Author Archives: mick68w

Thoughts on a Seedling

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A pine cone sprouts from the burnt forest floor the spring after a wildfire. Of all hopeful metaphors, a germinating seed might be the most deeply rooted (pun intended). Yet the metaphor gives a dark warning as well: you reap what you sow. The importance of literally planting good seeds can’t be overstated, but the idea is also a useful… Read more »

Violence’s Voracious Appetite

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Food is the polar opposite of violence; neither feels significant until it’s personal. Hunger is in the belly. It feels different to see a bombing on the news versus noticing plumes of smoke from your window. Modern history forces us to consider starvation as a weapon… but is it a useful weapon? Food insecurity and civil unrest form a vicious… Read more »

What Does the Average Family Eat?

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What does the average family grocery list look like? Photographer Peter Menzel must have pondered something similar before travelling to 24 countries to find those average families and photograph them with their weekly groceries. He published the pictures in his book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats in 2005. While all his photos are thoughtful and expertly captured, the families… Read more »

The Battle for Land and Water

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If you want to grow food, you’ll need fertile land and a reliable supply of water. It’s important to realize that these two resources are very tightly linked and neither is infinite. When either is compromised, food is harder to grow and bad things start to happen. Farmland has been a cause for conflict throughout history, but as agriculture has… Read more »

Beefy Industry

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In his book Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, Richard Robbins weighs the environmental costs of a staple of the US diet: beef. In mathematical number of calories, beef is an inefficient food that requires huge food input. Cattle feed accounts for 80% of US grain production and about half of US water consumption. This inefficiency is magnified as… Read more »

Farming Life

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  Food is life. Nonetheless, 25% of global food production is traded internationally like any other commodity. This huge movement of food comes with consequences. Trade liberalization can disrupt the economy of a developing country in many ways, but especially by disadvantaging domestic farming by importing cheap food from more developed nations where agriculture is more industrialized. Consider peasant farmers… Read more »

When Conservation Means Control

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Paul Robbins begins his book Political Ecology defining it as a place where knowledge of diverse fields and modes of thought intersect. It’s a common language to study the many ways humanity relates to the world ecosystem, taking more into account than the local effects humans have on the environment. Robbins introduces five theses of Political Ecology; the first two… Read more »

Meditations on a Raisin

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Why do Afghans grow grapes if there are so many reasons not to? Wine is illegal there; they don’t have many refrigerators to keep grapes fresh; and it’s a hard crop to grow in many ways. But if you lay the grapes out on your rooftop to bake in the sun, you’ll eventually find a reason to grow grapes in… Read more »