Sacred Harvest blog - the place where I will muse on topics such as:

* What does the childhood obesity epidemic have in common with climate change?

* How are international human rights connected to conspicuous consumption in the United States?

* What is the common denominator between fast food and poverty?

* Can you implement sustainable living practices and simultaneously reverse stress related health disorders?

* What are the global impacts of our food choices?

* Are "green products" the real answer to the environmental crisis? What are the impacts of production and distribution of so-called "eco-friendly" products?

Welcome to the Sacred Harvest! I look forward to your comments and participation as I build this site out. I hope it can be a place of community development and discussion where we all learn how to lighten our footprints and embrace the sacredness of daily life on this amazing planet we call home.

Take Back Your Table

The whole revelation of how many of our food products come from China has been incredibly eye-opening in our household. When the tainted dog food was announced we knew it was only the tip of the iceberg, but we had no idea how big this iceberg was. Now we know a toddler that is recovering from a life-threatening case of Salmonella from Veggie Booty. Here are a few facts to mull over about food imports, and notice too that some of your favorite "hippie food companies" are in fact partially owned by organizations such a Phillip Morris, Heinz, and General Mills.

1. The US has over 400 points of entry for food imports and only 600-something inspectors
2. Only 1% of food imports are inspected, and this does not include food ingredients - only the final products
3. When you see the words "natural food flavorings" in an ingredient list, you can be almost sure it includes animal products
4. There are hundreds of food import refusals in the US every month (only 1% are even inspected!)
5. China has made a deliberate effort to capture the food manufacturing market by under cutting prices by 1000s of % - thereby forcing the closure of many US manufacturing facilities. For example, ascorbic acid (vitamin C - a common food preservative) cost $15 a kilogram ten years ago. Today the Chinese produce 80% of the world's supply at a mere $3.50 a kilogram.
6. Import refusals from China include vitamins and supplements and herbal teas

Here is an except from one of the NPR articles in the below links:

"In the past year, the FDA rejected more than twice as many food shipments from China as from all other countries combined.
The rejected shipments make an unappetizing list. Inspectors commonly block Chinese food imports because they're "filthy." That's the official term.
"They might smell decomposition. They might see gross contamination of the food. 'Filthy' is a broad term for a product that is not fit for human consumption," Hubbard says.
Another rejection code is "vet-drug-res." That means the food product, usually things like fish, seafood and eels, contains residues of veterinary drugs, such as antibiotics and antifungals."

Here are some links you may be interested in if you would like to learn more about what's on our grocery store shelves - even the shelves of your favorite co-op:

What is becoming increasingly clear is that we cannot rely on industry or government to protect our health in general, and specifically in regards to packaged consumer goods. It's time for us to take back our dinner tables and make an effort to reclaim our local economies, our natural environments, and most of all, our health.