Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Renegade Lunch Lady

OK - this video is inspiring for two reasons:

1. It's a story about a school lunch program in California (of course) which is almost entirely organic.

2. It was created by teenagers and uploaded to Eco Company TV, a website "hosted by a dynamic group of teens who combine their natural curiosity with their enthusiasm to preserve the planet they will inherit."

I love this stuff.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hope in China

Nice article from the Washington Post:

"Young Chinese farmers sowing seeds for organic revolution"
By William Wan Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, November 1, 2010; 8:48 PM

The small-scale farmer is a dying breed in China, made up mostly of the elderly left behind in the mass exodus of migrant workers to much higher-paying jobs in industrial cities.

But on an island called Chongming, a two-hour drive east of Shanghai, a group of young urban professionals has begun to buck the trend. Read more >>

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The New York Times

Bees like blue, yellow and white flowers best. Coincidentally, I'm obsessed with chicory, dandelions and Dutch clover.

A few weeks ago, I dug up chicory and dandelions from the side of the road and planted them in my nursery bed. The chicory plants had gone to seed and almost immediately I found myriad baby chicories growing! I will transfer them to their own bed in the spring and I'm hoping that the bees will like them. And I will force myself to enjoy dandelion and chicory greens, even if I have to boil them two or three times to reduce the bitter taste.

I seeded my garden with Dutch clover this autumn. My community garden neighbors think it is a cover crop. It is not. It is a CROP! Bees like the little white Dutch clover better than the huge purple clover, which is too deep for their little "tongues" (do they actually use their tongues to gather nectar?)

OK-so I'm starting to hate The New York Times. Considering the fact that so many people still take this newspaper's word as gospel, I think they should be a little more careful about checking their sources. I am talking about their recent proclamation on October 6, 2010 that honey bee hive collapse is due to a combination of a virus and a fungus. The title of the article proudly proclaims, "Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery." No mention of PESTICIDES as a contributing factor, even though the bee scientists, led by Jerry Bromenshenk of the University of Montana in Missoula, state that more research is needed to determine "how much environmental factors like heat, cold or drought might play a role."

HUH? This seemed weird to me. Aren't pesticides now an "environmental factor"? Given the fact that our bodies seem to have been so infiltrated by pesticides that scientists are now studying the correlation between learning disabilities in children and the amount of pesticide residue found in their urine, why wouldn't pesticides be on any agricultural scientist's list of "environmental factors"?

Two days later, a rebuttal article, "What a scientist didn't tell the New York Times about his study on bee deaths" was published on the Fortune magazine page over at CNN. It turns out that the study's lead author, Montana bee researcher Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk has a cozy FINANCIAL RELATIONSHIP with Bayer Crop Science, a subsidiary of the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG and the LEADING MANUFACTURER of pesticides, particularly so-called neonicotinoids, a class of neurotoxins that kills insects by attacking their nervous systems.

Kudos to journalist Katherine Eban for her fast work and fine article which reveals: "In recent years Bromenshenk has received a significant research grant from Bayer to study bee pollination. Indeed, before receiving the Bayer funding, Bromenshenk was lined up on the opposite side: He had signed on to serve as an expert witness for beekeepers who brought a class-action lawsuit against Bayer in 2003. He then dropped out and received the grant."

Specific details follow later in the article, complete with names, dates and citations. Pow!

As for Kirk Johnson who wrote the original New York Times article, I pee pee on you. And many, many thanks to my friend Karen for alerting me to both of these articles.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bees (and Guilt)

Today I planted my first plant in my new plot at the local community garden. My plot is right at the front of the garden near a busy school parking lot, so I have lots of visibility from the public. And I plan to use this visibility to get kinda political in my garden. I might even paint a hokey "Save the Bees!" sign.

The CONCEPT: A Bee Sanctuary

I hope this will be a successful haven for bees of all kinds. I hope to absolve my guilt over the time several years ago when I sprayed bee killer on an innocent nest of bumbles who had set up housekeeping in a woodchuck hole under the foundation of my house. Imagine my angst a few years later when I discovered that all of our pollinators - and therefore human agriculture and therefore human SURVIVAL - are in danger. AND that bumblebees buzz a lot in a really threatening way, but are not really prone to stinging people. Guilt? You betcha.

As I proudly brought my pot of anise hyssop in through the garden gate - the bees in my home garden LOVE these flowers - I noticed a bumblebee clinging to one of the spikes of blue blossoms. Seems like a good omen to me!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Researcher Moms

Not surprisingly, moms are sometimes strongly motivated to do research on pesticides for the sake of their children. I believe that observant parents can see how their children are affected by the world around them, whether for good or ill, and no matter what "science" tells them.

Five years ago, author Audrey Schulman wrote a fascinating (and really well-written) story about her effort to research the nature of the pesticide used on her father's cranberry farm.

Audrey writes, "Three years ago, while my extended family was vacationing at my dad's cranberry farm, he mentioned that one of his fields would be sprayed that evening. There were five children under 10 in the house, and I was eight months pregnant. The field was 100 feet away. I asked my dad about the pesticides, but he said, 'Don't worry. The government runs tests on the chemicals. They make sure they're safe.'"

After some thorough reading at the website of the Environmental Protection Agency, Audrey learned that the safety experiments her father spoke of were all conducted by the manufacturers and then reported--often under strict confidentiality--to the EPA.

So this is what we are up against:

"Although the analyses are performed by professional scientists, the results are often reported only to the EPA. They are rarely published in peer-reviewed journals, and must often be requested through the Freedom of Information Act, a process that can take years."

Audrey concludes:

"The son I was pregnant with when the cranberry bog was sprayed has developed slowly in different ways. He started talking so late the state sent a speech therapist over to tutor him. My older son, who was also there, can't draw. He's 5 now and gets frustrated trying to make even a stick figure. The one time he tried to draw me, it looked like an amoeba with three eyes.

"Does this have to do with drifting pesticides? I can't tell you. None of us will know for sure the effects of these chemicals until there's good science involved -- science that isn't funded and reported by the very people making the chemicals in the first place."

Maybe there is hope for the future, if organizations like the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) can continue to make pesticide research more accessible to the masses. I love the name of their website: What's On My Food

Friday, May 28, 2010

Autism I

Not sure if this article is from the New York Times or not, but I wanted to note it for further investigation.


Just found this recent article in Time magazine about a Harvard study that examined the amount of pesticide residue in the urine of children. The higher the rate of pesticides in a child's urine, the more likely that the child had ADHD.

I think I'm starting my crusade soon.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I started running across references to pesticides in my menopause research. Every time I get a little bit blue, I do some reading about menopause and...it doesn't exactly cheer me up, but it helps me cope. Anyway, pesticides are unexpectedly popping up in the literature about menopause. I sort of expected that pesticides cause tumors, etc. but it's sort of weird to think that they can be responsible for elevated levels of estrogen in the environment.

I ran across this passage in a discussion of a host of potential health problems for women (including infertility, endometriosis, amenorrhea (skipped periods), hypermenorrhea (heavy bleeding), fibroids, uterine cancer, heart disease and stroke, and decreased cognitive ability) resulting from unnaturally elevated estrogen levels:

"Pesticides are perhaps the biggest source of xenoestrogens. Most bioaccumulate, meaning they are stored in fat cells of fish, poultry and other food sources in increasing concentration until they reach the top of the food chain — where you and I consume them! They are highly estrogenic, and some experts estimate that the average American ingests over a pound of pesticides a year." (emphasis added)
Source:website of Women to Women clinic in Yarmouth, Maine

There are also reports circulating (which I have yet to verify from multiple sources) that estrogen waste in our waterways are causing some male fish to change gender. I know there's more information out there, but let's start with this article from a British newspaper.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Earth Day & Rachel Carson

Just finished watching Earth Days on PBS' American Experience. Gotta read Silent Spring to celebrate Earth Day. Just sayin'.

Or at least read up on Rachel Carson and how she tried to save us.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Salting the Earth

I was really disturbed by all the extra salt that I saw piled on the streets this past winter. One spring years ago, my father noticed that his garden plants wouldn't grow next to the driveway. He conjectured that the family cars picked up salt from the roads, along with the ice and snow, and that when chunks of snow dropped off the cars they left a salty residue in the driveway that killed the plants on its perimeter. I don't know if my father's theory was correct, but I never forgot it.

During my lunchtime walks I literally saw hills of salt lying uselessly where street maintenance crews had thrown it out and left it to flow into the rivers and gardens. Can't we find a less toxic way of dealing with ice and snow?

Sometimes I think that humans view themselves as conquerors and that we are in a constant state of salting the earth.

"And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt." Judges 9:45 (King James Version)


Haagen Daas is helping to publicize the plight of our not-so-common-anymore honeybees. Regardless of the seamy reality of the uneasy relationship between philanthropy and advertising, it's a worthy cause and Haagen Daas has created a pleasantly educational website.