Why foodies must also be environmentalists

Foodies and environmentalists don’t always get along. Environmentalists make compromises daily for sustainability. Foodies are known for being single-minded and ruthless in their search for the perfect meal.

But I argue: If you love food, you must appreciate and respect the environment in which it was grown. And that means you have to make green choices or risk losing the foods you love in the long run.

But it’s just food, you say, and everybody’s gotta eat, right? How much harm can it possibly do? As Bijal Trivedi points out in New Scientist, the answer is: quite a lot.

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A Murmur of Approval

Last weekend, my husband and I found ourselves at dusk in a park we frequent in Sunol. We were procrastinating because it was Sunday night, the park was lovely and we didn’t want to go home yet. We stopped in a clearing because a few red-breasted robin were flitting around but as we stood there, the few became many and the many became hundreds.

The next thing we knew, the birds had started to form a murmuration, an undulating wave of birds that swooped and swarmed ahead of us. Where I come from, birds are a little more raucous so I was delighted to see this display for the first time.
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The Hidden Cost of Cheap Clothing

As I write this, I am wearing another woman’s pants. I’m wearing a second woman’s shirt. This isn’t some Fergus Brown-style fantasy but an effort to reduce my waste footprint while still trying to look stylish.

Some of you probably find it a bit creepy to consider wearing someone else’s clothes. As my germaphobic workmate once put it: “You can’t trust clothes in a thrift store – someone could have died in them.” My answer to that is: So what?

I have been wearing second-hand clothes for as long as I can remember. As part of a working class family back in Australia, where clothes have always been expensive, my parents would rely on hand-me-downs from family members and friends, or buy from thrift stores and seconds retailers. What began as a fiscal necessity turned into a way of life that is green, cheap and – I gotta say – usually rather well-dressed. Read More

7 Environmental TED Talks to Educate, Energize and Entertain You

It’s usually around the third drink that it happens. You’re in a bar, talking about a problem you’re having – whether it’s with your garage door-opener or the stubbornness of the human mind – when suddenly, you’re interrupted by your companion who breathlessly blurts out: “Oh, ooh! I saw this amazing thing in a TED talk that might help…”

TED stands for Technology Entertainment and Design and is a series of engaging, rostrum-style talks held all over the world and broadcast for free – several talks a day. As one who frequently spends her lunch hour with TED (and who has been guilty of the bar-room conversation, above), I’ve compiled some compelling talks on environmental themes. From the navigational wonders of the African dung beetle to the misconceptions that cause mothers to put their children at risk of disease and death, these TED talks will hopefully educate, energize and entertain you in good measure. Read More

Meet the Tiny Desert Slime that Holds our Topsoil Together. For Now.

If your eyes were microscopes and you had really good sunblock, you could lie down in the Arizona Desert and watch tiny microbes build colonies of millions around you. These greeblies, called cyanobacteria, colonize the very top layer of soil and need little more than sunshine to survive. In their wake, they leave a trail of slime that glues the soil together, allowing larger organisms like moss and lichens to grow.

It sound like something out of a Robert Heinlein novel, doesn’t it? But we should think fondly of cyanobacteria because there is mounting evidence that they are what knits our ecosystems together and their slimy calling card could save us from the killer effects of climate change. Read More

The big fish in sustainable seafood

So here we are, my husband and I, standing in a busy Asian supermarket on a Saturday morning and I have two cuts of frozen fish in my hands. My husband and I are discussing which one to buy and we’re considering type of fish, cut, price and how far it’s traveled to our plate. Then I throw a spanner in the works: is it sustainable?

My husband sighs. He does this when I ask him to rinse out his disposable drink cup, and when I am dithering in the toilet paper aisle, trying to work out whether I care enough about the earth to spend an extra 9c a square. It’s the resigned sigh of a moderately green man who is married to an environmental zealot.

The good news – for my marriage and the line of people forming behind us in the supermarket – is that it’s becoming easier to find out what’s actually on your plate, where it came from and how sustainable the fish stocks are.

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A mixtape for planet earth

Still on a high at the end of a successful green film festival and pumped by the news that the US Government is taking real action on climate change, I have made a mixtape for the Earth of my favorite environmental tunes.

These are songs that turned me into an environmentalist. I hope you love them too.

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Hands at ten and two, how I fell in love with bush driving

I’m a city girl. I love live music, good coffee and public transport. I don’t like driving in the city – there are too many people with too many destinations and too much else on their mind.

In the country, it’s different. Though I have often traveled with my loved ones, driving is a solitary activity. It’s just you, the road and your thoughts; but you can’t get too engrossed in them because your mind is on the road. It’s a bit like meditation: your thoughts come up like signposts and you recognize them as you’re moving on. Read More

Can we bring extinct species back? Should we?

In the deep freeze at the San Diego Zoo, genetic material from a small, nondescript Hawaiian bird waits for a day – sometime very soon – when science will use it to improve biodiversity.

What’s the catch? The honeycreeper, called the po’ouli, is thought to be extinct and scientists will have to use cloning techniques to bring the entire species back from the dead.

Welcome to the bleeding edge of biogenetics and the science of de-extinction. Read More

Recycling our environmental guilt

Between gulps of G&T, my heartbroken friend is cataloging all the things that are wrong with her freshly ended relationship: his emotional immaturity, her unmet need for stability, and then the kicker:

“I can’t commit to someone who doesn’t bloody recycle!”

I ask her why. Because his time and energy was worth more to him than other peoples’, because he didn’t care about the world he left behind – and because she couldn’t stand the guilt of being with someone like that. Read More