Ecology

unnamedlake.jpg Checks and balances.  Have you ever thought about how amazing those two words are?   In the simplest sense, writing checks and figuring out how much money you have left after you’ve written them.  In the larger sense, if something is depleted or out of whack, something comes along to reestablish order.

Which brings me to AANWR....

On the northern edge of our continent, stretching from the peaks of the Brooks Range across a vast expanse of tundra to the Beaufort Sea, lies Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. An American Serengeti, the Arctic Refuge continues to pulse with million-year-old ecological rhythms. It is the greatest living reminder that conserving nature in its wild state is a core American value.
                    (National Resources Defense Council)

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bobgovernor.jpg Today was our first full day at the Democratic National Convention, and we started out at a breakfast sponsored by The Michigan Democratic Party. On our way down to breakfast in the elevator we ran into Dan Mulhern, the husband of Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm. He was friendly, despite being hot and sweaty after his morning run, and Michael told him how much he enjoyed Dan’s newsletter, “Reading for Leading.” As a fitting start to a day when the buzz was all about Hillary Clinton’s speech, Bob ran into Granholm herself, Michigan’s own strong female leader, at the breakfast, and she spent some time talking with us.

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eat_local.jpg The future of our food system is at a critical juncture, says Arty Mangan, Food and Farming Program Director for Bioneers. “The industrial agriculture industry says that they want to feed the world, but at what cost?”

The cost Mangan is referring to is the system of subsidies that eliminates crop diversity, cost structures that force out small farmers, international trade agreements that favor free flow of grain over local food security, and farming methods that favor profit over food safety or environmental health.

“The system has been rewarding the wrong thing,” Mangan concludes.

One of the main methods being used to transform our food system is localization. The power of localization becomes clear when discussing the “multiplier effect.” If a dollar is spent at a chain store to buy imported produce, only about ten cents ends up in the local community. In contrast, if a dollar is spent at a local market buying locally produced food, that dollar ends up generating over $5 in local benefits.

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aplacetablelogoCertain issues are very near and dear to my heart and none more so than hunger. Having worked in a homeless shelter, I got to know people who struggled to get enough to eat on a daily basis and it was an honor to be able to feed them. Ironically the homeless shelter I worked at was in a very wealthy county. But hunger is something that the richest and the poorest countries have in common and it doesn't just affect the homeless. And it will take public effort to make the changes necessary to see that hunger is wiped out.

A Place at the Table, a film addressing hunger in the US was released on March 1st. I got a chance to preview it and found it very moving with portraits of people struggling in our midst. It looks at just some of the reasons that hunger exists in the US. Perhaps not surprisingly, politics and subsidies are an important part of the picture. The film aims to increase our understanding of the problem it also points to some solutions. Though the current debate on raising the minimum wage is not part of the film, it's worth taking a look at too. Should anyone working full time making minimum wage still have a tough time putting food on the table? As taxpayers we are effectively subsidizing the big corporations that pay minimum wage in the form of programs like Medicare and food stamps. And we are subsidizing big agribusiness rather than family farms with farm subsidizes that do little to address hunger. 

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6098_lg.jpgI’ve never actually studied flower arranging... I’ve kind of learned it as I’ve gone along, over the course of about 25 years... For me it’s what painting is for many other people...a way of relaxing, a way of listening to programs on the radio or to music without fidgeting, a way of showing affection to people I care about.., a way of centering myself...especially for me if it involves certain fragrances.... roses, stock, freesia, lily of the valley, peaches, nectarines,  honeysuckle. 

It’s like cooking. There’s no one way to do it right. You can start with what flowers are available at any given moment, as if they were ingredients, and improvise on those; or start with an idea, and see what ingredients would bring it into focus; or choose a container and think about various ways it could be shown to its best advantage. Or, most likely, use some combination of all these approaches.

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