Cittaslows Picking up the Pace

•April 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

imgp1306customaired: 4/5/09

Dr. Wolfgang Hoeschele of the geography department at Truman visited the show this week to talk to us about “Cittaslows” or “Slow Cities” which have infiltrated several countries in Europe and have even popped up in Australia and South Korea. The concept originated in Italy with the Slow Food movement in 1999. Slow Food functions as an organization (Missouri has multiple chapters!) to aid in the progress of making communities more aware of how to support food that is socially responsible (concern for the workers involved, how the production and processing affect communities), economically feasible, and environmentally sound (emphasis on local organic foods). It also encourages, as the name suggests, a slowing down and enjoyment of our food culture. Especially in the US, where we often rush through solitary meals, nourishing a culture that cherishes food as the medicine it is and for the history it tells, is a critical part of the movement.

The Cittaslow name is different from Slow Food in that it acts as a sort of reward title for cities who have implemented a number of culture-preserving, sustainability-promoting projects.  All must have populations under 50,000.  Some set up infrastructure for public transportation (in European cities that were not made for large vehicles, getting cars out of the streets has become important to maintain walkability).  Others establish farmers markets, promote regional “gourmet” food items, and renovate historical buildings with locally sourced materials.  One concern Dr. Hoeschele had about Cittaslows is that too often they are eager to adopt the title for the title’s sake, and many cities do very little to further the culture and sustainability goals after they’ve accomplished enough to call themselves a Cittaslow.  The nature of the “Cittaslow” title is such that there being very few of them makes the title very valuable.  The more Cittaslows there are, the less the title gives a city clout for having it.

But shouldn’t all cities be striving for these kinds of goals?  Even when a city does begin to call itself a Cittaslow, often times the residents know little about it and may not be involved in any projects.  More grassroots organizing would appear to be a more successful route, but funding opportunities are scarce unless the state is rebudgeting for Cittaslow activities.  And as Dr. Hoeschele has been doing qualitative research in Germany, Italiy, and England, he has also noticed that many of the citizens in Cittaslows aren’t familiar with it or what the city has done.  Valuable things are coming out of the Cittaslow project, but to what extent should we be concerned with popular action and grassroots movements.  Is this accomplishing the cultural preservation goals it’s intended for if it’s primarily a tourism advantage?

Dumpster Diving Divas and Dudes

•March 24, 2009 • 1 Comment

aired: 3/22/09

“Spring Clean up” trash day has come and you may notice a plethora of large items curbside in your neighborhood: furniture, toys, clothing, art supplies (everything is an art supply if you ask me).  In light of this occasion, I invited dear friends (and fellow scavengers) Joey “Milt” Risch and Erin Givarz on the show to discuss the basic how-to of salvaging and to share with you some upcoming events that encourage diverting the waste stream.

On April 18th, from 2-5pm, the CAFO (411 E Jefferson St) will be hosting Erin’s biannual clothing swap, and because of the excess of space available at this residence, what is normally an exchange of clothing and accessories will now be extended to any freecycle item you’d like to clear out, but not throw out.

Another event to keep in mind as you hunt for reusable items is the Tom Thumb art show that will be on April 3rd and 4th at the Washington School at Florence St and Harrison St.  Anyone can submit a piece (including performance) and there are plenty of cans of paint, wood scraps, screens, cloth, and miscellaneous treasures in the dump that can be used creatively to show off your reclaiming skills.  Erin suggested making a quilt or rug made from old t-shirts, which could also serve very practical purposes.

Google’s wiki how page on dumpster diving defines the act as a sport, a fun activity for those who value frugality, and a socially and environmentally (and politically)

dumpsterdiving2xx1responsible way of life.   By saving items from a landfill, you are essentially making a statement that one need not buy into the capitalist, consume-and-waste culture that has contributed to global environmental injustices.

Landfills (or Sea-fills) have become hazardous to many a community, and burning trash can be just as dangerous.  For a great description of the way our resources affect us all (including non-human species!), check out “the story of stuff”: thestoryofstuff.com Dumpster diving keeps alive the old saying that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.

We discussed tips listed on google’s page for dumpster divers throughout the show and I hope you’ll add to these in the comment box should you think of more:

-know your local laws:    if dumpster diving is illegal, be sure to do it stealthily.

-get over the grime factor:    remember that items you take home can be washed and cleaned, so don’t fear a little dirt or an unsightly stain- there’s always hope for an unwanted item.

-network with other divers:    going with friends isn’t just a safe idea, it makes diving that much more fun, and sharing items with fellow divers when you find bulk is a generous way to give back to the community.

-find hot spots:    Joey recommends scouting for easy access bins, and prefers business diving over domestic because of the political statement it makes, and because most often, businesses throw out a lot more perfectly usable (and delicious) items than do residences.  Cafes, bakeries, grocery stores, department stores; it’s all fair game.

-be there at the right time and place:    if you get to a grocer after days of food has been piled, you’re less likely to find fresh items, though Joey and I can both attest that food is often still sealed, and many times just one or two days past expiration.  Just rinse it off and enjoy!  Also, pay attention to trash days so you can scout the night before a big collection.

-wear the right gear:    thick gloves are always a good idea, because who knows what could be lurking in the trash- needles are dangerous and you should always watch out, especially when scavenging at night.  A flashlight can be helpful (even during the day), and long pants and sleeves are important to avoid exposure to moldy stinky stuff.  Be ready to get dirty.

-Be smooth:    A friend once suggested to me to wear a white apron when diving at grocery stores so that if a cop drives by, you just look like an employee.  Having friends along to keep watch is also helpful.  Don’t make a lot of noise.

-Clean up after yourself and dispose of anything you decide not to use responsibly:    If you leave the place littered with trash, you’ve not fulfilled the socially and environmentally responsible aspect of dumpster diving.  Put the lid back on the dumpster and collect any items that may be laying around.  A good site to find out about how to dispose of things properly is http://earth911.com/

And for those more curious about a “freegan” lifestyle, stay tuned to environmentality- one of the upcoming shows will be devoted to the topic!

Mindfulness as Ecological Awareness

•March 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

aired 2/15/09:

With the yoga intensive weekend, “Stretch Yourself” quickly approaching, I decided to invite Dr. Lloyd Pflueger and Drew Turner on the show to talk about the Art of Living group, meditation and yogic traditions, and its relevance to awareness of our ecological community.

the-ecology-man-sprd-021 Meditation is mindfulness according to Pflueger, where one begins to realize that the distinctions between me and you, me and the environment, and everything are not only connected, but are one and the same.  This is an ecological way of thinking, and an ecological way of living.   Meditation also professes to help one clear his or her mind, reduce stress, and find inner peace.  Our mental state has a profound impact on our surroundings.  If we are unhappy or stressed, these feelings are transmitted, and when we are happy, the same is true.

Pflueger and Andrew Turner, a student who is currently practicing meditation, agreed that meditation encouraged a state of do-no-harm.  My concern is that doing no harm may be harder than it seems.  Every decision we make impacts all processes and actors involved in its creation, destruction, and use.  For example, Dr. Pflueger finds living out of town where there’s less traffic and more trees a more peacefull and pleasant atmosphere.  But in doing so, he also must drive several miles to come to class each day of the week.  What land provided for the materials to create that vehicle? who built it and under what labor conditions? where is the petrolium coming from to fuel the car and how are the people who live on that land affected by that choice? what will happen to the vehicle when it’s trashed? who will be living on top of that landfill?

I don’t claim to be free of harmful life choices, and I don’t disagree that we should all aim for a do no harm philosophy, but meditation alone will not organize people to defend their rights.  It is but one step towards an environment that incorporates human life in a just and sustainable way.

Framed Foraging with Matthew Best

•February 17, 2009 • Leave a Comment

aired on 2/5/09 and 2/8/09:

Matthew Best, an artist originally from Connecticut, made the move to Washington D.C. not so long ago, and the shift from suburban nature to a busy built environment in the urban center of D.C. caused him to rethink his food and his art.pawpaw In his shoulder bag, he always carries a colored pencil and his notebook, where he has spent over a year documenting the wild edibles he finds in his urban environment.  The exhibition will be up until February 20th, at the Line weight show in the Ophelia Parrish gallery.

On the show, we discussed Matt’s experiences, some better than others (though he has never poisoned himself from his wild finds), finding, picking, eating, and cooking such delicacies as pawpaws (a painting of which is in blue and orange above), wild black berries (whose brambles are flesh-eating!), gingko nuts, and all sorts of greens.

Along the way, Best documented important events in his life, like the birth of his nephew, some lesser recognized happenings, and scribbles whose origin he can no longer remember.  The creamy notebook pages separated and lined up on the stark walls of OP follow the seasons, time, and taste.

Inspiration for the urban foraging project was partially by chance, insomuch as it started as more of a pastime than a project to be displayed, and partially a result of influences like reading Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma.  People are unique in that we are relatively unlimited in our food choices.  Best, reading about the injustices in our food system, decided to take food into his own hands, and in the process, he learned a lot about the native foods growing around him, the geography of D.C., and the possibilities for finding calories outside of the grocery store.

Grocery store produce is full of water, he said, while wild foods are more calorie dense.  It seems like you’re not eating much, and for the energy you put in to collecting it, sometimes the work doesn’t seem worth it.  But even if he weren’t doing it for the food, Best has accumulated quite a collection of stories about food collection.  He plans to continue the project, public or private, and keep feeding himself with a portion of wild urban finds.  Sometimes nature can be found in unexpected places.

“CAFO” Cooperative on Living and Learning

•February 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

aired on 2/1/09:

Four of the eight that make up the cooperative living house that students call “The CAFO” came to the studio to discuss methods for living in a large house with a focus on sustainability and limited consumption.

The name for the house, CAFO, is most commonly known as an acronym for Concentrated or Confined Animal Feeding Operation, and the CAFO house members thought the term would be an ironic representation of their close quarters.  The name stuck, and few now speak of the house with reference to its state-assigned address.

Effective communication is one of the keys to  successful cooperative living; the CAFO members practice what they call HDOC, which is an acronym for Honest, Direct, Open communication.  Weekly house meetings allow for this kind of open format discussion about what may be troublesome and also what is particularly pleasing for the house members.  On occasion, the house also practices what Brett Wiley describes as “council.”  Council meetings are derived from some American Indian practices and involves the passing of an object that represents the right to speak freely and openly and to release any tension or emotions.

So far, the group said they thought HDOC and Council were highly effective for keeping the peace among seven busy college student lives and one graduate.

Food practices are also a unique aspect of cooperative living.  Each week, every member of the house is assigned a task, one of which is the purchasing of food.  Monthly food allowance totals just $40 per member, and buying in bulk, from Menonite grocers, and buying food that is healthy and humane has kept their ethicurian, omnivorous diets in check.

Because these folks have their eyes on sustainability, they also attempt to use less energy by keeping appliances unplugged whenever possible, using candles instead of lights in the evenings, and sharing tools that one might normally use individually.

Sharing is what it’s all about: sharing skills, sharing tools, sharing experiences.  Every Friday at 7pm, the CAFO, located at 411 E Jefferson St., hosts a vegetarian potluck for members of the community and guests to our proud little town.  Fridays at the CAFO are filled with laughs and music and feast worthy food.

The house will also be hosting game nights on Sunday evenings and other workshops for skill sharing including time for art and discussion.   If you have a profile on Facebook, you can check out their discussion board for community workshops.

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We can all learn from each other and we can certainly learn from an effective cooperative household like the CAFO.  It was a pleasure having my dear friends on the show, and I thank them for their consistent calls at the station!

Warning: may contain GMOs

•January 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

aired on 1/25:

I discussed the GMO controversy with Food and Society Policy Kellog fellow Melinda Hemmelgarn, [and Truman State University biology professor Dr. Brent Buckner.]– Dr. Buckner failed to respond to my phone calls and emails to have him on the show.

Melinda suggests using the precautionary principle when it comes to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because, even if they are harmless, there is a chance they could be toxic to our systems. But her risk analysis isn’t unjustified.

She recommends reading from Clare Hope Cummings’ newest book about the truth behind GMOs, Uncertain Peril. Consider the risks to small farmers who have been collecting seed for generations, who now have a constant fear that their seed will be contaminated with GM crop seed, which is distributed by fewer and fewer corporations. Among the largest is Monsanto, who was qu0ted as stating that it is the FDA’s job to regulate the safety of GMOs, not theirs.

Recently, sugar beets have gone modified, and with half of our sugar processed from sugar beets, it would be wise to buy organic sugar in the future. The certified organic label is the only sure way to know that there are no GMOs in your food.

But they’re helping people in developing countries, right? Golden rice is a classic example of how GMOs can help “re-nutrify” a landscape that has been plundered by industrial agriculture. But that’s just it, inserting these band-aid crops (especially where GMO seed is cheaper than traditional seed), is only converting one hazardous agricultural system into another. A better way to serve the nutritional needs of these people (and ourselves) is to revert to more sustainable and BIODIVERSE agricultural practices.

And seed banks? Don’t they protect us from diminishing diversity? Sure, but if a bug hits (and stronger pest reactions appear in GMO fields), we can’t start the season from scratch, and seed banks are vulnerable to industry and demolition (read the introduction of Cummings book for more on that!).

But this is just the beginning of the conversation, and I encourage your feedback and interest, because food is culture, and culture is a precious resource.

For more on GMOs, check out these sites and resources:

http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/geneticall7.cfm

http://www.panna.org/node/1527

http://mindfully.org/GE/GE4/Heartbreak-In-The-Heartland21jul02.htm

http://www.truecostoffood.org/

http://www.thefutureoffood.com/

http://www.jhsph.edu/clf/

http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/

and you can read the first few pages of Uncertain Peril on Google books:

http://books.google.com/books?id=8aiTuzKYZu8C&printsec=frontcover&dq=uncertain+peril&client=firefox-a#PPR8,M1

Practical Farmers and Impractical Citizens

•January 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

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aired 1/18/09:

in the first half hour, Sally Hertz and Nehemia Rosell joined me to discuss the Practical Farmers of Iowa conference we attended January 9-10 about sustainable agriculture in the Midwest, season extensions for practical farmers, and midwest CHEESE.

Nehemia and I were impressed by the first session we attended, titled “Fledgling Farmers.”  Speakers included new farmer couples Scott and Julie Wilber, whose primary crop has been pumpkins/squash, Janice and Ryan Marquardt of Wild Rose Pastures (raising turkeys and chickens), and Jerry Peckumn’s banker in Jefferson, IA.

Take-home messages for future farmers:

-Renting is a struggle financially, but owning is a big leap, so pay attention to the property market and find a good realtor to get in on little known land sales.  $1800-5000 per acre is typical for IA.  It’s often wise to go with land that has the infrastructure you’re looking for even if the soil quality is poor because soil is reparable.

-You’ll need to start with at least a part time job outside of your farming venture, and continue gradually, judging the pace of your growth carefully.  Start small and get an idea of how much you can handle before biting off more than you can chew.

-Take advantage of the internet for a broader market, make ordering online easy, with maps and pictures.  Word-of-mouth marketing is often the best way to advertise cheaply.

-Work with a banker and know her or him well.  Be prepared with a specific plan and outlined budget, but be flexible, because situations always change unexpectedly.

The next session we all attended was on season extension for vegetable production with Chris Blanchard, of Rock Spring Farm.  Tips from Chris:

-organize your crop rotation around popular summer crops, and sell what no one else has so that you stand out in a larger market.

-sunlight is the limiting factor, but freezing and thawing are actually ok for plants, it won’t necessarily kill them.  Keep in mind that winter growth still happens, it’s just much slower.

-use mobile greenhouses and layer crops, take advantage of height in the greenhouse space. Some greenhouse options that are cheap and effective: Desian style with metal clips, field tunnels.

After a delicious all-Iowa meal (and a morning of snow shoveling and ice avoidance), we reconvened for a brief IA Cheese, Please session with CJ Bienert of Gateway Market, and the Bandstra brothers, of Fresia Farms.  Did you know that 90% of cheeses are imported!?  This is completely unnecessary and we should be proud of the cheese produced in our own region.

in the second half hour

Seth McCoy, a Kirksvile resident, shared his perspective on a town often misrepresented among privileged and sometimes ignorant college students.

As it turns out, Seth thinks that Kirksvillians are more concerned about the student population than they’re willing to let on.  Since business depends on the yearly migration of maybe 10,000 people every fall and spring, the town is constantly in flux.  Students who stay in summer or winter know the peacefull quiet that falls on Kirksville when most others hit the road back to Kansas City or St.Louis.

Geographically, the two groups find themselves separated in town.  Underclassmen stay on campus too much, and even upperclassmen tend to stick around a few bars, where locals rarely mingle.  If we want to find common ground, we’ll have to do it by socializing with eachother and by sticking around town in the “off-season” or post-graduation.

A joke from Seth: “You know how women with big breasts work at Hooters?  Well where does a woman with one leg work?” …. “at IHOP”