Now that Eric Schlosser’s classic mealtime muckraking book, Fast Food Nation, has been Hollywoodized, Americans are again talking about where those McNuggets and fries come from and how they arrive in our stomachs. It’s a teachable moment and perhaps the film will help maintain the momentum that Fast Food Nation set in motion when it was published in 2001. But too often the debate around the Fast Food Nation phenomenon centers almost exclusively around the contents of those Big Macs and Super Slurpies. That’s why we’re seeing moves to ban trans fats in restaurant foods or attempts to sue fast food restaurants for allegedly making diners fat and sassy. It should be kept in mind the real reason Schlosser’s book was so revelatory wasn’t because it alerted us to the disgusting ingredients that go into a McShake—other journalists and nutrition experts have been doing that for decades. Schlosser’s real contribution to the dialogue on our food and farming system is that he showed clearly and in an entertaining manner how the “fast food mentality” has seeped into every aspect of our lives. That means we are a fast food republic in every sense of the word, not just in terms of how we produce, process and consume food. The McDonald’s way of doing things determines how we build houses, receive medical care and educate our children. The problem isn’t McDonald’s. The problem is the McDonald’s philosophy of doing business. (more…)
We’ve got the Legislative Citizens Committee on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) and in August Governor Pawlenty signed an executive order creating the Conservation Legacy Council (CLC). The LCCMR comprises 10 legislative representatives and seven citizen members; CLC comprises 11 citizens nominated by the governor and four legislative representatives. All this seems to beg the question: Do we need both? (more…)
After a nearly month-long break, the LCCMR met at Fort Snelling State Park on November 28 to review water RFPs received, build the committee’s upcoming calendar, take in a few presentations and begin getting down to the brass tacks of determining what funding recommendations the committee will make to the legislature next year. (more…)
The Minnesota Department of Finance has released their latest budget forcast for Minnesota’s government. Essentially, these folks make an educated estimate of how tax revenues are coming in, how government spending is proceeding, and comparing all of that to the budget that lawmakers set in 2005 and updated last May. This info will then be used to set up the budget that legislators will start preparing in January (or more likely not until February, when the Finance folks will release another updated estimate). The bottom line? There’s an extra $2 billion dollars that will be collected in the next two and a half years, but that is not currently allocated to be spent in any particular fashion.
So, let’s use this occasion to talk about why we need to increase the amount of tax dollars that go to protecting and restoring Minnesota’s Great Outdoors – a keystone of our economy and way of life.
It’s been a dry fall in Minnesota, and that means farmers have had plenty of opportunities to till up the soil after harvest. While driving around in farm country the day before Thanksgiving, I was struck by just how much corn and soybean stubble has been made subterranean the past few weeks. Acre-after-acre of rolling fields are black, giving crop producers a jump on spring planting. The trouble is, spring planting is several months off, and it’s inevitable a lot of that soil will be blown and washed away before it’s put back into use, especially if another open, relatively snow-less winter settles in. All of this exposed soil is particularly troubling considering how global climate change is making our agricultural lands even more vulnerable. So vulnerable, in fact, that attempts to put a positive spin on the greenhouse effect’s relationship to food production are losing steam fast. (more…)
The Department of Natural Resources has announced the new design for the third Reinvest In Minnesota critical habitat license plate. It’s a fish.
If you care to get up close and personal with the details, a high-resolution version of the image can be downloaded with this link.
The days since the election have been bountiful with the periodic release of new tidbits of information on the upcoming legislature. This of course creates a great opportunity for policy wonks to discuss what that means for their causes – in our case a clean and healthy environment. Since I’ve been able to be a part of some of these conversation, I can turn around and post some of the talk here with hopes of appearing smart. The most recent news? House Republican leadership, House committee chairs, and Senate DFL committee members.
Promoters of large-scale factory livestock farming like to argue that their model of agriculture is a natural progression—an example of free market efficiency succeeding. What they don’t want the public to know is that factory-scale production of pork, beef, poultry and milk benefits greatly from a silent, but powerful, government subsidy. As a paper out of Tufts University shows, this subsidy may be indirect, but it has had a significantly negative impact on our farmers, our communities and even our landscape. (more…)
The leadership positions in the legislature are quickly filling. It looks like there is some good news for the environment and some little flags that give me pause. I am hoping for you input on the players as well.
A common argument in favor of large-scale industrialized agriculture is that it is just plain more efficient, and thus deserves to succeed. But measured by the amount of energy it takes to produce each calorie of food, the industrial farming system is anything but a lean, mean food-producing machine. In 1940, the average U.S. farm produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil fuel energy it used. By 1974, that ratio was 1:1, according to Richard Manning, writing in his book Against the Grain. These days, the calories-to-calories ratio is more like 3:1, according to David Pimentel, a Cornell University entomologist who has studied the environmental impact of various agriculture systems. That’s right: it takes some three calories of energy to produce just one calorie of food, according to Pimentel’s estimates. And that doesn’t even include the energy expended to process the food and transport it to our supper tables. When both production and distribution are taken into account, it takes 10 to 15 calories of energy for every calorie of food energy produced, according to data published by the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at the University of Wisconsin. (more…)