Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Building on a very new tradition begun in Australia in 2007, Earth Hour 2009 will ask that people and cities around the world turn out the lights on March 28th, from 8:30-9:30. While turning the lights out for just one hour may seem like a tiny drop in a giant bucket, such gestures do matter. They send a signal to local, national, and world leaders that people do care about these issues, and they remind us all that global change begins with individual action. For more insight on the particular importance of this year's Earth Hour, give a quick listen to Lord Stern, IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government.
So, mark your calendars folks. Invite a few friends over, open a good bottle of wine, and light some candles. Enjoy a night of good company and conversation. Electricity not required.
Friday, March 6, 2009
These days, most of us are at least somewhat conscious of the benefits of supporting local businesses. In addition to creating (or more often preserving) unique, thriving neighborhoods with a strong sense of community, keeping it local can also help us to keep it green. A loaf of bread from your neighborhood bakery, for example, has a lot less petroleum behind it than a mass market loaf of bread that's been trucked across the country to your nearest Walmart.
Now, Boston Community Change has created an incredible program that allows even more members of our community to benefit when we make the decision to buy local. As stated on their website, Boston Community Change is "a tool to align our daily economic activities with our deepest human values." And the incentives they've created make it that much easier to move toward such an alignment. Every time you make a purchase with your Boston Community Change card at a participating vendor (there are over 200 as of this posting), not only do you get a cash rebate, but a portion of the sale price is also donated to your local Main Street organization, and a local community-based non-profit or school of your choice. It's a win, win, win, and all you need is a little plastic card.
Right now, for a limited time, cards are being made available for FREE for people who want to be come a member. It's a meaningful and easy way to be an agent for change in your own back yard, with just a few clicks of the mouse. Make your first click here to get started!
Monday, March 2, 2009
At the age of fifteen, after watching a video on industrial agricultural practices in my biology class, I declared myself a vegetarian. Vegetable lover that I am, it was an easy transition to make, and although I eventually broadened my diet to include seafood, I remained strong on the meat front for the next fifteen years. I even stayed strong during two year-long stints in Spain, where saying you're a vegetarian is like saying you only eat sawdust. (I did have one lapse, when I was force fed Serrano ham by a friend's grandmother at Christmas). During all those years and travels, even after the vehement indignation I'd felt at during my teen years began to fade, meat just didn't interest me. But then the cravings began.
A little over a year ago, the smell of red meat suddenly became unbearably enticing. Walking down the street on a summer evening, the siren song of hamburger meat searing on a hot grill beckoned to me from every direction, including my own back yard. After months of torment, I told my fiance that steak had even found its way into my dreams at night, steak so rare it was practically still mooing. "I don't know what to do," I told him, as he bit into one of his famous grilled burgers. Wiping ketchup from the corner of his mouth, he held the juicy patty out across the table and offered one solution: "Have a bite."
Bite I did, telling myself that such powerful cravings must mean that my body needed something that red meat had. The flavor was far better than my most delicious dreams, and soon I was having two or three bites, then my own half burger or half steak. I don't eat meat often, maybe twice a month, but still my conscience winces every time, even as my taste buds rejoice. I know, of course, that every bite I take endorses the poor treatment and living conditions under which the animal I'm eating was raised. I know, as well, that industrial agriculture, and cows in particular, are terrible for the planet. In addition to the exorbitant quantities of water required to raise animals this way, along with the myriad of issues created by disposing of their waste in these unnatural settings, cows come with a special problem all their own: gas. Cows are constantly emitting methane--a gas over 20 times stronger than CO2--from both ends, making them serious contributors to global warming. And, to my dismay, a recent study by Foodwatch shows that this problem persists even in organically raised, grass fed cows, who burp and fart as much as their conventionally raised counterparts. As this article from Spiegel International states, "Whether they are raised conventionally or organically, one thing cows have in common is that they burp and fart to their hearts' content." So much for my plans to clear my conscience by getting a farm share in grass-fed beef this year. It seems there is only one solution to this issue: we have to eat less beef, much less. And that smoked Gouda you love so much? The skim milk for your morning cereal? Those are also implicated.
Part of me takes to the idea of finally going vegan, really doing it, as I've contemplated off and on for years. It would be good for my body and for the planet, and I know I would feel better about what I eat. But then I remember that summer is approaching, and along with it, so many long, breezy evenings on the patio by the grill, evenings made still more pleasurable by the occasional carnivorous indulgence. How to balance this newly rediscovered pleasure of the palate with environmental responsibility? I can't say with certainly that I won't have a bite. But I can certainly have less.