The Austrian performance artists Sonja Stummerer and Martin Hablesreiter, a.k.a. Honey and Bunny, want to make us reëxamine the culinary mores that we take for granted. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY SONJA STUMMERER AND MARTIN HABLESREITER
I have been on the road for most of the last six weeks and have been consumer of the posts on this site, rather than contributor, for the entire stretch since we got distracted by a hurricane. That’s okay. Other contributors have carried the ball forward well, and before I forget I want to share one recent item I read elsewhere that seems a fitting counterpoint to Jocelyn’s most recent post.
That topic has a kind of ick factor I cannot articulate while at the same time is clearly a topic we are going to need to deal with more and more. I am certainly guilty of avoiding the topic, and must overcome the ick thing. Clearly linked to the lab/food topic is the issue of food waste, which we address on a regular basis here.
We need more diversity in our approach to these tough topics to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed; antidotes to the ick/tough factor to make the topic more palatable, so to speak. We are so serious in our earnestness that we no doubt add to the weight of the topic, and I speak guilty as charged on that too. It may be that “playful” is an appropriate alternate approach from time to time, as this item suggests:
Many of us reflect, at least occasionally, on how our gastronomic habits affect the health of the planet. We regret that our takeout dinners come in a Styrofoam container inside a paper bag inside a plastic bag, with white plastic utensils in their very own plastic sheaths. We feel guilty when we order too much food at a restaurant and resign half an entrée to be scraped into the trash. But the pull of convention is most often stronger than these feelings. We eat in the manner we’ve grown accustomed to eating.
The sly and playful Austrian performance artists Sonja Stummerer and Martin Hablesreiter want to make us reëxamine the culinary mores that we take for granted. Continue reading
David Parry/PA Wire via Science Magazine
Like most people, we hold reservations about the idea of putting meat, milk, and egg whites made from laboratory cellular agriculture on the market. Will the proteins be safe for humans to consume? Might there be some unforeseen environmental impact even worse than that of raising cattle where rainforests once stood? Are there ethical considerations that outweigh the hope of freeing the chickens that are kept in cages their whole lives just to harvest their eggs?
We don’t have any answers, but are learning more about the whole process this week from Elizabeth Devitt at Science Magazine, where she writes about the fledgling industry and its potential regulators:
The first hamburger cooked with labmade meat didn’t get rave reviews for taste. But the test tube burger, rolled out to the press in 2013, has helped put a spotlight on the question of how the U.S. government will regulate the emerging field of cellular agriculture, which uses biotechnology instead of animals to make products such as meat, milk, and egg whites.
All images from: Darius Nabors
We continuously incentivize our readers to go out and explore the nature that abounds in the great outdoors. Well, Darius Nabors (although not a follower of ours – that we know of) raises our proposition to a whole new level by visiting all fifty-nine National Parks in fifty-nine weeks. In order to begin the pursuit of his goal, Nabors quit his job when he realized that it would take him forty-two years to see the ones he had not yet visited if he only traveled to one park per year. Therefore, he set himself this challenge while he is still young and active and can explore everywhere without worrying about physical limitations.
So far, Nabors and his friend and travel companion Trevor Kemp, who recently finished his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, have visited 34 parks, including Glacier, Gates of the Arctic, Crater Lake, Haleakala and Joshua Tree.
Kyle Guyer prepared to flip a barrel during toasting at the Missouri Cooperage operation of Independent Stave in Lebanon, Missouri. Lasers and infrared cameras have refined the toasting process to give the customer a desired flavor profile.
Credit August Kryger for The New York Times
Every now and then we find interesting stories from the world of distilleries. Maybe it’s a small mescal brewer, or a giant liquor corporation giving back in some way, or the history of traditional London gin, or people making beer out of wasted bread. In the world of wine and certain spirits, oak barrels are imperative to the process of aging the drink, and the technology involved in cooperage has changed a lot in the last couple years, even as barrels look exactly as they did hundreds of years ago. Clay Risen reports for the New York Times:
SALEM, Mo. — Standing on a wooded hillside in the Ozarks, about 100 miles southwest of St. Louis, Brad Boswell watches a chain-saw-wielding logger make several deft cuts at the base of a 100-foot white oak. The logger points to a clearing down the slope and, with one final, quick slash, sends the tree falling, exactly where he pointed.
Mr. Boswell scrambles over to look at the swirls and loops that make up the tree’s cross section. If they’re consistent, and the wood doesn’t show scars from fire damage or disease, it will most likely end up in some of the hundreds of thousands of barrels that his 1,500-person company, Independent Stave, turns out every year.
Precisely two months ago we shared a great function by Google for investigating the potential for installing solar power in your neighborhood (mostly if you’re in the US). Last week, one of our most successful Instagram posts was of three shades of blue at Villa del Faro (see above), where photovoltaics are key. Panels are becoming less and less expensive, so hopefully the alternative energy will keep spreading! Continue reading
Gallon Jug Estate, Belize
I am happy to introduce Acadia National Park in Maine, U.S. as the first feature on our new weekly segment – shout out to Justin for the recommendation! This park is one of many firsts: it was founded as the first national park east of the Mississippi River by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 (so yes, it is celebrating its centennial along with the National Park Service). In addition, it is famed for being the first place to see the sunrise in the U.S. when standing at the top of Cadillac Mountain during certain times of the year (part of the fall and winter seasons). Continue reading
All images from triplepundit.com
Sheep’s wool has long been proclaimed as one of nature’s best insulators, and San Francisco startup Havelock Wool, LLC has taken advantage of this property of wool to use it as a sustainable insulation product to meet the growing demand of higher efficiency buildings and homes. Although wool is typically known for keeping things warm, the company is also using the material for homes in warm and sunny environments:
The company recently tried out its products on a 17,000 foot mansion in Newport Beach, a destination harbor town in the middle of Southern California’s coastline. As with most insulating products, the material’s ability to lock out cold temps also gives it the ability to insulate homes during hotter weather. It absorbs moisture, drys out naturally and doesn’t become moldy.
But its most appealing quality is its environmental benefits.
Big sky can be seen above Tegetthoff Island.
Photograph by Cory Richards, National Geographic Creative
We have lots of land conservation news going on right now (just scroll down), which can only be a good thing, and is perfect timing given the US National Park Service centennial. Jocelyn will be posting a close-up feature of a park later today, but first I invite you to imagine a new arms race between Russia and the United States – not of weapons, but rather in the sphere of conservation through protected national park expansion. President Obama just quadrupled the area of marine national monument Papahānaumokuākea, and now Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of Russia expanded the island region of Russian Arctic National Park by over eighty percent. In this case, I say, the more friendly competition the better! Brian Howard reports on the Russian expansion:
Made up of more than 190 islands, Franz Josef Land is a mostly uninhabited area that is encased in sea ice for much of the year. Yet the rocky, glaciated islands are home to stunning biodiversity. The newly expanded park will protect habitat for such species as the Atlantic walrus, bowhead whale, polar bear, narwhal, and white gull.
The predator cues emitted by the Backswimmer, a mosquito larvae predator, trigger a stress response in the mosquitoes, which impairs their immune system.
Photo © E. Van Herk
Two weeks ago we saw a chemically-baited, solar-powered trap for mosquitos implemented in Kenya. New research – conducted only in the laboratory so far – has shown the potential for another chemical cocktail to be used in a very different way for mosquito control, hopefully in a manner that can reduce quantities of pesticide applied in eradication efforts. From the EurekAlert press release by the Belgian University of Leuven:
Existing strategies for mosquito control often involve the use of pesticides that harm the environment. These pesticides are increasingly less effective as well, as insects can become resistant to existing products relatively quickly.
Biopesticides are a possible alternative. The most commonly used biological pesticide is the Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) bacteria. Unfortunately, mosquitoes are already developing a resistance to this pesticide as well. This means we have to keep increasing the dose of Bti to kill mosquitoes, so that this biological substance, too, is beginning to harm the environment.
Koratty, Trichur District, Kerala
Workers with Bella Energy install solar panels on a rooftop in Boulder on July 25, 2014. Photo © Denver Post
The energy that is generated from coal needs to keep decreasing relative to alternative energy sources if we want to reduce the release of pollutants and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and rely on renewables instead. But for many people working in the coal industry, this change represents unemployment and poverty. In Colorado, a plan to train coal workers for solar energy jobs may be able to ameliorate the situation. Lea Terhune reports for Share America:
What does greater use of green energy mean for workers in more traditional energy sectors? A Colorado initiative may have the answer: put the workers where the jobs are. Consider the findings of Michigan Technological University professor Joshua M. Pearce and associates: There are nearly 209,000 solar workers in the United States, compared to about 150,000 remaining jobs in the coal industry. Hence Colorado’s plan: train unemployed coal workers to install solar panels.
“Our results show that there is a wide variety of employment opportunities in the solar industry, and that the annual pay is attractive at all levels of education,” Pearce writes in the Harvard Business Review.
Source: American Chemical Society
On numerous occasions we have written about the need to reduce consumption of plastics and the need for alternative, sustainable food packaging. Fortunately, researchers have developed a food packaging that is much better at keeping food fresh than regular plastics – it’s also biodegradable and edible. Yes, you read correctly, edible! This new packaging is made of casein from milk proteins, which are clear and fairly pliable, and has little flavor. This material has other unique applications in addition to being used as plastic pouches and cling-style wrap. Continue reading
Yuya Shino / Reuters via The Atlantic
Almost exactly five years ago, I quoted Mark Kurlansky’s book focused on the history of an Atlantic fish species, Cod. I knew he’d written another book on the history of salt, but haven’t read it yet. With a podcast episode from Gastropod that was featured in The Atlantic recently, I got a nice summary of the subject and learned even more about the current issues revolving around sodium.
Salt is a magical substance. It reduces bitterness, enhances sweetness, boosts flavor, and preserves perishable foods. Without it, we would die: The human body can’t make sodium, but our nerves and muscles don’t work without it. It was considered rare until quite recently, so it’s hardly surprising that, throughout history, salt has been the engine behind empires and revolutions. Today, there’s a new battle in the salt wars, between those who think that we eat too much of it and it’s killing us—and those who think most of us are just fine. Join us for a serving of salt, seasoned with science, history, and a little politics.
Humuhumunukunukuāpua`a, the state fish of Hawaii (reef trigger fish) via statesymbolsusa.org
Hot on the heels of the creation of the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument comes the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which was designated by President George W. Bush in 2006 and became a World Heritage site four years later. This growth in the protected area quadruples the conservation monument’s size to 582,578 square miles and has been accomplished under President Barack Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act. Oliver Milman reports:
The monument, which is now double the size of Texas, stretches outward from the north-western Hawaiian islands and includes Midway Atoll, famed for its former military base and eponymous battle that was crucial in the US defeat of Japan in the second world war. The protected area is now larger than the previous largest marine reserve, situated around the Pitcairn Islands and announced by the UK last year.
male – Baja California Sur, Mexico
Early morning haze colors from Mount Katahdin and its surrounding mountains. All images from: npr.org
Just in time for the U.S. National Park system centennial, a total of 87,500 acres of mountains, forests and water were donated yesterday by the co-founder of Burt’s Bees, Roxanne Quimby, and then declared a national monument. President Obama announced the creation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, a land that used to feed paper mills and is now permanently protected from lumber extraction. The monument will be managed by the National Park Service and allow recreation while protecting resources.
The designation of the woods as protected territory has been in the works for years — and has been controversial among locals, who worried about federal oversight of lands that used to be central to the regional economy.
We featured an opinion editorial from Friends of the Earth CEO Craig Bennett in The Guardian about Brexit’s effect on the environment exactly two months ago, and now the same publication is sharing pretty good news from a YouGov opinion poll in the UK whose results were released today. Apparently, a significant majority of Brits who were polled are in favor of laws protecting wildlife and their habitat that are at least as strong as the EU regulations already in place, but which wouldn’t apply post-Brexit. Some even support stronger environmental protection in the farming industry than current EU Common Agricultural Policy, especially wanting a ban in neonicotinoid pesticides. Damian Carrington reports:
Much of the protection of British wildlife and the environment stems from EU’s birds and habitat directives, but these will have to be replaced when the UK leaves the bloc. Farming minister George Eustice campaigned for the UK to leave the EU and told the Guardian in May that these directives were “spirit crushing” and “would go”.
We know how much an Asian elephant eats, but until today we didn’t know the biodiversity footprint of African elephants – that is, the literal biodiversity in the footprints left by these massive animals as they walk around, hopefully avoiding beehives. John Platt reports for Scientific American on the ecosystem engineers’ effects from walking:
When you weigh upwards of 6,000 kilograms, you tend to leave a trace of yourself wherever you walk. That’s definitely the case with African elephants (Loxodonta africana), which, according to new research, is actually a boon for dozens of other, much tinier, species.
As discussed in a paper published this week in the African Journal of Ecology, elephant feet play an important ecological role in Uganda, and probably in other countries. As elephants walk through the forest, they leave deep footprints behind them. These footprints then fill up with water, creating little foot-shaped microhabitats for at least 61 different microinvertebrate species from nine different orders.
First of all I would like to give to you a brief introduction of myself since it’s the very first time I have the great opportunity to write a post here – by the way thanks Amie, Crist and Seth Inman for the invitation.
I am a 20 year old birder from Guatemala and I have been in touch with nature and birds since I was a little kid. I remember being carried by my dad on his back and going out to the field to go birding. He needed to take care of me but he didn’t want to just stay at home wasting valuable hawk migration time, so he took me with him no matter what. I remember I enjoyed it A LOT, not only because I liked being carried, but the memories of the field guide open in my dad’s hands and his binoculars hanging by his neck and his trying to point out the bird and later showing it to me in the book are things I will never forget. Of course I was too young to actually spot the bird and appreciate it in the field but I do remember looking at the birds carefully in the field guide. A few years later I was so excited when he gave to me my first pair of binoculars as a Christmas present! I felt like a pro ornithologist (although I didn’t know that word yet). That same year he bought his first spotting scope so when I wasn’t able to see the bird and observe it through my binoculars myself he would find it on the scope so I could enjoy the beauty, behavior, different plumages – everything of the birds. I immediately fell in love with birding and all of what biding had to offer to me. Continue reading