Michael Pollan on the Rising Food Movement in the NY Review of Books

“The First Lady has effectively shifted the conversation about diet from the industry’s preferred ground of “personal responsibility” and exercise to a frank discussion of the way food is produced and marketed. “We need you not just to tweak around the edges,” she told the assembled food makers, “but to entirely rethink the products that you’re offering, the information that you provide about these products, and how you market those products to our children.”

In his latest essay, The Food Movement, Rising, Michael Pollan chronicles the rise of the Food Movement. It’s a 5,400 word piece in the New York Review of Books that moves from the roots of the movements, to challenging today’s leaders, and, as always, encouraging us to join in.

A striking point comes when he calls out Al Gore for missing the critical role that agriculture plays in global warming. Citing his book/movie/presentation, An Inconvenient Truth,  for making “scant mention of food or agriculture”. Even though our food system makes up one-fifth of American fossil fuel use. Further, it emits an incredible amount of greenhouse gas even thought “(it) is the one human system that should be able to substantially rely on photosynthesis” (i.e. solar energy).

The health industry is also in the center of his piece, citing that 3/4 of all health care spending treats diet related diseases (heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and at least a third of all cancers).

“The health care crisis probably cannot be addressed without addressing the catastrophe of the American diet, and that diet is the direct (even if unintended) result of the way that our agriculture and food industries have been organized.”

Oddly, the good news portion of his essay comes from the government. The FDA is “cracking down on deceptive marketing”, the DOJ is “avowing” to “pursue antitrust” issues, and even the conservative USDA is getting involved. Most importantly, though, is Michelle Obama’s work. As the cited above her direct statements and in-the-field work seem to be having the greatest impact.

“Mrs. Obama explicitly rejected the conventional argument that the food industry is merely giving people the sugary, fatty, and salty foods they want, contending that the industry “doesn’t just respond to people’s natural inclinations—it also actually helps to shape them,” through the ways it creates products and markets them.”

My favorite part about Michael Pollan’s writing are always his euphoric references to our food future. Yes, there are problems and people are suffering, but the light at the end of the tunnel is awe inspiring.

“The food movement is also about community, identity, pleasure…”

I love how he interweaves politics and beliefs into the piece (conservative libertarianism, comunitarian?). Then moves to explore the backlash against consumerism, “an attempt to redefine, or escape, the traditional role of consumer has become an important aspiration of the food movement”.

Finally, a solid reference to our beloved Farmers Markets:

…an activity that a great many people enjoy…(someone) is playing music. Children are everywhere, sampling fresh produce, talking to farmers. Friends and acquaintances stop to chat. One sociologist calculated that people have ten times as many conversations at the farmers’ market than they do in the supermarket.

The piece is well worth reading: The Food Movement, Rising by Michael Pollan

Events from DC’s Field to Fork

This month’s DC Field to Fork newsletter just came in and there are plenty of fun urban gardener events to attend.

Events

Thurs, Jun 3 & Sat, Jun 5
Invasive Plant Lecture and Field Workshop: Learn to identify and combat invasive plants, free.

Sat, Jun 5
22nd Annual Clean The Chesapeake Bay, for 3 hours join volunteers all over the Chesapeake, free.

Mon, Jun 7
DC Green Drinks at 1905 Restaurant featuring Clean Currents, 630pm, free.

Sat, Jun 12
Nerd Nite at DC9: presentations on mad science, wall street gremlins, and sexy apes. All proceeds benefit the Washington Youth Garden, $10.

Sat – Sun, Jun 12 – 13
Food and Wine Festival at National Harbor. $60-70.

Fri, Jun 18
The Chesapeake Urban Farming Summit: One day summit featuring keynotes and breakout sessions. $75.

Sat, Jun 19
DC Crop Mob: Volunteer on a Farm with Friends. Free and their are carpool rides to Middleburg, VA.

Sat, Jun 26
Common Good’s Growing Herbs in Your Garden. Donation or free, register early!

America’s Favorite Farmers Market

Vote for your favorite market!

photo from the DC Field to Work Network website

A Clean Life Internships: Beat Writers

A Clean Life is seeking out three writers to help push our message.

The role involves writing seven posts a week. Write about what you’re passionate about or take assignments. The articles can be short news stories, long-ish research reports, and in-between. Topics can be as broad as you choose, catered to your writing style, with a particular focus on topics like local foods, farmers markets, zero waste, fighting obesity, and saving the planet. Additionally, promote the articles on the various social networks.

Learn how to write on a professional blogging platform (metrics, real-time publishing, web 2.0, multimedia, online ads, etc.). Add valuable writing, communications, and social media experience to your resume.

Make a difference.

To learn more contact: steve@acleanlife.org

Note: this is an unpaid volunteer internship, hours per week required 7 or less, can work from anywhere.

photo courtesy of novecentino

DC Mayor Adrian Fenty is Cycling the City

What happens to a city when the mayor is a bicycle fanatic?

By fanatic I mean training with a competitive cycling team, DC Velo, several days a week and shutting down streets so his police escort can keep up.

fenty biking

Our honorable mayor, Adrian Fenty, now 3 years into his term is changing the city inside and out to become bike friendly. In some brilliant ways, hilarious ways, and scary ways.

First the brilliant. The city now has borrow-a-bike stations where you can check-out and return bikes. The program is called SmartBikeDC. (claim: “America’s first self-service public bike rental program”). The main trouble with this system is having enough bike stations (like metro stops) to make it easy to get around. Building each station is costly, although cheap to operate and maintain.

The word is that Fenty and his team are coming up with the “start-up money” to build new stations anywhere they can, 3 million here, 60 million there (stimulus money in partnership with Arlington county). Once built the operation pretty much runs itself with Clear Channel somehow operating the stations and advertising (?).

I think its a masterful way to turn the already pedestrian friendly DC into a bike friendly place too. Drive another stake into the heart of our driving culture and reducing all the pollution and noise that comes with cars.

Of course, this provides another problem, DC is not a bike friendly city. Every year people die from biking, accidents occur daily, and there are/were no bike lanes. The problem seems quite intractable in such an old city since you can’t pave a bike path very far when the road abruptly ends or turns into a one-way street. To fix this you have to go block by block paving new lanes and its expensive.

This is where the hilarity ensues. The other day I was crossing Pennsylvania avenue and noticed that new “street lanes”. The road went from six driving lanes to four for cars and four for bikes. That’s right four bike lanes, two each way. I guess its a slow lane and fast lane? Maybe bikers need a left turn lane too?

Check out this photo of another one of these awesome new bike lanes. Notice (1) upper right fellow doing something obnoxious, (2) the confusing array of lanes, (3) the parking lane?, (4) and what would the picture be without a fake tree on either side.

bike picsI think it’s just hilarious and even more so when you sett these things in person. As the city becomes more bike friendly its just going to get better too.

Finally, the scary part. You know this story wouldn’t be complete without some overspending ridiculousness. Ours comes complete with a super futuristic space station modeled after a bike helmet so union station folks can…park their bikes? Actually, I’m still not sure what the point of an advanced bike station at a train station is, especially considering that the trains aren’t bike friendly. Regardless, this thing is a beautiful monstrosity. First the design concept:

Screen shot 2010-05-28 at 6.37.32 PMThe finished product:

union bike stationYes this thing is crazy and scary looking. It only cost us 4 million dollars too. Even stranger a local company runs/operates this 1700 square foot location charging $2/day to park your bike. I just hope that our beautiful new bike helmet space station was on the up-up.

Anyway, I hope the cyclist are enjoying our new bike friendly city thanks to Mayor Fenty (I sure am) and you car people consider yourself warned…

More news to get you going:

Workout Buffs Are Wasting Their Time

Every time I ride my bike along the Potomac River I get so upset. There are all these folks best described as “workout buffs”. You know the ones in full running/biking gear. They would look like a hardcore biker gang if it nearly all of them weren’t overweight.

That’s the part that bothers me. Here is a group of people so intensely focused on being healthy that they will wear colorful nylon and short shorts. I can’t help but devolve into the raison d’être for A Clean Life (to help people get healthy through eating). I imagine these folks devouring a power bar when they get home, or even during the bike ride. They are surely drinking some sort of sugary “electrolyte” or “vitamin water” drink too.

Best case scenario is a hearty meal, but even then it has to be low quality food since only 2% of America is eating high quality food. It’s as if all of their working out is for naught when they go home and chow down on garbage.

I remember one youtube video where the professor says that running for several miles only burns through the calories of one cookie. Which means that these folks need to run/cycle for hundreds of miles per day just to lose weight. When most likely they are only burning enough calories to slowly gain weight (rather than quickly gain weight).

Ah well, such is the contradictions in American life.

Of course, if these same folks were to understand the nature of food everything would change. They could enjoy high quality food that would cause them to lose weight just by breathing. Soon their workout routines would lessen until they are no longer needed. A switch would happen to being outdoors for the fun of it, maybe even enjoying a little community activity like sports clubs (a European thing).

Not only that but their mental and physical health would improve, the environment would gain a boon in decreased pollution, local economies would flourish…but I digress.

The point here is that I want to help these folks. I really want to find a way to talk to them since they are a “target market” for the Clean Lifestyle. Instead, I am too busy feeling sorry for them or just angry at them.

Maybe one day I will figure out how to get to the “workout buff” crowd.

Spotted: DC Resident Philippe Cousteau in Gulf Oil Spill

Rad. Philippe is down in the gulf. The reports are coming out very heroic and being blasted over CNN and the major news sites.

Here is one CNN report:

Philippe Cousteau Jr, the grandson of famous marine biologist, Jacques Cousteau, recently scuba dived into an area of the Gulf that was affected by the spill and said it was an “absolute nightmare”.

Cousteau also said that a chemical dispersant being used to absorb the oil isn’t working as it should be.

“We were about 15 to 20 feet down and it was dispersed into smaller and smaller particles throughout the water column in these billowing clouds that were just circling us, encompassing us in this toxic soup,” Cousteau told CNN.

“It was very, very alarming.”

Cousteau also wrote on his blog that his grandfather, Jacque would have been “horrified” by the spill.

A quick glance over to Philippe’s blog shows that he is indeed on-site and writing about it:

…as the oil penetrates the vegetation it kills it and leaves bare soil to be washed away, which will decimate this once vital and productive eco-system. “We are seeing birds covered in oil during the height of nesting season and tar is washing up on the beaches,” they explained. There was real concern in their voices, people who have grown up here and who are now watching the entire ecosystem and economic bases of the community fall apart before their eyes.

Finally, a video that looks like CNN reporter Sam Champion bogarted Philippe. Reporting all the same stuff as Philippe but doing so in the first person and even showing himself diving in the water (they do eventually talk about Philippe). Hmmm, who do you think is the real diver here?

Arlington Farmers Markets

We love our Arlington Farmers Markets.

Arlington, VA has six farmers markets on everyday except mondays and fridays. They are some of my favorites in the Washington DC region. Open after work and on your lunch break they are ideal for shopping. Go ahead and give them a chance and let me know what you experience.

Also, if you you’re interested in other regional markets I have included on this page the DC and Alexandria farmers markets (and a brochure too). They provide an incredible array of markets with diverse products at many times of the day and week.

-

Arlington Farmers Markets

-

Fridays

none

-

Saturdays

Arlington Market at Courthouse – 8-12pm – Year Round
Courthouse Metro (1 block south)

-

Sundays

Columbia Pike – 9-1pm – Year Round
S. Walter Reed Dr at Columbia Pike

Mondays

None

-

Tuesdays

Crystal City – 3-7pm – May to Oct
Crystal Drive – 18 to 20th St

-

Wednesdays

Clarendon – 2-7pm – Year Round
Clarendon Metro

-

Thursdays

Rosslyn – 11-3pm – May to Oct
Wilson Blvd/N. Oak St- Rosslyn Metro

Ballston – 3-7pm – May to Oct
Wellburn Square, 9th/N. Stuart, 1 block south Ballston Metro

-

Alexandria Farmers Markets

-

Fridays

none

-

Saturdays

Old Town Alexandria – 5-10:30am – all year
Market Square/City Hall, 301 King Street

Del Ray Alexandria – 8-12pm – till dec
East Oxford & Mount Vernon Ave

-

Sundays

West End Alexandria – 9-1pm – May to Nov
4800 Brenman Park Drive

-

Mondays

None

-

Tuesdays

none

-

Wednesdays

King Street Alexandria – 3-7pm – May to Oct
1806 King Street, King St Metro

-

Thursdays

none

-

DC Farmers Markets

-

Fridays

USDA People’s Garden – 10-2pm – Jun to Oct
12th/Independence Ave – Smithsonian Metro

-

Saturdays

Eastern Market – 7-6pm – Year Round
225 7th ST, SE – Eastern Market Metro

14th & U St – 9-1pm – May to Nov
14th/U St – U St/Cardozo Metro

Adams Morgan – 8-1pm – Apr to Dec
18th/Columbia, NW

Silver Spring – 9-1pm – Apr to Dec
951 Ellsworth Dr – Silver Spring Metro

H Street – 9-12pm – May to Nov
625 H St, NE – Union Station Metro, (5 blocks away)

Chevy Chase – 9-1pm – Apr to Nov
Broad Branch Rd/N Hampton St, NW

Bethesda – 9-1pm – Jun to Oct
Norfolk Ave at Veteran’s Park, Bethesda Station Metro

-

Sundays

Dupont - 9-1pm – Year Round
1500 20th St – Dupont Metro

Eastern Market – 9-5pm – Year Round
225 7th ST, SE – Eastern Market Metro

Bloomingdale – 10-2pm – May to Nov
1st/R St, NW – Shaw/NY Metro

Takoma Park – 10-2pm – Year Round
Carroll/Laurel Ave – Takoma Park Metro

-

Mondays

None

-

Tuesdays

New Morning – 4-8pm – Jun to Sep
36th/Alton Place – Sheridan School

-

Wednesdays

Foggy Bottom – 2:30-7pm – Apr to Nov
Foggy Bottom Metro – 2400 I St/New Hampshire

Health and Human Services – 2:30-6:30pm – Jun to Oct
200 Independence Ave, SW – Federal Center Metro

Crossroads – 3-7pm – Jun to Oct
Holton Lane/New Hampshire (Takoma Park)

-

Thursdays

Penn Quarter – 3-7pm – Apr to Dec
450 8th St, NW – Chinatown/Archives Metro

White House – 3-7pm – May to Nov
810 Vermont Ave, NW – McPherson Square Metro

-

Farmers Market Brochure

To help you find all these markets A Clean Life offers a brochure (link below) listing them by day/hour/metro.

Lower on the page you will find a comprehensive list of all markets in the DC metro region.

Untitled 2pdf of brochure for download —-  high res screenshot

A Thought on a Pollution Tax

I’ve been thinking for a while about why global warming bothers me so much. You would think that as a “greenie” I would be all over this issue. Instead of proclaiming catastrophe to every new A Clean Lifer I avoid the subject. I have just found that there are so many other pressing issues. Items that are more relevant to everyday life than some future global immolation.

Which brings me to cap-n-trade. A supposed solution to global warming. I’ll just come out and say it: I don’t think its going to work. Not because we don’t need it but because its a bad idea. I like to say a square peg being pushed into a round hole. Here’s why.

The issue at hand is pollution. Companies, people, and governments are polluting (via carbon). This means all of us and we are doing it at an incredible rate. Sooner or later we all going to have to pay for our pollution. Like the smog control issues in Los Angeles, the plastic bag charge in DC, or the brownfield cleanups in New York. For years now we have already been paying for our pollution, just doing so after the fact.

pollution towers

This is where cap-n-trade comes in and attempts to solve the problem. It’s a continuation of after-the-fact, monday-morning-quarterbacking. In essence we know you are going to pollute so let’s create an artificial market so you can buy/sell your pollution “allowance”. We take it for granted that pollution has to happen? If so, we create a fake market, make allowances for pollution, allow people to sell pollution?

Yeah, when you explain it like that it does sound dumb. Even more I would venture that the only reason this solution is being bandied about is because the money from the buying/selling is supposed to go cleaning up pollution or to poorer countries.

Like I said, a dumb idea.

Instead, I suggest we invoke a pollution tax. You pollute you pay for it, upfront. I say we do away with letting companies and people pollute first then pay years later (or not at all). Let’s incorporate the costs into the activity. Like if you want to use electricity then you are going to have to pay for consulting contract to clean-up the power plant and reduce its pollution. The more electricity you use the more you pay.

Here is a perfect example. The city of Alexandria in Virginia has a contract out to clean-up their local power plant. This is to meet EPA standards, state standards, and local pollution concerns. Who do you think is paying for that $80 million dollar clean-up? It is definitely not the previous users of the electricity the plant produced. It is the future users through an increase in the cost of electricity. Basically, we have a system where you can pollute all you want and then let someone else pay to clean it up.

This bothers me deeply because my parents generation has been doing just that. They polluted the hell out of this world and are now bequeathing it to me dirty and I have to pay to clean it up. Thanks.

You may be thinking to yourself that this is impossible. There is no way we know the costs of pollution. Wrong. We know the costs of nearly every type of pollution that humans can produce. We have been cleaning up, litigating, and charging people for years now.

I just think it’s time to start realizing this and doing something about it. We have all we need to stop passing-the-buck and avoid the silliness of cap-n-trade. Problem is people don’t want to actually pay for their own pollution…

Why is that?

Seasonal Eating Guide to DC, Baltimore, Arlington

A seasonal food guide for the Capitol Foodshed which includes DC, Baltimore, Arlington, and Northern Virginia. A full list (pdf) is available from FreshFarm Markets.

Vegetables

Spring

Asparagus, Beets, Greens (Collard, Spinach, Chard, Kale), Mushrooms, Onions, Radishes/Turnips, Squash

Summer

Artichokes, Green/Lima Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Greens (Collard, Chard, Kale, Spinach), Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Garlic/Onions, Peppers, Potatoes, Radishes/Turnips, Squash, Sweet Potatoes

Autumn

Artichokes, Green/Lima Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Greens (Collard, Chard, Kale, Spinach), Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Garlic/Onions, Mushrooms, Peppers, Potatoes, Radishes/Turnips, Squash, Sweet Potatoes

Winter

Greens (Kale, Spinach), Squash – Dec Only: Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Greens (Collard), Garlic, Peppers, Radishes/Turnips

Fruits

Spring

Apples, Strawberries

Summer

Jun: Cherries, Berries (rasp, straw), Tomatoes
Jul: Cherries, Apricots, Berries (black, blue, rasp, straw), Figs, Melons, Nectarines, Peaches, Plums, Tomatoes
Aug: Apples, Berries (black, blue, rasp), Figs, Melons, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Tomatoes

Autumn

Apples, Melons, Pears, Tomatoes – Sep Only: Blueberries, Peaches

Winter

Apples, Tomatoes

Herbs

Spring

Basil, Cilantro, Dill, Parsley, Sage, Sorrel — **None in Mar

Summer

Basil, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Mint, Parsley, Sage, Sorrel, Tarragon, Thyme

Autumn

Basil, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Mint, Parsely, Sage, Sorrel, Tarragon, Thyme

WinterDec Only

Basil, Mint, Parsely, Sage, Sorrel, Thyme — **None in Jun/Feb

The Case for Local Food

Here is a food claim may shock you.

Farmers markets offer food that is three times better for you than supermarkets.

A study published in September 2007 by the Organic Center discovered this startling fact after looking into our modern food system. They had a theory that food has changed since the 1950s, before the industrial food revolution. To test this they gathered seeds from the 1950s and today, grew them to harvest, and compared their nutrient values.

In nearly every category our modern food was lacking. The study gets complicated and covers many areas, so an easy way to sum it up is this. Industrial food producers grow crops for quantity. They want to grow more every year and have increased their production by incredible amounts (400x!). The unfortunate consequence of this massive growth is their food quality has dropped.

The quality vs quantity difference is on average 3x.

It’s a seminal piece of work, or has the potential to be. It could explain our obesity epidemic since we are eating three times more food than we used to. It could explain why so many people dislike healthy food in favor of fast food. It could even explain why healthy food cost more.

Imagine our obesity epidemic if we all ate 1/3 less.

Imagine how different vegetables would taste if they are three times as rich.

Imagine if you had to purchase 1/3 less food. Most folks say that healthy food costs twice as much. Do the math and if you’re buying 1/3 less and spending twice as much it is still cheaper.

Combine these three and you have the perfect solution. A diet that is cheap, tasty, and healthy. If this is true it also supports local economies, small business, and drastically reduces our environmental waste.

Here is the kicker. In America we do not subsidize fruits and vegetables, but we do subsidize fast food. Imagine how this whole equation could change if we made fast food more expensive and fruits and vegetables cheaper.

This is the case for local food.

Try It Out

No more imagining. Test this study out in real life. Find the quality food. See if it fills you up, gives you energy, and saves you money. It has for me and hundreds of my friends.

Here are a few recommendations to help you find quality food:

Fruits/Vegetables – farmers markets. They offer items that are picked at their peak. Grown in ideal conditions. Sold at their freshest. Every other place, including supermarkets, offer declining levels of quality.

Grains/Beans/Nuts – only buy from the bulk sections at Whole Foods and other health food stores. Sometimes also sold at farmers markets.

Meat/Seafood/Dairy – sold at farmers markets and Whole Foods (health stores). The key is to buy items that are raised cleanly and sold fresh.