Food for thought

About six months ago, we were all hearing about a few financial firms that were in trouble. Who would have thought the troubles at Goldman Sachs and others would have all the repercussions we’re feeling today?

By the same token, there are signs that food production issues around the world are having serious political side-effects:

But if the food situation continues to deteriorate, entire nations will break down at an ever increasing rate. We have entered a new era in geopolitics. In the 20th century the main threat to international security was superpower conflict; today it is failing states.

Like the issues with the big financial firms, many of these challenges are more than we can handle directly as individuals. But it helps to understand the issues so we can pitch in when and where we can. We can help other people understand both the global issues and what it takes to live sustainably:

“Once we start to organize ourselves and innovate within that mind-set, the breakthroughs are extraordinary.”

And what could be more magical than that?

Farming in the future

A brief and thought-provoking article on the potential relationship between a country’s energy consumption and how agrarian it is.

I believe the broad vision of what needs to be done already exists—food that is more local, organic, produced, processed and distributed by renewable energy systems, and using cultivation methods that put the soil health first. Making that argument to those who are reluctant or suspicious, however, could use some better research that connects the dots credibly between energy depletion, climate change, food security, and demographics.

There are no firm conclusions, but some interesting questions to ponder.

Where do your shrimp come from?

I buy most of my seafood from local fishermen and a local shellfish farm. I’ve tried to buy domestic shrimp when possible (due to an allergy to a common preservative in imported shrimp), but this article shows how challenging that is:

Today, if you live more than a hundred miles from the Gulf Coast, the shrimp you eat most likely come from a foreign farm. You can tour these farms while standing at your supermarket seafood freezer and reading labels. The top ten importing countries are Thailand, Indonesia, Ecuador, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, India, Bangladesh, and Guyana.

Links to: US marine shrimp farmers, US freshwater shrimp farmers

Splenda meets the ecosystem

I’ve been known to use Splenda (an artificial sweetener) in cooking for diabetic friends and those following an Atkins-like diet. Now, research done by a high school student in the 2009 Intel Science Talent Search shows that Splenda isn’t broken down by most water treatment methods and thus raises questions of whether this could accumulate in our lakes and rivers.

But eventually she was allowed to subject sucralose to various treatments, like bacterial digestion, typically used in wastewater treatment plants. She found that sucralose resisted most of these treatments, and was only broken down into biodegradable molecules with extensive time and concentration of titanium oxide and ultraviolet light. Since few plants use these methods, that means almost all the sucralose people eat or drink winds up in the ecosystem.

More at the Scientific American blog

P.S. It isn’t broken down in the human body either.