Tag Archives: Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Friday Linkage 7/31/2015

The end of July. School is only a few weeks away for my daughter. Where did the summer go?

On to the links…

Farmworkers Score Big in New Tomato Deal—The Coalition of Immokalee Workers just got Ahold USA to sign up to its program. This is a big win. Pressure is working.

Battle of Solar Pits Rooftop Against Utility-Scale Systems—Why not both? Seriously, why is there a conflict between these two? Oh right, follow the money…

Hillary Clinton Pledges Half a Billion Solar Panels for US—This has to be one of the easiest policy wins of recent memory. Let’s see…clean, emission free power from the sun for the next twenty five years after the panel is installed. I am sure Ted Cruz is pissed about this.

Hillary Clinton Still Won’t Take a Position on the Keystone XL Pipeline—Why is this such a hard thing for her to disavow? Keystone XL is a loser on so many levels.

Wind Energy Provides Europe With 8% Of Its Electricity In 2014-8% is a good number. I would like to see more.

Large-Scale Solar Near Parity In World’s Three Biggest Markets—When power from emission free sources is at parity with fossil fuels even accounting for the loss of subsidies we will have reached a major turning point.

First Ever US Offshore Wind Farm Gets First “Steel In Water,” No Turning Back Now—This is exciting because offshore wind has such potential. It can deliver clean, emission free wind power to the heavily and densely populated eastern seaboard.

Rocky Mountain Resorts Race to Defend their Businesses Against Climate Change—Those beautiful powder days are threatened by climate change. Skiing in late March is threatened by climate change. Does anyone care about climate change?

U.S. Craft Beer Volume Production up 16% through 1st Half of 2015—People keep waiting for the crash in craft beer explosion, but it just looks like a lot of people cannot get enough of craft beer:


Pour some more IPAs folks!

America Is Not Getting Fatter Anymore—This is amazing to me. People are consuming a lot less soda and actually paying attention to their health in terms of obesity.

Looking Up: How Farming Changed my Perspective on Rain—When you make your living from the land you take a whole new perspective on a lot of different issues. Rain is life instead of inconvenience.

Friday Linkage 9/28/2012

Where did September go?  The fall color is going to be early and short lived because of the drought that gripped much of the Midwest during the spring and summer.  So, no beautiful reds, yellows, and oranges to ease us into winter.

The Iowa Hawkeyes gakked all over themselves en route to a 2-2 non-conference record in football.  So, we have very little to look forward to as Big 10 play begins this weekend with a visit from the Minnesota Golden Gophers.  Who, by the way, are 4-0 on the season and riding a 2 game win streak against the hapless Hawks.  Ugh.

Ahhh, but the weather has been pitch perfect the past week.  Warm days and cool nights.  The fleece is getting broken out and hot chocolate has made its way back onto the daily treat menu.  There are few more guilty pleasures than sneaking an extra marshmallow into my daughter’s hot cocoa.  I am a bad man.

On to the links…

Chipotle in Hot Salsa over Farm Workers’ Rights—I lead off with this because there is no reason that Chipotle should not do the right thing.  If freakin’ McDonald’s can do the right thing and sign on to the Fair Food Program, Chipotle can do so as well.  It already cultivates the image of a “better than the rest” chain, but it’s appalling lack of action on behalf of farm workers obliterates that illusion.

Dispatch from Ohio, Land of Public Markets and Urban Farms–When I read stories about public markets across the U.S. it really gives me hope that the about to open Newbo City Market in downtown Cedar Rapids will develop into one of those cornerstone type establishments.

What Does History Say About the Costs and Benefits of Environmental Regulation?—Just think about how much misinformation about the cost of environmental regulation has been spewed in the current election cycle.  Now, think about the historical trend.  In essence, as the infographic from the Environmental Defense Fund shows, industry lies about the cost by a great deal:

What Cuts to National Parks would Mean—The looming threat of sequestration and the trend of declining funding for the national park system has been brutal and promises to be catastrophic.  Somehow, Republicans can find it in their moral compass to support boondoggle military procurements (see F-35, Littoral Combat Ship, Future Combat Systems, and others too numerous to mention) and big subsidies for big oil, but the national parks are a bridge too far:

Republicans Claims Wind Tax Credits too Expensive after Voting for Big Oil Subsidies—I guess for Big Oil it pays to have friends in the right places.  Especially when your friends are hypocrites.  There is no other label to apply to congressional Republicans except for hypocrites because these clowns continually beat the drum of fiscal responsibility yet constantly rain largesse on oil companies and defense contractors.

Offshore Wind Turbines Could Power Entire Eastern U.S.—That’s right, the eastern U.S. could be powered entirely by offshore wind.  Okay, so it would take 140,000 offshore wind turbines but once those are installed the power is essentially free.  No coal, no nuclear, no natural gas…oh wait, Republicans wouldn’t like that.

Europe Accounts for 70% of Global PV—Pretty self-explanatory.  Europe is leading the way in installing solar photovoltaic power.  It’s not just the sunny Mediterranean countries either.  Germany is the leader.

How to Reclaim Our Seed Culture—It is one thing to be able to coax healthy produce from our gardens and farms, but our resilience depends on the ability to save seeds from one season to the next.  Too many modern plants are designed to not pass on genetic information from one generation to the next because it makes us reliant on seed companies.  This is unacceptable.

The Farm Life Draws New Blood—The honest work of agriculture appears to be an option for new college graduates and others who view traditional corporate careers with a jaundiced eye.  The world would be a better place if more people actually saw the value in the work that grows our food.

Why do We Eat so Much Tuna—Basically, it does not taste much like fish.  In the U.S. we like to eat a lot of foods as long as they all taste like bland white meat.  Even our chicken does not taste like chicken.  It tastes like bland white meat.  It’s why I have never understood the aversion to tofu by most people.  If you eat a commercial broiler in the U.S. you might as well eat firm tofu because the taste and texture is about the same.

Your Dust Bunnies are Likely Toxic—Great, now the dust in my house is not only annoying but also potentially toxic.  I feel a little better about my situation because we avoid the nasty chemicals meant to help you dust and I am freak about wiping things down with a microfiber cloth.  Still…

Long Bike Rides are a Journey for the Mind—There is something to the rhythmic cadence of pedaling down a lonely road that refreshes and reinvigorates like nothing else.  I think this is what separates cyclists from non-cyclists.

You Must Read: Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit

Before you reach for one of those perfectly round and red orbs of tasteless flesh that is only barely reminiscent of actual tomato flavor you must read Barry Estabrook’s Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit.

The modern tomato is an amazing thing.  In general, the tomatoes that populate the shelves in a supermarket’s produce section taste nothing like what we think of when imagining a tomato.  Why?  Because as Barry Estabrook chronicles in his most excellent book the modern tomato is a strange mash-up of everything wrong with modern agriculture.

First, the primary site for growing tomatoes in the United States is actually ill-suited for growing tomatoes.  Huh?  Yep, Florida is a horrible place to grow tomatoes.  The soil is little more than sand, so it does not hold nutrients or water very well unlike the soils of more northern climes.  The climate also does wonders for nurturing parasites and diseases that can devastate crops, so the solution is to bathe the fruit in a chemical soup.

Second, the varieties bred for modern tomato farming have the desired trait of being durable in shipping.  However, a tomato gets its flavor from the delicate balance of flesh and watery insides.  Breeding the fruit to be durable for shipping emphasizes hard flesh at the expense of flavorful guts thus creating a dense orb of little flavor.  As the author illustrates, green tomatoes can fly off the back of trucks and hit the roadway with nary a scratch.  Try that with an heirloom tomato off the vine of your home garden.

Third, the modern tomato industrial complex picks the fruit when it is green and achieves a red color through the use of ethylene gas.  Therefore, the red color has absolutely nothing to do with ripeness and everything to do with marketing.

The story would be compelling enough if the death of flavorful tomatoes were all the Estabrook were concerned with documenting in his book.  However, the most harrowing tale comes not from the tomatoes but from the people who work the fields in Florida picking the fruit.

Primarily focused on the community of tomato field workers centered around Immokalee the book details the barbaric conditions these people endure every day.  In some cases it is modern day slavery.  Think about that the next time you reach for a little package of Santa Sweets in the produce section.  Amazingly, these conditions seem to primarily focus on the fresh tomato industry and not the tomatoes destined for cans or sauce.  Apparently it is an entirely different regime according to Estabrook.

So, we have a modern agricultural industry that is producing a product no one thinks is any good—find me one person who likes the tasteless orbs of rock hard red flesh—and is treating people horribly.  Why?  Because we like to get tomatoes in January in Iowa.

I think the solution to the problem is simple.   Not to sound like a broken record, but if you are buying in season produce from local suppliers there is no danger of you participating in this system.  Maybe your vendor at the farmers’ market is using forced labor or buying produce from an unscrupulous supplier, but I have not heard of any such incidence here in good ol’ Iowa.

If you want to learn more please check out the Center for Immokalee Workers.  This grassroots organization is doing great things in brining attention to the plight of farm workers in Florida’s tomato belt.  The organization has also been effective in getting major corporations to step up and pay a little bit more per pound to help alleviate the worst of the conditions affecting the workers around Immokalee.

One more thing, why doesn’t Chipotle sign up to pay workers a little bit extra—as little as 1 cent per pound of tomatoes—when it is already a pioneer in bringing more sustainable and equitable food to its counters?  It is shameful that the company has thus far resisted.

Friday Linkage 3/16/2012

You have to love James Inhofe.  The guy is a master of delusion.  When the weather is unseasonably cool or the snows flies in Washington D.C. the man is building an igloo and all over Fox News.  But when it is unbearably hot in his own state for weeks on end and the drought in unceasing the man is nowhere to be seen.

Then Inhofe goes on the Rachel Maddow show and says he believed in global warming until he learned how much mitigation would cost.  Huh?  The cost of mitigation does not impact the reality of the problem.  Unrelated.  Completely.

It’s not like modern day Republicans ever let things like logic, reason, or science get in the way of trying to win elections.  Clowns.

On to the links…

Appetite for  Shark Fins Behind Decline of Blue Sharks—It looks like fisherman taking advantage of a globalized market for shark fins are decimating the population of blue sharks in waters off the coast of the United Kingdom in order to sell shark fins in Asia.  This practice is responsible for declines of up to 80% from the 1980s of certain shark species.  Nothing like destroying whole ecosystems so someone’s wedding in China can have a gelatinous soup.

Coal Powers Less than 40% of U.S. Electricity—As a share of total electricity generation, coal is now less than 40% of the U.S. total which is the lowest such percentage since 1978:


I would be curious to see a graph of total electrical generation and the percentage mix of generating sources.  An idea for a future post…

Grease Thieves—Every time the price of gasoline starts tickling some psychological barrier—now $4 per gallon when it used to be $3 per gallon—there are stories about people stealing grease to make biodiesel.  At the end of the day, I would venture to guess that the majority of this stuff is still no disposed of properly in communities across the United States.  Sure, progressive places like San Francisco or Hawaii are taking steps but what about Atlanta or Buffalo?

U.S. New Car Fuel Economy Hits New High in February 2012—The average fuel economy of a new vehicle sold in the U.S. is 23.7 miles per gallon.  In the past four years the average number has risen 16%.  Not too shabby.  Some car makers do better than others:













































































































































Land Rover




The numbers above, as tracked by TrueCar TrueMPG, show the brand specific fuel economy of new cars sold in February 2011 and 2012.

Minnesota Could be 100% Renewable at No Extra Cost—For anyone who has spent a winter being blown to shreds by the constant wind blowing across the state of Minnesota this comes as no surprise.  Okay, maybe it is a little surprising that an entire state could be powered by wind and solar with no additional costs to ratepayers.  Oh wait, efficiency also gets mentioned.  It’s not like I would trust these guys to push the issue.

Clean Energy Critics Cannot do Math—Does it come as any surprise that the people who criticize clean energy or energy efficiency programs cannot do math?  It should not because the math does not support their claims, so they invent new models with wild ass assumptions.  Using $0.01 as the average price of retail electricity?  I want to live in that rate market.  You gotta’ love it when people are just stupid.

The Latest Attack on Cycling Advocacy—This story is unbelievable, except for the fact that it happens all the time.  Cyclists are often treated like second class citizens vis a vis car owners, are viewed as some kind of sub-human socialist, and harassed by law enforcement to a degree greater than most car operators.  This story from Ohio just shows the lengths that people who dislike bicycles will go.  How many people have made suggestions for changes to the auto infrastructure—lights, stop signs, roundabouts, speed limit changes—without being branded “unlicensed engineers” by some revenge obsessed former civil servant with an axe to grind?  Waiting….

Food Delivery in NYC—This is one of those vignettes that makes one stop and think for a moment about the people who make our modern world work.  How many people think about the struggles on a daily basis of the people who deliver food?  Not very many I imagine because the delivery people are often faceless, nameless immigrants on the bottom rung of the U.S. economic ladder.

Publix Humiliation—Talk about another segment of the population that almost no one thinks about when reaching for a plastic crate of grape tomatoes at the grocery store.  Farmworkers who pick tomatoes in Florida live and work in conditions that are hard to describe accurately.  Suffice it to say, the conditions are barbaric and companies who buy produce from the companies that participate in such a medieval system should be condemned as modern day facilitators of economic, if not outright, slavery.  This is something familiar to anyone who has taken the time to read Barry Estabrook’s excellent book Tomatoland.

Wolverine Weekend—This seems like a natural marriage of enthusiasts and scientists that should have been going on for years, but it seems to be something new.  Wonder why?

Technology for Tall Wooden Buildings Given Away—The technology of tall wooden buildings is progressing steadily.  Whereas this type of structure would have been unthinkable a decade ago, Waugh Thiselton’s CLT building in London is nine stories tall.  Wood makes a wonderful building material compared to its competitors, especially when grown and harvested in a sustainable manner.  As the world moves to a more dense urban future, buildings will be forced to go vertical and wood has a place in that discussion.  Plus, how many other materials can make such a beautiful building as this library in Vennesla, Norway?