Friday Linkage 11/22/2013

The holiday season is almost upon us and that means…shopping!  When did shopping become a newsworthy item that is covered in all sorts of outlets?  I remember people going out the day after Thanksgiving when I was a kid, but now people prepare for the day weeks in advance like armies preparing for an invasion.  Granted, the parking lot of your average big box store can seem like an uncoordinated amphibious landing.

On to the links…

It’s Time to Rethink America’s Corn System—Corn is king.  Spend any time in Iowa, rural Illinois, or other parts of the middle United States and you will begin to understand the power of King Corn.  However, we should not think of corn as food.  It is primarily grown for fuel and feed.  It’s also time to rethink our obsession with growing the stuff at any cost.

Amendment To Farm Bill Could Be End To Humane Farming Standards—Steve King, from the great state of Iowa, is a complete ass.  It looks like he is further showing how he is a hypocrite and in the pocket of industry.  When it comes to issues that he supports, like denying women choice and being a bigot when it comes to marriage, he wants the states to decide if it favors his position.  On the other hand, he wants to deny states their rights when it impacts his pocket book.

How Industrial Agriculture Has Thwarted Factory Farm Reforms—We live in an era when mega sized agriculture companies ride herd over the interests of public health and safety.  Just look at the inability of anyone to address the rampant use of prophylactic antibiotics in the factory farms of the U.S.  It’s disgraceful.

Kauai County Council Override Frees Way For GMO Bill—The Kauai County Council, which is what the island wide government is called, has overridden the veto of a bill that would place regulations and restrictions on pesticides and GMO crops.  The bill had pretty widespread support on the island and was obviously opposed by the agriculture cartels that have major operations on the island.  In response there was pretty healthy protest.

Hawaii’s Big Island Bans Biotech Companies & GMO Crops—It looks like biotech will have to cross the Big Island off their list of places to operate.  The anti-GMO sentiment on the Big Island is pretty heavy.  Recently, some papaya trees have been chopped down in what is thought to be a protest about GMO crops as most papaya trees are grown from GMO stock.

Google Earth Launched High Resolution Deforestation Map—In business school you are beat over the head with the maxim that “you get what you measure.”  Measurement requires easily accessible tools and it looks like the problem of deforestation just got a powerful new tool in the form of Google Earth.  Never underestimate the power of putting information in the hands of motivated individuals.

Look Who’s Eating Your Plastic Now: A Whole Unprecedented Ecosystem—I would like to say I am surprised by this development, but nature was sure to respond in some way to the glut of discarded plastic that is mucking up the planet.  The scary part is that this new ecosystem might wreak massive changes to the existing order.

A Carbon Tax Would Cut The Deficit By $1 Trillion—These numbers are nothing new.  The problem arises from the fact that obstructionist Republicans, owned outright by anti-tax zealots like Grover Norquist, won’t even entertain the idea of a tax on something because they fear losing a primary battle to someone even more extreme.  It’s hard to imagine some candidate more extreme than most of the Republicans in Congress but just wait until the primary season prior to the 2014 midterms heats up.

WalMart’s Carbon Emissions Soar Despite all the Green Talk—I would like to see WalMart be a good actor, but let’s just call it like it is…WalMart sucks at life.  No matter what changes this company makes it will be a community and planet destroying menace until it goes the way of so many retail giants before it.

Country’s Largest Public Power Provider Takes Next Major Step to Move Beyond Coal—When a large player in the power market makes a move away from coal it’s a big deal because their absence from the market reduces the demand for coal which starts the supply chain down a death spiral.  As more coal plants shut down it becomes harder for the existing supply chain to produce coal at an attractive price which leads to more shutdowns and so forth.

Too Much Public Funding Is Going Into Coal Projects in Key Countries—Why are countries still subsidizing coal?  Developed countries are investing billions in coal projects worldwide and that is a damn shame.  There needs to be a global moratorium on the development of coal.

Arizona Solar Energy Fight Ends With $5 Monthly Fee—Rooftop solar in Arizona was fighting a pitched battle with the utilities in the state.  In the end, a small concession was made to the utilities in the form of a $5 fee.  This is a big win for distributed solar in the southwestern U.S.

Can We Eat Our Way To A Healthier Microbiome? It’s Complicated—The composition of the bacteria in our stomachs has gotten a lot of attention lately and the research coming forth shows that a great deal of our current health malaise may be related to changes in that composition.  The problem that is being discovered is how to reverse the trend.

Splenda’s Dirty Little Secret: It’s Terrible for the Environment—Put down the little packet of artificial sweetener!  All artificial sweeteners are a fool’s errand in trying to fool our bodies that we are eating sugar.  Too bad it turns out that you get the bad effects of sugar without actually getting to eat something sweet.  Oh, and it’s accumulating in our water.  Great.

How Can Deserts Turn Into Grasslands?—The ideas presented here are interesting.  The other component to remember is that these are environments that have already been severely impacted by humans already.  Using livestock to remediate our damage is interesting.

‘Digesting’ Food Waste Can Turn Trash Into Money—Why we even have trash is beyond me?  We pay to throw away something that could be used to generate electricity.  Silly.

Biofuels and Climate Change: Pulpwood to the Rescue?—I am still hopeful that developments in second and even third generation biofuels will prove fruitful.  As much as I want to see the future of personal transportation electrified I know that the adoption curve will never be fast enough to mitigate the horrors of climate change.

Why Toyota Constantly Improving the Prius’ Fuel Economy is Something of a Fool’s Errand—I would not say it’s a fool’s errand as long as the technology utilized in the Prius flows down into more mass-market and less fuel efficient models.  I think of the Prius not as the answer, but as the vanguard of the technologies that will proliferate making all vehicles more efficient.

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