Strawberries at Greens Berry farm in Wexford, Ireland. Photograph: John Greene
With farmers on our mind, recently, and especially the ability of family farms to get harvesting and distribution done we are watching for stories like this:
Workers on a farm at El Prat del Llobregat, near Barcelona, harvest artichokes in March. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images
At this time of year John Greene is usually preparing to welcome dozens of Slovakian strawberry pickers for another harvest at his farm in County Wexford in south-east Ireland.
The work is arduous and repetitive and he relies on their experience and stamina to get the fruit picked, packed and sold.
Greene surveyed his fields this week with foreboding. “I look out my window and there’s no one to pick it. None of them are on site at the moment.”
His pickers remain in Slovakia, immobilised by a continent-wide lockdown. It is a similar story for hundreds of thousands of other seasonal agricultural workers who cannot travel just at a time when Europe needs them for harvests. Continue reading
A Mini Electric car next to the production line at the BMW plant in Cowley, near Oxford. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images
When the smoke clears, we will need to get back to key environmental issues. Thanks to the Guardian for this news, in that regard:
Finding will come as boost to governments seeking to move to net zero carbon emissions
Electric vehicles produce less carbon dioxide than petrol cars across the vast majority of the globe – contrary to the claims of some detractors, who have alleged that the CO2 emitted in the production of electricity and their manufacture outweighs the benefits.
The finding is a boost to governments, including the UK, seeking to move to net zero carbon emissions, which will require a massive expansion of the electric car fleet. A similar benefit was found for electric heat pumps. Continue reading
Photograph from Alamy
You can count on these pages continuing to feature these kinds of stories, that remind us of what still can and must be done, or simply provide a daily dose of charm:
On Earth Day, 2019, when New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, signed a bill banning single-use plastic bags, he said, “You see plastic bags hanging in trees, blowing down the streets, in landfills, and in our waterways, and there is no doubt they are doing tremendous damage.” It is true that nowadays people do see plastic bags in trees. But they didn’t used to—not because the bags weren’t there but because the people didn’t see them. I believe I am the first person who actually saw bags in trees—that is, noticed them in any official way. Twenty-seven years ago, I wrote a short article for this magazine about plastic bags and other debris in the trees of New York City. Once I started noticing the bags, I couldn’t stop, and I soon passed the affliction on to my friends Bill McClelland and Tim McClelland. Noticing bags in trees changed our lives. Continue reading
A coal-fired power plant in Neurath, Germany. The country has pledged to phase out coal by 2038. INA FASSBENDER/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
Thanks to Fred Pearce, as always for his environmental reporting, and to Yale e360 for this unexpected news that coal is not headed for a renaissance (as some politicians would have us believe):
Coal is declining sharply, as financiers and insurance companies abandon the industry in the face of shrinking demand, pressure from climate campaigners, and competition from cleaner fuels. After years of its predicted demise, the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel may finally be on the way out.
Demolition of the coal-fired Nelson Dewey Generating Station in Cassville, Wisconsin in December 2017. The power plant closed in 2015. NICKI KOHL/TELEGRAPH HERALD VIA AP
Any day now, New York State will be coal-free. Its last coal-fired power station, at Somerset on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, will shut for good as the winter ends. Remember when Donald Trump promised to bring back coal? Well, three years on, coal’s decline is accelerating — in the United States and worldwide. Continue reading
Amy Lombard for The New York Times
Thanks to Steven Kurutz, whose first two appearances in our pages (6 and 4 years ago, respectively) prepared us well for this charming news:
“Visible mending” has been taken up by those who want to protest fast fashion and disposable culture. It’s also thrifty.
Amy Lombard for The New York Times
Only a few generations ago, socks were routinely darned, sweaters mended and pants patched. You could buy a sewing kit at any drugstore. Knowing how to use it was a mark of good housekeeping.
Kate Sekules, 58, remembers that world, in which the act of repairing clothes was integral to wearing them. “My mother was a dressmaker to the end of her life,” said Ms. Sekules, who grew up in England. “My mother just mended as a matter of course.”
Ms. Sekules has kept up that thrifty tradition. She started one of the earliest secondhand online clothing exchanges, Refashioner. She buys all of her clothes vintage and mends them all, including her husband’s moth-eaten sweaters. Continue reading
Some days everything comes up roses. Today was one. This morning my scanning routine, looking for what to share here, was made easy by the image above and the headline below it: Is Coffee Good for You? Yes! But it depends on the kind of coffee and the quantity. My favorite takeaway, among many, points to the benefits of filtered coffee. Read each section and take what matters most to your coffee life.
Michael Pollan, first mentioned here in 2011, has been so frequently featured over the years it is fair to say he is one of our heroes (those links cover only part of the first year of this platform; dozens more since 2012). In a recent interview Pollan discusses his own findings related to coffee, and specifically its caffeine. The interview was promoting his new book, available in audible form. What I heard in the interview was just enough to ensure I click to the right when I have the 2+ hours to listen…
Plastic has been on our radar for years, both as an environmental scourge and a raw material for the rising recycle and “upcycle” economy. Finding these creative uses for an ubiquitous waste material around the world has been inspiring, to say the least.
We hadn’t been familiar with the Precious Plastic model until we met the wonderful women from the Wagát Upcycling Lab. We applaud the community ethos of open source plans to address a global crisis.
Big Bang, Indeed!
Usually I avoid recommendation lists that have commercial intent, but exceptions are made when it might help someone visiting one of our shops. We sell specialty coffee. And we sell coffee paraphernalia. So here is an exception. Thanks to Joanne Chen for this short list of what you can do to improve your daily coffee drinking experience:
“Oh! The coffee’s good today” is something my husband or I murmur on occasion as we slowly come alive with our first sip of the morning. On most days, though, the coffee we make at home is just good enough. We make it the same way every time, but whether we achieve coffee nirvana on any particular day is anyone’s guess. How to brew a great cup mystified me for years — until I decided to get to the bottom of it.
It turns out that even with quality beans, it’s hard to be a good home barista without the right tools. Some of these things are admittedly pricey but entirely worth it, according to coffee experts. Continue reading
PHOTO RENDERING BY PATRICK WHITE
The essay below addresses some
of the themes in essays
we pointed to in the last year. Robert H. Frank, Economics professor at Cornell University, has not appeared in our pages before, which is just plain wrong, as Thy Neighbor’s Solar Panels
When our peers take actions to preserve the planet, we’re more likely to follow suit. How the human instinct to conform could help us address the climate crisis.
It is worse, much worse, than you think,” reads the frightening first sentence of The Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace-Wells’s comprehensive account of what researchers have discovered about our planet’s climate trajectory. The severity of the crisis, he goes on to note, has made some climatologists reluctant to describe its full extent, fearing that such candor might make the challenge we face seem hopeless. The concern is understandable: Previous warnings of impending peril have done little to alter either individual behavior or public policy. Continue reading
Each dandelion head has up to 100 individual flowers. Photograph: Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images
So many challenges, so many unanswered questions about why bee colonies are collapsing. In the realm of how to help, the UK has a new notion:
We missed this when it was first posted, but on this topic never too late to share:
Some may think of dandelions as just unwanted weeds, but expert forager and nutritionist Debbie Naha says “a weed is just a plant growing where you don’t want it to.”
Naha loves to collect and eat dandelions when they bloom in the spring and again in early fall, when the days begin to shorten.
Some may also think of dandelions as those white puffballs whose seeds you can blow away like a candle on a birthday cake. The puffball is also considered a dandelion — it’s what the yellow flower matures into after a few days. But these aren’t especially good to eat. Continue reading
The couple cynically stage-managed their Western exploits for propaganda value.
Illustration by Christian Northeast. Source images from Chronicle / Alamy (woman); Bettmann / Getty (man)
Adam Gopnik’s book review illustrates the roots of today’s Instagram culture, and the perils of posing:
How John and Jessie Frémont explored the frontiers of legend-making.
Legendary development can happen with astonishing speed after a life is past. Gore Vidal, in his 1992 novel, “Live from Golgotha,” made sport of the notion of television coverage of the Crucifixion, as the kind of thing that would happen only in contemporary America, but in truth Jesus’ body was hardly cold, or gone, before the apostle Paul, in a single generation, had made the desert rebbe into a demigod. The special American contribution to legend-making has not been speed so much as absolute simultaneity, with the life and the legend developing together. The American frontier, the Wild West, was not burnished and made epic in memory. It was made epic even as its very brief life was taking place. Buffalo Bill was only twenty-three when dime novels about him began to appear in New York, and early accounts of Billy the Kid’s life read “like a press agent’s yarn,” as one biographer says, because they were. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were robbing banks and posing for mock formal photographs all at the same time. This national truth remains constant even in our own time. The Apollo missions were genuine acts of daring—and were also, as everyone knew at the time, scripted television programming, with well-wrought lines delivered live. Continue reading
A Chinese labourer sorting out plastic bottles on the outskirt of Beijing. Photograph: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images
With over a billion consumers, even with exemptions these bans will hopefully have relevant impacts. Thanks once again to the Guardian for bringing these actions to our attention.
Plastic bags to be banned in all major cities by end of 2020, says state planner
China is stepping up restrictions on the production, sale and use of single-use plastic products, according to the state planner, as it seeks to tackle one of the country’s biggest environmental problems.
Vast amounts of untreated plastic waste are buried in landfills or dumped in rivers. The United Nations has identified single-use plastics as one of the world’s biggest environmental challenges.
The national development and reform commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, which issued the policy, said plastic bags would be banned in all of China’s major cities by the end of 2020 and banned in all cities and towns in 2022. Markets selling fresh produce will be exempt from the ban until 2025. Continue reading
End of year stories about what to do differently in the new year may seem overdone, but we find them worth sharing when they touch on a theme we cover regularly. This column has the added value of some funny, some even bizarre suggestions:
Food waste is a big problem in the United States, where a typical household of four tosses out about $1,600 worth of food annually. So, Life Kit did a deep dive on how how to reduce food waste.
In planning that episode, the office was abuzz with conversations about our own tricks and tips to save food — from recipes to compost tips. This made us wonder what other wisdom was out there. So we asked you!
We were overwhelmed by your collective knowledge and thriftiness. Our roundup is by no means an exhaustive list, but below are a few tips we felt inspired by. (If you want to join the conversations, you can find them here on Instagram and Facebook.)
Your tips from Instagram
1. Used coffee grounds can be dried and used in a steak rub or mixed with coconut oil and sugar and used as a body scrub. — @Chefanniecarroll Continue reading
Meera Sodha: ‘Vegan food is exciting, easy and delicious.’ Photograph David Loftus
Thanks to Meera Sodha and the Guardian for this prep sheet for meeting our goals of reducing meat consumption in the new year:
Mother Jones illustration; Getty
Companies like Impossible and its competitor Beyond Meat have gotten most of the attention in our pages for plant-based meat-like products, but when it comes to alternative seafood our stories have mainly focused on invasive species, or on farming kelp or on seaweed farming. Thanks to Mother Jones for stretching our attention to the alternatives to fresh caught or even farm-raised seafood that simulates the kinds of fish that have been over-harvested:
This is why we can’t have nice things.
Do you love burgers—but not the animal cruelty and environmental degradation that go into making them? I come bearing good news: Someday, you might be able to get your meat fix, without all that bad stuff. Scientists can now grow animal flesh, without raising—or in most cases killing—an animal. This food, called “lab-grown meat,” “cell-based meat,” “cultured meat,” “cultivated meat,” “clean meat,” or as comedian Stephen Colbert jokingly called it in 2009, “shmeat,” has set off a flurry of media attention in recent years. Dozens of lab-grown meat companies have materialized, most aiming to solve the problems associated with large-scale beef, pork, poultry, and seafood production.
Finless Foods, a 12-person food-tech startup founded in 2017 and based in Emeryville, California, claims to be the first company to focus on lab-grown fish, although a handful of other startups have since joined them. In October, 28-year-old Finless Foods co-founder Mike Selden gave me a tour of their facility, and I dished about it on the latest episode of the Mother Jones food politics podcast Bite:
Selden and his co-founder Brian Wyrwas, both products of an agricultural biochemistry program at UMass Amherst, started the company, he says, to “make something good.” Continue reading
We did not link out to Annie Lowrey’s article earlier this year, so thanks to her and the Atlantic for this brief summary statement; and with it, a recommendation to read the whole article Too Many People Want to Travel:
Last year, 1.4 billion people traveled the world. That’s up from just 25 million in 1950. In China alone, overseas trips have risen from 10 million to 150 million in less than two decades.
This dramatic surge in mass tourism can be attributed to the emergence of the global middle class, and in some ways, it’s a good thing. Continue reading
Foodrunners may have the unusual problem of overabundance, in the form of waste and generous people donating their time. Thanks to Marisa Endicott (again) and Mother Jones for bringing this organization to our attention.
Alleviating hunger, one volunteer and donor at a time:
Food Runners saves extra grub before it’s wasted, and delivers it to hungry mouths.
I meet Les Tso on a corner in San Francisco’s SoMa district on a wet Thursday afternoon. He pulls his silver Isuzu SUV into an alley. “Today because it’s the first rain, people are going to be driving cluelessly—there are a lot of Uber and Lyft drivers that come from out of the area,” Tso warns me. “Makes it more exciting, I guess.”
Tso picks up donations from an average 16 places a day. Marisa Endicott
Tso works as a driver for Food Runners, a nonprofit that picks up leftover food from grocery stores, companies, events, and restaurants and brings it to organizations working to feed the hungry. For four hours every weekday, Tso braves the worst of Bay Area traffic to makes his 80 to 90 pickups (an average of 16 a day), primarily from tech companies—including Google, Juul, and LinkedIn—that have become an omnipresent force in the city. Continue reading
The greatest trick companies ever played was making us think we could recycle their products. The New York Times
My most recent reference to pods could have been the last. Enough said. But my eye was caught by the title of this item yesterday, and all day I kept wondering whether I need to know more about the confidence game that has been, and is, recycling. Deciding this morning to click through I was rewarded with an update on my favorite coffee scandal. Insult on top of injury. Surprised by that? Nope. My thanks to Tala Schlossberg and Nayeema Raza for this creative op-ed video, and accompanying text:
The greatest trick corporations ever played was making us think we could recycle their products…