S U S T A I N A B L Y

Restoring Ecosystems to Reverse Global Warming

One of the tenets of this blog is that nature is, or should be, the unquestioned authority for life on earth — 3.8 billion years of survival street cred! — and I’m always seeking to highlight individuals and groups whose actions seem to agree.

The results of holistic land management are clear on the left half of the photo, datelined Karoo, South AfricaHence, my delight to share news of Restoring Ecosystems to Reverse Global Warming, a high-level conference being conducted by the group Biodiversity for a Livable Climate over three days next month at Tufts University near Boston.

The conference lists over two dozen speakers, including Seth Itzkan, William Moomaw, and Hugh McLaughlin, as well as Jim Laurie and John E. Carroll, both of whom I’ve featured previously in these pages (here and here, respectively).

It’s difficult (or brave, or foolhardy), therefore, to generalize what their outlook is, but with that acknowledgement, here goes: An ideal place for sequestering carbon is in our soils, which not only removes it from the upper atmosphere but dramatically restores or enriches ecosystems while improving agriculture on those soils where it is practiced.


10 Words or Less with Darin Detwiler, food safety advocate

Darin Detwiler, food safety authority and advocateWelcome to another text installment of “10 Words or Less,” in which I ask brief questions of interesting people and request brief answers in return. (Previously, I posted the video of our chat; this is the edited transcript, for those who prefer text.) Today’s participant is a food-safety advocate and college instructor in regulatory affairs who formerly operated a nuclear reactor. (I can’t count how many of my friends can say that!) Please remember that “10 Words” is an ethic, not a rule, so please, no counting. If you think it’s easy, let’s see you do it.
 
Name Darin Detwiler (right)
Born when, where May 19, 1968, San Francisco
Resides "Salem, Mass., known for the Salem Witch Trials, which are allegedly tied to food-borne illness, as the source of the deliria that was perceived as witchcraft."
Job "I have two jobs: Adjunct professor at Northeastern University, where I teach in regulatory affairs of food and food industry. Also, I’m the senior policy coordinator at Stop Foodborne Illness, a national nonprofit that supports victims and their families."
What you wanted to be when you grew up "Actually, two things. I wanted to be a musician, and I wanted to be a seismologist. I really wanted to shake, rattle, and roll."
Your first paying job "When I was in high school, I played a Santa Claus at a mall. [Pause.] It wasn’t that paying."
Wisdom you retain from that experience "Never say to a kid, or ask a kid, about their parents, Mom or Dad. Always say ‘folks,’ because folks is generic, and can apply to adopted or grandparents or foster parents. We go through life thinking everyone had to fit into a cookie cutter, but there are many children who have different family situations."


10 Words or Less with Lathe Poland of the film "Carb Loaded: A Culture Dying to Eat"

We recorded this interview Friday, Oct. 3, two days after the film's release. Poland and his partner, Eric Carlsen, financed the film, which looks at how America feeds itself and the effects thereof, through Kickstarter. As regular readers know, I'll be following up this post with an edited text version of the interview sometime in the next week. But for now, our conversation just as it happened...


"The death bed is a horrible place to learn about food safety."

Darin Detwiler and I conducted this interview on Thursday. Detwiler is the senior policy coordinator for Stop Foodborne Illness and an instructor on regulatory affairs and food industries at Northeastern University. As I do, he has a deeply personal motivation to be in his line of work: His son was one of four young people who died in the 1993 E. coli outbreak at Jack in the Box restaurants in the Northwest. He tells that heartbreaking story in the interview, while also sharing vital information of use to anyone who eats.


Corn refiners delight in evidence that they're being perceived as only as bad as the other sugars

For a few years, a small set of food-product entries have been boasting that they have “real” sugar, instead of the demon high fructose corn syrup. But that trend appears to be slowing, says this story from foodnavigator-usa.com


Where is the line, between environment and us?

Nobody admirers a hijacker, so I’m being imprecise, at best, when I opine that “environmentalists have hijacked sustainability.” I don’t meant to impute evil at all — hell, until very recently, I’d have self-identified as one, and our aims still essentially align. And I don't mean it literally.


Extract the goodness, to put some of it back

Wonder Bread signWhen I was a kid, and maybe still today (I don’t care enough to look it up), Wonder Bread touted that it “buil[t] strong bodies 12 ways.” What was really going on is that its food technologists had started with grain products of nature, “refined” it beyond recognition, and then tossed in a bunch of nutritive additives to make up for what they had taken out. In effect they were saying, “look at all the goodness we’ve added, so you won’t notice all the goodness we took out.”

What resulted, of course, were slices of blindingly white near-paste that could be compressed into a ball that would have hurt if launched in a food fight. It seems so ‘60s, but check this out:

PepsiCo is seeking to patent a method of adding fiber- and polyphenol-rich co-products from fruit and veg juice extraction back to juices and other beverages in a bid to improve their sensory and nutritional profile, and minimize waste from the juice extraction process. ~ FoodNavigator-USA.com

Still crazy after all these years — breaking what’s good down into its parts, and then trying to figure out how to put more of it back in. How ‘bout, don’t break it down in the first place?


Wendell Berry and Allan Savory, brothers to me

A central part of the message I deliver to audiences is that nature is the only teacher of sustainability we will ever need. It’s been sustaining life on earth for 3.8 billion years, while humans have been upright only for about 200,000 years; the experience gap is obvious.

 I am not, of course, the originator of this idea, that humans are part of nature, not apart and certainly not above it, and the most prudent direction for all of us is to follow nature’s lead. I wouldn’t cast that as an absolute, but only because absolutes are bad every time.


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