Friday Linkage 6/29/2012

Wildfires are abstract concepts to someone living in Iowa.  Sure, we see fields that catch fire now and again but rarely is anything more than an old barn or single farmstead truly threatened.

However, close friends in Colorado Springs were evacuated from the path of the ongoing Waldo Canyon Fire and are now homeless.  As of this morning they do not know the condition of their house or when they will be allowed to even go back to see what, if anything, remains.  Everyone in their family is safe, but there is just a pit in the bottom of your stomach when you think about the situation.

Sorry for the depressing tone, but thoughts about the wildfire have sort of consumed my waking hours lately as I tried to imagine the combination of horror, anger, and unknown.

On to the links…

Midwestern Drought Intensifies—Shades of the 1988 drought are beginning to appear as the Midwest is increasingly dry and the hot conditions of high summer are starting to bear down.  This week it was close to 100 degrees in Eastern Iowa with hot winds to match.

How Big Meat is Taking Over the Midwest—The forces of big meat, represented by the increase in confined animal feedlot operations (CAFOs), are slowly taking over the remaining pockets of livestock production that they do not own in the Midwest.  A quick drive through rural Iowa will put you in contact with the foul smell of these modern hell holes.  Don’t believe these places are hell on Earth?  Just try and walk up to one without tearing up, vomiting, or giving up because of the smell.  Now imagine eating meat that comes from one of these operations.

We Evolved to Eat Meat, But How Much is Too Much?—It is not that meat, in and of itself, is a bad thing.  It is just that Americans in general and, increasingly, the rest of the world eats too much of the stuff and it is produced in deplorable conditions.

Visualizing a Nation of Meat Eaters—A series of very interesting charts and graphs that visually display the evolution of meat consumption in the U.S.

Too Big to Chug—In America we love us some big drinks:

Think about the fact that the McDonald’s kid size drink is 5 ounces larger than the original fountain drink size for the chain in 1955.  Think that is scary?  During my son’s one year checkup, the pediatrician was asking questions about his eating habits when he said “Do you try to limit juice and soda intake?”  Huh?  Soda intake for a one year old?  Why is that even a question?

How Clean is Your Beach?—Every year, the Natural Resources Defense Council releases a report on the water quality and public notification of beaches in the United States.  Check it out to see if your favorite beach is on the list and how it did.  Is it safe to go back into the water?

Fear Accompany Fisherman in Japanese Disaster Region—Fisherman are starting to make their way back into the sea in the area near the nuclear disaster in Fukushima.  Given the reports of potentially irradiated tuna making their way to California earlier, I would think that people would be more than hesitant to wrap their fingers around some calamari from these waters.

The Curse of the Lead Bullet—The California condor’s recovery is one the greatest success stories of the modern wildlife conservation movement.  Even though the majestic bird was brought back from the precipice of extinction, threats to its long term viability remain.  One of those is the lead shot used in hunting loads.    Why are we still using a toxic metal for recreational hunting?  In Iowa this year this same issue was brought forward by the Department of Natural Resources, but our tone deaf governor chose to make some kind of misguided ideological stand in opposing the ban of lead hunting loads.  Why?

Have Sledgehammer Will Farm—Breaking up asphalt and concrete is brutal and backbreaking work, but considering how much of our landscape is covered in the materials it is almost inevitable that spaces will have to be reclaimed.  Bit by bit we can replace the hard edges of the modern world with the softer edges of a better future.

Edible Weeds in the Garden—It may be a weed, but that does mean it lacks culinary value.  Like the non-marketable cuts of meat or offal, we too often think of food in terms of very narrowly defined items.  So, don’t just pull those weeds.  Saute them!

Simple Sheet of Paper Keeps Produce Fresh Four Times Longer—This is one of those little things that you smack your head when you see it and say, “Why didn’t someone think of this earlier?”  Probably because you don’t worry about the shelf life of food when you do not think about the cost.

Unfixable Computers—We have entered an age where a computer is a disposable item.  Think about that for a moment.  I remember when computers were something of a centerpiece of a family’s home, cared for like cars, but now these items have become merely electronic waste when the time comes to make even the simplest of repairs.  It is not forward progress at all.

BioLite Stove—This thing is just cool.  The BioLite stove seems like the perfect disaster stove because it can also provide a small amount of electricity for phones or lights.  Hmmm…

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