Posts Categorized: Earth Care

Salmon named MVP! (Most Valuable Piscis)

Young husband and wife at vigil Salmon figured prominently at the Presbyterians for Earth Care Conference held along Oregon’s Columbia River in September. These beautiful creatures are the traditional and cultural heart of the Columbia River tribes. As the keystone species, salmon not only created the biologically-diverse ecosystems of the region, but they also form the economic foundation for the indigenous… Read more »

Flow, the Eternal You, and the neighborhood creek:

Deffenbaugh writes, “Buber recognizes in a very practical way that our experience of nature is often unexceptional and routine. How quickly we take for granted the enchanting beauty of the mountains or the rolling streams we see everyday. How easily they become objects in our world. But there are moments, Buber suggests, when a person can hear in crisp tones the enigmatic language of the fields, can for a brief time – often just an instant – delve beneath the It-world and come face to face with the Eternal You. 

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Power on our Plates

When my daughter was in kindergarten, she would inspect her friends’ strawberries at lunchtime. “No no, you don’t want to eat that,” she would solemnly inform them. “It’s not organic. It might have yucky chemicals on it.”

Yucky chemicals indeed. Studies continue to pile up showing how pesticides on food can be harmful, especially to children’s health. As we head into the home stretch of the holiday feast season, I’ve been thinking hard about the powerful ripple effects of our food choices. Turns out, what we eat matters. A lot. (from Pesticides Action Network’s “Power on our plates“)

boy with kale in the snowIt does matter because “you are what you eat” is not an allegory; it is literally true. The substances that pass between your lips become your very own skin, muscle, cartilage, ligaments, nails, bones, blood, lymph and cerebral spinal fluid. Not to mention your organs, nerve cells and the two dozen digestive enzymes that break down food.

Take, for example, my daughter’s now-favorite veggie, spinach: USDA found residues of 48 pesticides on their official samples. Of these, 25 are suspected to interfere with human hormones, eight are linked to cancer, eight are neurotoxins and 23 are toxic to honeybees. Yucky. Knowing all this makes the organic spinach from our local farm taste especially good.

Unlike pre-WWII food, today’s food typically delivers one or more poisons to our cells because industrial farming, and its chemical dealers — Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, BASF, Dow, Dupont and others — are at war with weeds and pests. But many pests keep winning as they develop resistence. Ever more toxins are needed. Children are most effected because they eat more fruits and vegetables and are more sensitive. But it is often when we are adults that the long-term effects hit us.
What to do?
1) First, educate yourself by finding out what’s on your food (you can search by food item or pesticide)
2) Second. Consider joining Pesticides Action Network; becoming a PCUSA Earth Care Congregation and joining Presbyterians for Earth Care.
3) Third. Thank the next farmer you meet who is engaging in sustainable and organic practices and buy their last bunch of kale!


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Organic Schmorganic?

How much of your food is organic? And how organic is your organic food?!

Our family has made a big commitment to going organic (and local) for health reasons: us, the farmers and farmworkers, and the water, land and air. We probably eat about 80% organic these days (once you subtract the non-organic ice cream, some snacks and sometimes rice). Maybe more in the summer when we get about half of our produce from our front yard.

But if you don’t grow the food yourself, how do you know organic is really organic? This article helps answer that question. “Is your organic food really organic: Imported foods found with unacceptable pesticides levels

The other issue is that we’ve so polluted our environment – air, water and soil – that even organic food has pesticides and toxins in it. You can’t escape it because mercury, pesticides and other toxins float in the air and land on the soil and crops. From a 2002 NY Times article – “The first detailed scientific analysis of organic fruits and vegetables, published today, shows that they contain a third as many pesticide residues as conventionally grown foods.”
Read the article here.

The take away message is that organic food does indeed have less pesticides. And pesticide cocktails may be very dangerous to our health in the long run. Most people in the US who have done tissue tests find that they have dozens of pesticides, heavy metals and other toxins in the bodies. Fun, eh?!

Organic certification does indeed usually mean it is organic. Conventional, non-organic will generally have more pesticides on them. So, generally, eating organic is a good thing because it also means that the food has not been genetically modified. The health effects of GMOs are still unknown, but new evidence is surfacing that is very scary, particularly the effects on our intestines.

I would recommend the Environmental Working Group’s guides. This is carefully researched. And they have a Dirty Dozen list, which may help you prioritize the foods you definitely want to buy organic. 

Genetically Modified Bonus News Items:

GM Roundup Ready soy and corn monocultures in the Midwestern US are killing off the habitat of monarch butterflies, says a new study. The study shows a drop over the last 17 years of the area occupied by monarchs in central Mexico, where many of them spend the winter. The study attributes the decrease partly to the loss of milkweed, on which monarchs lay their eggs, from use of Roundup Ready crops. Other causes, it says, are the loss of milkweed to land development, illegal logging in Mexico, and severe weather. “It [glyphosate] kills everything,” said Lincoln P. Brower, an entomologist at Sweet Briar College who is also an author of the paper. “It’s like absolute Armageddon for biodiversity over a huge area.”
The study:

If GM salmon were to escape from captivity they could succeed in breeding and passing their genes into the wild, Canadian researchers have found. To measure the ability of GM males to complete with wild males during the reproductive season, the team monitored breeding behaviour in a naturalised laboratory setting. “While the transgenic males displayed reduced breeding performance relative to their non-transgenic rivals they still demonstrated the ability to successfully participate in natural spawning events and thus have the potential to contribute modified genes to wild populations,” said lead author Darek Moreau from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada.

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Go agrarian!

Could this be a growing trend? Will Americans become as passionate about seedlings and goat weed whackers as they currently are about football?! Paul Quinn College Turns Football Stadium into Farm Paul Quinn College (TX) recently planted the first seeds in a former football field that will now serve the college as a student-run, two-acre urban farm. After grocers told the college’s president that they didn’t want to invest in the underserved Dallas neighborhood where the college is located, he contacted the Sustainable Food Project at Yale University (CT) for a crash course on organic agriculture and educational programs that emphasize the importance of local, healthy food. Part of the harvest will be sold to the company that runs concessions at Cowboys Stadium and the other will be gived nonprofit groups that feed the hungry. By fall the college plans to create a farmers market on its outdoor recreational basketball courts and eventually open its own grocery store. University of Maryland Students Enlist Goats for Campus Weeding Students at the University of Maryland have contracted goats to combat weeds in a proposed garden area near the School of Public Health. More than 30 goats grazed for three days, clearing the way for fruit and vegetable growing. Also aimed at bringing attention to the new garden, the $1,300 initiative was funded by an Office of Sustainability grant from mandatory student sustainability fees.

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The Christmas Tree Conundrum

The first winter I was out of college, living in an apartment on my own, I did what I thought was the environmentally responsible thing, and ran out to buy an artificial Christmas tree. I convinced my parents to do the same thing. “How can we cut down all these trees?” was my main argument. However, over the years since then, I have heard another side of the debate, which has many more facts attached to it than my gut-reaction to Christmas trees. This morning, NPR had an interesting story about environmental issues attached to Christmas trees. You can listen to the story here. via I’m still debating whether to get a Christmas tree or not. I just put up a string of lights in our dining room, so that just maybe clinch it. No tree. For several years, my boss would give me one of those miniature cedars wrapped in shiny red foil. They always died. But one finally survived, so I planted it in our yard and it grew like a weed on manure. Three years later, I chopped it down for the tallest tree we’ve ever had. (they are so darn expensive!) But, this year, unless my teenagers rebel (you know, they just don’t make teenagers as rebellious as they used to…), no tree for us. What’s the Christmas tree all about anyway?! Here are some reflections from Katie Holmes on the Christmas tree conundrum. Enjoy.

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Host a Performance of Leaps and Bounds

Recently I have been hearing a lot about an opportunity for people of faith to think about eco-justice issues through art. Leaps and Bounds is a one-woman theatrical performance that explores how faith speaks to economic and environmental issues. Through multiple tools including song, prayer, storytelling, and movement, performer and developer Tevyn East helps communities of faith explore the intersections of “faith, ecology, and the global economy.” Watch a promotional video for the performance. From Eco-Journey!

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The Sacred ‘neath Your Soul!

“…the soul is the animating element of our humanity and the way we touch the divine. But the spelling is wrong. Soul is properly spelled s-o-l-e. Where is your soul/sole? On the bottom side of your bare feet, in touch with the sacred ‘neath your sole, the soil.” One more snipet to make sure you read the treasure below — “But let’s not lose the main point: cultus (worship), culture and agriculture—we belong to these as the miraculous clods who are cultivators by calling. We are here to maintain the fertility of the soil for on-going life, to “renew the face of the earth,” in the phrase of Ps. 104, and to give glory to God. The ancients would have understood Wendell Berry well. “In talking about topsoil,” Berry says, “it is hard to avoid the language of religion.” So put aside the superstition that soul and soil are separate categories. Decent land-use is not about economics, it’s about cultivation and the state of our souls.”

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No meat for you on Monday!

who needs meat? Remember, though, it is not simply enough to eat less meat. You should make sure what you substitute is produced in a sustainable way and doesn’t fly around the world to get to you! See these articles to begin exploring the gray areas! – Tofu can harm environment more than meat, finds WWF study and Eating less meat could cut climate costs and Less meat ‘means a longer life’

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