Pot vs. The Environment

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Since the 1960s, primarily, pot smoking and tree hugging have gone hand in hand for many would-be world peace advocates and drum circlers. In the 60s, hippies cried out for everyone to come together, get along, care about the planet, and also, light up. Today, there are many environmentalists who smoke, and the legalization in California, Colorado and other states has resulted in lots of marijuana farms cropping up (literally).

The problem is, many of these farms, both legal and illegal, are bad for the environment. Yes, that’s right – green isn’t green.

What’s a modern hippie to do? Pot farmers are using pesticides and rodenticides, killing off wildlife and allowing the runoff to drain into various bodies of water – it’s like factory farming in terms of its negative environmental impact.

One of the answers, of course, is to nationally legalize the drug – that way, regulations could be placed upon these farms. As it is now, no such regulations can be handed down because that would validate the farms as legitimate, legal businesses, which could get each state’s government in federal hot water. For the states, they must either crack down on the marijuana farming which they themselves legalized, or they’re complicit with marijuana farming by nature of their regulation. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

So of course, environmentalists who smoke pot are going to say “Legalize on a federal level” and there’s certainly valid arguments to be made for that. The problem is what happens in between now and the day when that happens, because government is slow and progress is incremental; don’t hold your breath. Until the day (most likely 2020 or beyond), smoking pot isn’t any more environmentally friendly than buying food from Monsanto or driving a Hummer (at least in principle).

If you’re a true environmentalist who drives a Prius/bike, eats sustainably, reuses, reduces, recycles and fights for the conservation of this planet, you can’t smoke pot without exhaling a little bit of hypocrisy. Not yet. If you want to smoke without hurting the planet, lobby your congressperson or do your research on where you’re getting your stuff (Disclaimer: I’m only saying this to people who live in states where this is legal, of course). Until marijuana farms stop hurting the planet, you’re better of going green by not smoking green.

Long Live The New Flesh?

Get ready for In-N-Out Vitro burgers. Several scientists in the Netherlands hope to grow meat in a lab like some odd experiment from a 1980s movie. But it’s not just another weird technological imperative, and it isn’t as scary as some of the other stuff being done to food out there. But the question is:  are you going to eat in vitro beef?

I mean, the ultimate goal behind this meaty marvel isn’t just benign – it’s benevolent. The idea behind in vitro meat is profit-driven, economically viable and even sustainable. The world can’t deal with how much meat we’re eating – it’s just not going to last, especially given the amount of grain it takes to harvest meat and the number of new meat-eaters born every year. This technological advance could feed millions for a fraction of the cost of traditional meat collection.

Once this meat-growing process is perfected, it will be much cheaper to create lab beef than to kill a cow. Also, it doesn’t kill animals – just relies on the building of muscle tissue from previously harvested cells. Even PETA supports it (really). And why wouldn’t they? It’s cutting down on the amount of animals killed for meat, plain and simple. PETA supporters will now be able to have their steak and eat it, too.

But what about life-long vegetarians? Those who stayed away for moral reasons may just be tempted to chow down on that Wagyu lab-beef burger with gorgonzola cheese and sun dried tomato aioli on a multi-grain bun. Those who stayed away for health reasons…well, I don’t know – I’m not a vegetarian. But I imagine if real meat gave them pause, meet made from droppers and test tubes might give them nausea.

Aside from the obvious need to re-name the product (“lab meat” sounds like the term morbid autopsy docs use to refer to their cadavers), the makers of in vitro burgers (also not marketable) have a lot going for them. Sustainability, creativity, a possible $1 million reward from PETA, and motivation to heal the world’s hunger problems.

Yet I’m still skeptical.

I’m all about knowing exactly where my meat comes from – organic, local, etc. – so I’m not sure what to think when I know my cheeseburger originated in a cold, uninviting room lit like a hospital. I just can’t bring myself to believe that science can create a better burger than my agricultural great-great-grandparents could decades ago. I’ve seen Monsanto do things to food in the name of technological progress that are, at best, disgusting, and at worst, immoral. Why should I trust this new flesh? I think I’ll give it a few decades on the market before I start eating these sci-burgers.

Hmm. Sci-burgers. That might be marketable.

Oil spills may not make the news all the time, but they certainly seem to happen all the time. The G2 Gallery in Los Angeles will have an oil spill exhibit worth checking out – breathtaking photographs of destruction from the BP Oil Spill meant to effect change so even smaller disasters like these don’t happen again.

Grist

BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill was notable because of the huge number of barrels leaked, the economic and environmental devastation wrought, and the number of people directly affected. But oil spills are not an aberration. Spills are a constant and poisonous cost of the world’s dependence upon fossil fuels.

Little attention is paid to this steady stream of spills. That’s in part because company and government officials often labor to convince us that each single spill is minor, unimportant, and environmentally benign.

This week, while BP was defending itself in court against claims and potential fines stemming from the 2010 disaster, emergency responders were kept busy dealing with new oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world.

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Arabica coffee won’t survive this century

It’s a terrible thing to even think about, but our grandchildren may not ever taste Arabica coffee. Go into your local market and you’ll see many whole bean coffees made from Arabica beans – it’s a fairly common and delicious coffee. I know, there are many other ways to get that caffeine fix (and by 2080, probably scores more – a little caffeine injection every morning?). But Arabica is a coffee staple, and the fact that this plant is probably going to go extinct because of changes in climate is truly saddening, both for the sake of biodiversity, and for the sake of me getting up in the morning.

Follow the link below to read more:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121107200144.htm

Total Recall: Reuse to Reduce

We’re living in an increasingly digital world, and it’s becoming easier every day to cut down on your personal paper usage. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop at electronic bank statements and canvas grocery bags (you’re doing that, right?). It’s time to step it up to the next level of paper recycling and really dive into pragmatic sustainability with five easy ways to reduce paper waste by reusing it.

Recycle paper at least twice:  It’s a great idea to recycle everything from   unwanted receipts to less than perfect resumes, but why just toss them right into the recycling bin? You can use them at least once more before taking that step—who needs notepads when you have the back of a receipt? Why print out something that’s just for you on brand new paper? Recycle that paper once or twice before you officially give it up to the folks in waste management.

Forgo the packaged stuff:  Not only is unpackaged food fresher and therefore healthier, it actually takes less of a toll on the planet. So instead of heading towards the aisles filled with boxed, wrapped products, pick out some fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and anything else that doesn’t come fancily packaged in tree-based materials. Don’t forget to byob (bring your own bag.)

Rags over paper towels:  I used to be an avid paper towel user. Spilled milk? Paper towel. Freshly fried bacon? Paper towel. Nothing happened at all? Paper towel. Leave the paper towels for public restrooms – at home, you can have an army of dish rags at your disposal. Keep some designated for specific uses if you want, but all you have to do is wash them – you’ll save money by just buying a dozen of those every 10 years instead of purchasing paper towel rolls every fortnight.

Got kids? Ditch diapers:  Not all diapers; just the disposable type. Cloth diapers are the wave of the future…via the past. They may seem antiquated, but they’re significantly cheaper than traditional diapers, which you’d be buying for years as the parent of a young child. Cloth diapers save forests worth of trees and grandma will be proud of you for using such a traditional waste disposal method.

Wrap gifts in newspaper:  Yes, it’s fun to make presents look aesthetically pleasing, but why not also make them informative and educational? Instead of buying paper covered in snowflakes, reuse paper covered in presidential debate opinions. Size permitting, you could use beautifully photographed editorials out of magazines. People will see you’re resourceful, environmentally-minded, and also well-read. Of course, if you’re already getting your news from electronic sources, you could always wrap gifts in old tax statements.

These certainly are not the most extreme things you can do to cut down on paper usage (making your own chewing gum to avoid buying it packaged falls under that category). However, if you’re looking to go beyond the initial steps to reduce your paper consumption, try these five tricks before you raise the stakes to a life without toilet paper.

Image courtesy of bplanet through freedigitalphotos.net.