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Conscious Eating - Just Us or Do We Spread the Word and How?

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bulavinaka Dec 29, 2008 10:04 AM

A couple of recent threads relating to what many would generally consider, "Conscious Eating," have been gaining traction on this board.

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/582847
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/583268

I'd like to thank the Chow Team for allowing us in having some meaningful dialogue on this matter of growing concern. With that said, hopefully The Team will indulge me with this post as well.

After witnessing some of the most immoral, corrupt and unethical behavior coming to fruition in our country and the world over the past year or so, I still believe that the vast majority of us want to do good. For many of us, this concern rolls into what we eat. Many of us have been sounding out on the posts that I referred to above. And as lightly as we want to walk upon this planet, many of us (me included) are not light enough to walk on water. However, most of us do agree that certain foods and practices need to be addressed, regardless of what is deemed acceptable, culturally or otherwise. The bottom line is, in many ways, we are eating our planet to death.

If there is one food item that draws the greatest ire, it would be shark fin. That sharks have been successful as a species for time eternal is common knowledge. What many don't know or don't care to know is that after so many millions of years of performing their vital roles in the oceans' ecosystems, shark populations are reaching critically small numbers in most parts of the world.

The single most devastating factor that is severely reducing their numbers is the demand for shark fin in Asia and its extended populations. Shark fin is considered to be one of the prerequisites in many Chinese banquets, as well as higher end dim sum and seafood restaurants. Representing wealth and prestige, shark fin is a must-do by the host out of respect to his many guests, often numbering in the three- to four-hundred range for invited guests. This one course alone will cost many hosts dearly, but this is one fate that most are willing to accept. Not doing so would be to "lose face," which for many Asians is tantamount to death.

Prior to the dynamic rise of China's economy, the harvesting of shark fin, while not considered nominal, was probably still not a dire threat to worldwide shark populations. The birth and growth of the economic mini-dragons back in the 80s did result in a bump on the demand of shark fin. However, with the rippling economic stimuli of China's boom on Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia, along with about 1.5 billion new candidates in China now exponentially increasing the demand for shark fin, armadas of shark finning ships are now sweeping the oceans of sharks to satisfy this unprecedented and continuous demand for this pricey commodity. This delicacy can cost the host a fair amount of coins. I've read numbers that astound me. Some claim that one shark is harvested to supply the demand for each person who is served shark fin soup. The prices that I've seen are approximately $350-$400 per 5-6" fin, and often $50 to $150 per bowl of shark fin soup. Whether or not these numbers are accurate is not the issue. Even if these numbers are approximations, one can surmise that the supply-side will be inclined to provide as much of this commodity as possible. Compounding the shark issue is the relatively slow reproductive rate of sharks, particularly those that are in demand - those that tend to be large enough for harvesting fins. This issue is all about scale, and is truly a sad state of affairs for the shark. If you're a shark, over one fourth of the world's population wants you in their soup bowl many times over.

So those of us who feel the urgency of such examples of devastation are voicing our concerns. However, are we all just preaching to the choir, and is our choir not being heard outside of our church? And if we open our windows so others can hear us sing, are we now imposing our uninvited sermons upon others? How do we "spread the word," about how urgent so many of these food-related issues are? Thanks...

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  1. cayjohan RE: bulavinaka Dec 29, 2008 10:54 AM

    bulavinaka, speak to the young people in your life. Be it about shark fin or about food-miles, pesticides or feedlots, the young have a vested interest in their food futures. And they ARE interested. Teach. That's what we can all do. It has amazing effects.

    Cay

    2 Replies
    1. re: cayjohan
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      bulavinaka RE: cayjohan Dec 29, 2008 12:22 PM

      I completely agree with you. What I am very concerned with is if we actually have the luxury of waiting for these young folks to come of age and become the true force of change - by then, it may be too late. Some of these problems which we face, like the one I mentioned above, are pressing closely toward the abyss as we speak. It is these issues that I am so concerned about. If we don't turn them around soon, there's no fixing them.

      1. re: bulavinaka
        cayjohan RE: bulavinaka Dec 29, 2008 05:54 PM

        Agreed. We work wth the young. Win-win. Cay

    2. limster RE: bulavinaka Dec 29, 2008 01:28 PM

      Presently, I'm agnostic as far as whether sharksfin and the destruction of shark populations as being the one that draws the most ire. How does that compare with the destruction of other species such as those listed in the threads you link to. Do we have reliable estimates of population declines of all these species and of the demand/consumption to say that one species is closer to the abyss than another or if the destruction of natural habitats for agriculture that affect many species more important? I'm for conservation, but we need to base that on hard data.

      BTW, while sharks have been around for millions of years, so have many species, and all of them have been continually evolving, rather than somehow locked in time. I'd be very surprised if sharks (and there's many species of sharks) have remained genetically identical to their ancestors.

      11 Replies
      1. re: limster
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        bulavinaka RE: limster Dec 29, 2008 10:22 PM

        I apologize for using sharks as an example if you feel that this was my only concern. I've felt the same for so many others species, as well as for so many concerns in man's unsustainable practices across the planet. But in reference to sharks, any time the population of a top line predator is suddenly altered in the an ecosystem, the balance of that ecosystem will be altered and the intermediate and long term results are usually disastrous. This is fact. And to gain hard data, how much is needed before it is considered hard data? Also, when one considers that the oceans and seas cover approximately two-thirds of the planet, and most of it is difficult at best to explore let alone gain studies on, to assess "hard" data points to every cubic meter of ocean would be impossible.

        Could one go by the number of sharks caught within a given area year over the year? Are migratory patterns of shark finning fleets more accurate? After all, signs of declining catches in traditional finning areas as well as fleets no longer finning in these areas and traveling as far as remote areas like Cocos Island implies that the old areas are no longer commercially viable and that more commercially viable areas are much further out than ever thought practical. The astronomical price is what makes traveling so far worth the trip. Catch reports and wholesaler interviews have already verified that while the demand is increasing, the supply is rapidly decreasing. Prices also may add some understanding of supply and demand. Ten years ago, a kilo of Medium-grade dried shark fin typically sold retail in the range of $60-$132/kilo. According to the most recent info I've come across, the price is now hovering around $1,100/kilo. So how much data would one need before making a comfortable assessment?

        Again, I'm far from perfect. But at the same time, my main concern is how do we honestly make true change in a relatively short time span to the practices that are obviously detrimental and the most devastating to the environment?

        1. re: bulavinaka
          limster RE: bulavinaka Dec 30, 2008 05:06 AM

          The point that you made "If there is one food item that draws the greatest ire, it would be shark fin" argues that sharksfin is a more serious concern than, say dwindling sturgeon populations. To answer the question about how much data would one need, as an example, one could ask what's the remaining shark population vs the sturgeon population? How fast have they declined and if we continue at the present rate, how soon will their populations drop below a critical level that the environmental impact becomes intolerable? (It is possible that things might get bad even before they become extinct.)

          While it's not possible to count every last fish, it is certainly possible to sample populations and I assume it's a widely used ecological technique, along with methods that tell us how reliable those samples are. Perhaps that data has already been collected by ecologists who care about these issues.

          The numbers you cite say that things are bad for sharks, but they don't tell us if the shark is worse off than other species, which is the assertion that I would like to clarify. Like you, I feel that ecological conservation isn't an either-or issue (i.e. we should care about for example, sharks and sturgeons). However, it is important to know where we stand with regard to these situations if we want to make priorities.

          There's a lot that is detrimental to the environment, and we need to deal with them, but as to which is the most devastating, I don't have the information to draw a conclusion.

          Ecology is a complex science, and I suspect that there isn't a simple and generalisable answer to the effects of reducing a top line predator; the outcomes may depend on what other species can fill that niche (for example, mass extinction of dinosaurs, then the top of the food chain, was a pretty good deal for mammals). Thus, I would be hesitant to say that it's a fact that "the intermediate and long term results are usually disastrous", given that I don't know of enough examples.

          Again, I agree we can already start doing stuff to minimise the environmental impact. But it is crucial to understand the underlying ecological factors at play and not just walk away with sound bites. At present I feel that I don't have all the necessary pieces of information to agree or disagree with all of the ecological assertions that you've made.

          1. re: limster
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            bulavinaka RE: limster Dec 30, 2008 08:53 AM

            >>The point that you made "If there is one food item that draws the greatest ire, it would be shark fin" argues that sharksfin is a more serious concern than, say dwindling sturgeon populations.<<

            Again,

            >>I apologize for using sharks as an example if you feel that this was my only concern. I've felt the same for so many others species, as well as for so many concerns in man's unsustainable practices across the planet.<<

            To present each and every deleterious form of raising or harvesting food in this forum would be the job of not just me. I guess the point that I've failed to initially convey is that the shark finning situation is one of many on this huge list of problems that have this sense of immediacy. In terms of what draws the greatest concern, relative to ecologists, marine biologists, and ordinary people like me does seem to be this issue. Googling "shark finning" draws 870,000 hits. Combining the number of hits drawn by Googling "sturgeon harvesting facts" (465,000), "illegal cavier" (317,000), and "dwindling sturgeon populations" (37,900), doesn't sum up to this number but it is close. Again though, that is not my main point. Continuing on this line is like deciding which child to throw overboard to save another. As you've said,

            >>I feel that ecological conservation isn't an either-or issue (i.e. we should care about for example, sharks and sturgeons).<<

            I wholeheartedly agree. And I personally feel that enough soundbites have been aired to draw a reasonable conclusion that we are faced with so many issues that need to be addressed. As schlocky and vague as much of the general media can be, I still give the them some credit.

            >>Ecology is a complex science, and I suspect that there isn't a simple and generalisable answer to the effects of reducing a top line predator; the outcomes may depend on what other species can fill that niche (for example, mass extinction of dinosaurs, then the top of the food chain, was a pretty good deal for mammals). Thus, I would be hesitant to say that it's a fact that "the intermediate and long term results are usually disastrous", given that I don't know of enough examples.<<

            Ecology is a very complex science - much of it still being yet to be completely understood. But to think that we can work along the same timelines as mammals replacing dinosaurs is far too unrealistic for me. Personally, this mammal doesn't want to relinquish his place in this ecosystem to a cockroach. Particularly when we are sentient beings, to stand around and let the proverbial meteor strike us is not an option.

            Back in the early 80s when I was a student, I personally benefitted from having the shear luck of becoming engaged in such things through a well-respected professor of marine biology, Prof. Ed Tarvyd, and his good friend, Eugenie Clark, who was the world's leading authority on sharks. Not that this makes me any smarter than anyone, but maybe just very concerned on such issues. Both of these researchers were already sounding off dire concerns about how man's practices were depleting the oceans of the shark populations and their potential consequences. As you and I have both professed, neither of us are experts - they were. Looking back at their prophetic words, I tend to have a different perspective than some.

            The longer the general population is "hesitant" on these issues, I strongly believe that, like diseases, they will only worsen - often to the point of no recovery. If you feel you don't know enough examples to make a fair assessment, only you can seek them out if you choose to. Waiting for definitive information or conclusions to come to you isn't realistic in my eyes. One can easily and directly access viable data via the internet (usually in pdf form) numbers, facts, figures, and conclusions on where we stand on just about everything related to the issues relating to food and the planet.

            Furthermore, as some have already mentioned, preaching can lead to antipathy. I tend to disagree with this often. As a direct example, my sister who is a vegan, and at times a preachy vegan, has evolved a change in my mindset as well. Whether it's through dialog, or passive-agressive acts on her part, I have become more considerate in what and how I do things - eating is one of them. I don't know - maybe I'm just more gullible or easily influenced. I have not given up on animal products, but I have reduced my consumption of them, and am always on the lookout for viable alternatives. Yes, I do still have a steak or a rib roast for example, but this is a special occasion that happens maybe two to three times a year for us now - not something that we just assumed as an average meal every week or two. I feel this falls in line with how many of our ancestors used to do things. It was realistically facing the issue of sustainability for them. Eating the "best" cuts day in and day out would obliterate their livestock far faster than they could replace themselves. And instead of nonchalantly placing a steak in front of each of us, we now slice and serve. We've found that we tend to eat far less meat this way. What used to be a ratio of one steak per head, it's now almost half of that. I have so often come upon a beautiful prime rib roast or a line of perfectly marbled steaks but upon reaching for them, the conversations with my sister would urge me to pass on it. Did I perform due diligence in how our practices as humans leverage the environment for the sake of my share of products sourced from various animals? Did I feel and do I still feel that my sister can be a pain in the rear at times? Through the sum of my own experiences and exposures to what I've read, heard, and seen, I feel that my own conscience and cognition have led me to believe that I need do my share of pulling back. My wish is that whether it's caviar, shark fin, or a factory-framed chicken breast served on a table made of black market teak - how can we encourage others to at least reduce their impact on these issues without losing them in the process? And if manifesting my beliefs is viewed as preaching, then so be it...

            1. re: bulavinaka
              chowser RE: bulavinaka Dec 30, 2008 11:16 AM

              I believe you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. While people who dictate their beliefs might turn a few onto their ways, they've turned off far more people. I can't tell you the number of threads here where I've read people talk about wanting to eat more cows, etc after someone talks about being a vegetarian. An analogy would be born again Christians who preach to everyone, alienating most, but converting some. I think gentle, non-judgemental suggestions are more helpful than trying to force people to see the error in their ways (eg, this mung bean soup tastes just like shark fin soup to me--I'm only going to order this instead. I love this new milk I just bought from a farmers market near your house. Or, try this apple from this new farm I just discovered--picked fresh today. I'm always giving people things that I think they'll like and want to keep buying.) You might not convert everyone you want but I think getting a lot of people to change somewhat is better than getting a couple of people to change a lot. It's about knowing what your friends and family are like and specifically tailoring your approach to them. And, as my stock broker friend said for the reason he never invests family and friends' money, You want at least some people who want to sit next to you at Thanksgiving dinner."

              1. re: chowser
                Miss Needle RE: chowser Dec 30, 2008 12:12 PM

                Chowser, I totally agree with everything you're saying. If somebody shoved his/her beliefs down my throat (whether or not I agreed with them), I could see myself wanting to do the opposite. Does that make me spiteful? Perhaps.

                1. re: Miss Needle
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                  bulavinaka RE: Miss Needle Dec 30, 2008 01:08 PM

                  While I totally agree with chowser in his tailored approach, and vinegar vs honey - these are the kind of relevant responses I was hoping for THANKS! - I hope I'm not giving the impression that either me or my sister are railing Vegan's Manifesto-slapping born-again types. If I seem to be that way, then I apologize, or am I? After reading my posts over, I still don't feel I've come close to that threshold - to the contrary:

                  >>So those of us who feel the urgency of such examples of devastation are voicing our concerns. However, are we all just preaching to the choir, and is our choir not being heard outside of our church? And if we open our windows so others can hear us sing, are we now imposing our uninvited sermons upon others? How do we "spread the word," about how urgent so many of these food-related issues are? Thanks...<<

                  My whole point is, how do we inform, disseminate, and encourage others without losing them? I don't believe I've imposed my beliefs on you or any of the examples that I've used above. As for my sister, these conversations that we've had have been meaningful, open and honest. Sometimes they can get a little edgy, but that's when we know when to back off a bit.

                  The stock broker friend - is he really that bad?!?! He needs to call my stock broker. :)

                  1. re: bulavinaka
                    Miss Needle RE: bulavinaka Dec 30, 2008 02:50 PM

                    Bulavinaka, don't worry. Your history of posts have generally seemed pretty level-headed and far from militant and preachy.

                    To answer your question about informing others about these types of things, I generally don't say anything unless prompted. If somebody asked me why I'm not ordering the shark's fin soup, I'll give them my reason then. I won't confront somebody who orders shark's fin and say that these are endangered animals. I find that puts people on the spot and they start getting defensive. If there isn't this "golden opportunity" to talk about your point and you're just itchin' to say your peace, I'd probably phrase it something along the lines of, "Oh, I see you've ordered the shark's fin soup. I love that dish but am hesitant to order it now because sharks are an endangered species, etc. But you should enjoy it. It tastes really good." Chances are that the person may not even be aware of the issues with sharks. But if he or she learns of it, they may not order it the next time and inform other people about it.

                    You may also want to consider starting a blog of some sort to get the word out. I think you can have the ability to get "preachier" on your own blog without alienating as many people because it's your own turf and other people are visitors. I've told soupkitten that she really needs to start a blog because she's got some interesting things going on in her brain of hers, and it would be great to read her ramblings outside of this site.

                    1. re: bulavinaka
                      chowser RE: bulavinaka Dec 30, 2008 03:26 PM

                      I agree with Miss Needle that your posts come off as level headed and well thought out and not preachy. If I made it seem as such, I apologize. My comments were directly more towards the type of militant in-your-face comments that I have seen. I tend to take an approach more like MIss Needle where, if asked, I'll offer reasons but also try to make the others feel at ease with their choice. I also ditto Miss Needle's idea on starting a blog. You might be preaching to the choir but you could reach people who are interested; and it's all a learning process, even for the most rabid.

                      I have a good friend who is vegan, very socially conscious. She's never preached what I should do or not do. When we eat out, she's told me to feel free to eat whatever I want, though I know she wouldn't do it. But, I do follow her example and have learned so much from her. She might mention that she tried out a new fair trade tea and that's where I'd learn about the importance of being cautious of what type of tea I buy. So, as others have pointed out, it's teaching by example. And, as I said above, it's also knowing your audience. She knows I am not only open to that type of information but I welcome it (which is why I started that other thread) so she talks about it more to me. Not preaching to the choir, but enlarging their capacity.

                      LOL, the stock broker friend made that joke a while ago because friends and family were pestering him to help them. Though, at this point, I'm not sure there are many popular stock brokers.

                      1. re: chowser
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                        bulavinaka RE: chowser Dec 30, 2008 08:29 PM

                        Miss Needle and chowser, I just want to reiterate - when my sister and I "go at it," these are heart-to-heart talks - usually across the kitchen table after some veganish meal where I have my wine and she her herbal tea. Most consider me to be sensitive to environmental issues in general, but my sister is out at the tail end of the bell curve. I usually don't need a whole lot of preaching or educating from her. The main thrust is, how far does someone like her realistically expect the general population to go toward her point in the bell curve? Is it sustainable - you know, kinda like if a person goes on a diet, do they eventually fall off the wagon and binge themselves to death. She's the kind who tries to take the non-animal product usage all the way. I just got her some rock-climbing shoes made of synthetic leather for Christmas - she specified the company, model, and size (SURPRISE - not). So her goal is total elimination of what she considers to be animal slavery. I get her point, but even I draw the line somewhere.

                        There's been times where we have had subtle confrontations, like this past Thanksgiving. She pulled some passive-aggressive stuff on me where, I made a soup which was meant to have ham in it. Everything was vegan up to the point of the ham, so I asked her if she wanted some before I added the ham. Almost as an ode to the poor porkster who sacrificed itself, she declined. I'm still not sure if it was just the thought of the ham going into the soup, or if she was making a statement. Whatever the case, like your vegan friend, for the most part my sister and I are civil in our dialog. She's a good person - just hard to keep up with on her life-long quest.

                        Stock brokers are like folks in the ad business and entertainment - they're only as good as their last performance. I jest as I know just about everyone has taken at least some sort of hit. It just a matter of degree and scale.

                        1. re: bulavinaka
                          chowser RE: bulavinaka Dec 31, 2008 06:17 AM

                          While it might be an occasional pain for you with your sister, I find it admirable that she has such conviction and passion for the issues. I don't think there is a "right" answer to this, on how much to try to convince others, how much to do yourself. We all draw a line somewhere, where we're comfortable, but can slowly nudge that line foward. It's more prevalent as food/drinking goes because that's with us all the time vs. buying a pair of shoes. Plus, it's easy to pass on a pair of shoes but not easy to pass on a gift of a meal which it really is when someone hosts.

                          As an analogy, I'm a personal trainer and like to be active, running long distances up to marathon distance (I'm either cooking, eating, moving or not happy). I never offer unsolicited advice to people who are sedentary, nor do I judge them. If they express interest, I'll go all out to help but I'd never encourage them to run a marathon, just as it would be hard for your sister to take someone who's not been socially consious and make them vegan. People who go all out usually burn out quickly. But, I'll start them walking and lifting some. As they get used to it, I'll suggest changes and push their comfort line, or not. But I wouldn't get on their case about what they're not doing, only help them do what they are doing, better. OTOH, there are trainers who have the completely different mentality, like Jillian and Bob (on the Biggest Loser). Different people, different goals, different styles. I've had people tell me I've motivated them to run/work out/etc. because I'm so into it, so I haven't said anything to them. I think people like your sister are like ultra marathoners to me--admirable but not for me.

                    2. re: Miss Needle
                      chowser RE: Miss Needle Dec 30, 2008 03:16 PM

                      Spiteful, or human? Both? I think it's common to want to do the opposite. If you put people on the defensive, they will be defensive.

          2. Karl S RE: bulavinaka Dec 30, 2008 04:08 AM

            Preaching with words is much less effective than just preaching by actions.

            And never preach about food morals while dining - it's about the most counterproductive way I can imagine to "spread the word". Most people prefer their dogma in their religion rather than in their food...

            1. Gio RE: bulavinaka Dec 30, 2008 04:58 AM

              Actions speak louder than words. A motto my parents drilled into us. Since we're talking about fish, by making a conscious effort to not buy the seafood listed on the Monterey Bay Aquraium worst list we are lessening the demand for such fish as:

              Bluefin tuna: vastly overfished and nearing extinction.
              Atlantic Cod: fished by pirate vessels and bottom-trawled.
              Atlantic Halibut: bottom-trawled.
              Chilean sea bass: caught with longlines and bottom-trawled by pirate vessels
              Grouper: another longlined caught fish nearing extinction.
              This is just a partial list.

              The link below is an all region guide to buying seafood wisely. There are specific regional guides as well.

              http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr...

              We have to start by educating ourselves first....

              1. Sam Fujisaka RE: bulavinaka Dec 31, 2008 12:39 PM

                There are a number of larger food and food production related problems that unfortunately, put sharks, well, in their place:

                1. Acidification of the ocean from pollutants and green house gasses is and will lead to coral reef die offs and attendant loss of whole oceanic ecosystems.

                2. Pollution washed into to the Sea of Japan via the Yellow river is killing everything besides jellyfish, which have an infinite ability to increase their numbers. This scenario will likely be repeated elsewhere.

                3. The global rise in demand for meat is a catastrophe in terms of generation of greenhouse gasses, environmental destruction, energy use, and direct and indirect pollution outputs.

                4. There seems to be NO growing awareness as the staggering magnitude and the global environmental impications of food waste in most of North America and Europe.

                5. At the same time, some 60% of agricultural lands in Africa are degraded in terms of lack of soil carbon / organic matter, that they will be effectively imporssible to re-habilitate.

                6. And, again, sharks are a keystone species in oceanic systems.

                7. Global warming will have the greatest disastrous effects on food, food systems, and people.

                HAPPY NEW YEARS EVERYONE!

                9 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                  chowser RE: Sam Fujisaka Dec 31, 2008 01:40 PM

                  Sometimes (often) I feel like my efforts are just like spitting in the ocean, so to speak. If you could list the top 5 things an average American can do to make the biggest bang for the buck. what would it be? You've inferred some in your post on reducing waste, reducing animal products. What else?

                  1. re: chowser
                    JamieK RE: chowser Dec 31, 2008 01:59 PM

                    Plant a tree. Or donate to an organization that plants trees.

                    1. re: JamieK
                      chowser RE: JamieK Dec 31, 2008 02:34 PM

                      I love gardening so this is an easy one for me. My biggest goal right now is reducing non-native invasive plants and adding native, low maintenance plants, and adding a rain garden. And, it would be good to start a food garden, too. The HOA isn't as keen on that.

                    2. re: chowser
                      Sam Fujisaka RE: chowser Dec 31, 2008 02:06 PM

                      1. Reduce green house gas emissions: drive less, use mass transit, weatherize your house, eat less to no beef, support a high gasoline tax, support investements in alternative fuels, support Carbon trades by industries in the US, lobby for stricter emission controls on cement factories.

                      2. Cut down your own food waste and try to raise awareness in others. Lobby against regulations that mandate food waste.

                      3. Eat less meat in general; eat less processed foods; and avoid excess food packaging.

                      4. Personally support fair trade organic products, local products.

                      5. Food production everywhere also depends on water: support forward looking and fair water use both in the US and globally.

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                        chowser RE: Sam Fujisaka Dec 31, 2008 02:32 PM

                        Thanks, Sam. I think my problem is analysis paralysis, eg. at the store there was organic coffee and fair trade coffee but not both organic and fair trade. If I wanted organic fair trade, I would have had to drive close to 10 miles to get it (have a Prius but it still uses resources). I honestly stood there debating what was the best option: organic, fair trade, or drive. Buying a house--new houses are more energy efficient but they're all way too big. Retrofit a smaller older house at a much larger cost and still not be as energy efficient? We chose option 2 but then the decisions on what to do (windows? get a better water heater? insulation? replace old appliances that work w/ energy star ones?) since you can't do it all. Decisions, decisions. Support alternative fuel and keep my brother in his job--he's working on converting algae to biofuels. At least that's a no brainer.;-)

                        1. re: chowser
                          Caralien RE: chowser Jan 2, 2009 09:55 AM

                          I think your coffee issue is up there with whether to drive 9 miles to the farmer's market and local dairy farm (milk and eggs provided by the Amish) for milk rather than getting a mass-produced brand at the within walking-distance natural food stores (we opt go to the farmer's market in our Prius once every other week or so). We also moved so my husband could walk to work instead of driving over an hour in each direction (which was to double if we hadn't moved).

                          PortoRico.com, a coffee roaster in NY, has organic fair trade (plus bird friendly and shade grown) coffees. I really don't know if having coffee I want shipped is necessarily a bad thing (as I know of no closer roasters and am rather loyal to this company).

                          The best thing I've found is to practice without preaching. No one wants to be lectured for anything (be it the environment, religion, politics, or any number of hot topics people debate over). Serve locally sourced foods and make healthier sweets, just don't mention that it's healthy (or local, or environmentally sound, or whatever) unless asked, after the meal. Get your pets from shelters, and have them spayed as soon as possible.

                          The older house you have will be improved in stages, likely heating related first if you're in a cold part of the world; remember--your place is far more stable than a lot of the massive, but cracked-within-5-years mcmansions.

                          Care2/thepetitionsite.com has a lot of simple petitions which can be signed quickly and easily pertaining to all types of causes, including some which many won't agree with. If I find one I like, I post it to Twitter and Facebook; is it as helpful as getting oneself arrested in March this year in DC regarding coal, as a relative plans to do? They both have their places and are better than doing nothing or keeping blinders on.

                          Overpopulation is an issue, for both humans and animals. While my husband and I have not become parents, it's not out of the question. I'm past the age of being able to have half a dozen or more children without the help of science (sorry, G*d did not bless you with quintuplets if you've used in-vitro fertilization). That said, I would not welcome someone telling me that I should not have children, just as I won't tell any person how to live their life, even if I believe their beliefs and mode of being to be wrong.

                          1. re: Caralien
                            TroyTempest RE: Caralien Sep 25, 2009 09:43 AM

                            Re locally sourced foods:
                            I recently heard somebody on NPR challenging the assertion that locally grown food is so much better. His argument was something like:
                            The famer that drove 50 miles to get his 50 pounds of tomatoes to sell at the farmers market uses more fuel per tomato than the 1000 lbs. of tomatoes that came cross country in an 18 wheeler.
                            This was something that just kind of floored me. It was like, yeah this makes a lot of sense. I thought what i was doing was the best thing, etc. etc. and maybe it really isn't.
                            Of course I'd still rather support the family farmers wherever they are, than the mega farms...
                            I wish i'd of jotted down this guy's name. It was quite an intersting interview

                            1. re: TroyTempest
                              Caralien RE: TroyTempest Sep 25, 2009 08:42 PM

                              The other argument is that I can drive to the farm 10 miles away and the food smells and tastes good. I have fallen off the localvore wagon because of my love of wine; similarly, it's so easy to support the local farmers simply on the basis of TASTE. I could, of course, get the bounceable tomatoes which taste like old potatoes, but then I'd rather not eat them.

                              Besides, the farmers aren't simply trotting 50lbs 50 miles (they're more likely trotting a couple of bushels--each bushel is close to 50lbs, and if my tiny car can cart an 85 lb dog and 3 bushels in the trunk, a common pickup truck can cart at least 10x that amount, or that doubled or tripled).

                              There are so many farms within 10 miles of where I live that the transport cost really is minimal from farm to farmer's market. I'm lucky, but there's a reason we chose to live right here.

                              NPR is trying to show both sides of the issue. That I can appreciate, even if I don't agree with it.

                      2. re: chowser
                        x
                        xanadude RE: chowser Dec 31, 2008 04:49 PM

                        I think, at the risk of being accurate instead of politically correct:

                        1) not having additional children would be the biggest contribution.

                        2) choosing to live somewhere close to work, with good access to public transportation and shopping/services, ideally within walking distance. Choosing a smaller house in a more central location over a large house with a large yard where you have to drive everywhere.

                        3) applying social pressure to let people know what you think of their choices, and encouraging legislative action.

                        4) stop buying stuff you don't *need*.

                        Voting with your dollars--and applying social pressure to encourage others to do so--is the most effective means of effecting change.

                    3. Caroline1 RE: bulavinaka Dec 31, 2008 02:52 PM

                      The plain and simple truth is that all of the things talked about openly, be they correcting pollution, reversing global warming, increasing food production with minimal impact, planting trees, conserving the ocean, NONE of these things address the most serious and damning problem on planet earth today: Overpopulation! When you overcrowd a lifeboat, it sinks. We are seriously overcrowding the planet, and it is our ONLY lifeboat!.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Caroline1
                        s
                        Sharuf RE: Caroline1 Jan 1, 2009 04:11 AM

                        Right on Caroline!

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