June 2011

Tell Congress: No More Antibiotics in Our Food

You might think that after scares such as the antibiotic resistant superbugs developing across the globe—and resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people—we might be a little more careful about our antibiotic use. But no, it’s still being sold in hand soap, being prescribed for the smallest things (just ask a pediatrician; they’re happy to dispense it like drug dealers to parents who ask for it), and, maybe worst of all, being added to the food we eat.

It’s not injected into packaged food, of course; it’s given to animals to prevent them from becoming sick and diseased due to their horribly sick and diseased conditions. In fact, 70 percent of the antibiotics used in this country are used on livestock in industrial farms. This is being attributed to more strands of MRSA and E. coli, which cause the deaths of more people in America than diseases like AIDS—an atrocity that laws could completely prevent.

Of course, we could easily circumvent this by A. eating less farmed animals and B. treating them better with free range conditions instead of the packed, back-to-back cages they are typically kept in.

You can ask Congress to mandate that our food be antibiotic-free here.

Camphill Community Farms prove that people of all abilities can create organic produce

Everyone loves quinoa!

I spent spring break of my senior year of college working on a farm.  We woke up at dawn to milk the cows, built a composting toilet from wood recycled from a destroyed barn, rolled oats at the on-site bakery.  The families who lived on the farm took us in for meals each night—quinoa, fresh cheeses, grilled tempeh—and delivered us fresh pitas and un-pasteurized milk from their cows each morning. They also offered a home to developmentally disabled teenagers and adults, giving them a place where they could work and feel valued. It was a city kid’s farm vacation dream—learning how food comes to table on a small, organic farm in the middle of Wisconsin.

Farm tourism has been big business since the 1970’s when families moved out of the city into the country to try their hands at their ancestors’ business.  That was mostly a bust.  But, more recently, people have been moving back to farms and a more simple way of life.  Working on the farm was vacation for me, but everyday for some. 

Chicken Feathers: A Possible Source of Plastic

This is one of those stories where I can’t decide if it’s good news or bad news. I had a friend who designed a way to create clean water in Africa super cheaply once; he did it with PVC pipe. Which was worse, going without water, or getting water from PVC? Obviously the former is much worse, though many people don’t like the whole “the ends justifies the means” way of thought. That kind of thinking can get you into trouble, after all.

In this case, it’s using chicken feathers to make sustainable plastic. Apparently, seven million tons of chicken feathers are thrown out every year as a waste of the chicken industry, and researchers say they’ve found a way to make sustainable plastic out of them so they don’t go to waste anymore.

If the feathers are already going to waste anyway, and using them would save us from wasting even more petroleum on plastic, perhaps it’s a good thing—but when you think of how bad the chicken industry already is, and how they treat hens, from having no room to even turn around, to eating muck, to having their beaks seared off so they don’t peck each other to death, to even being boiled alive, is it really a green innovation, or is it simply a way to assuage our guilt? Hey, we’re still killing chickens rather brutally, but at least we’re using their byproducts to save petroleum!