Waves of grain

My car packed with too many clothes, an extremely terrified cat and a live Kombucha culture, I headed west to my summer field site. Oddly enough, my summer field site is also where I grew up. The endless waves of grain remind me of my labor-intensive childhood detasseling corn,1 walking beans2 and bucking bales.3  I …

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There’s A Change A-Comin’, or Is There

One of the surprise results of the November election has been the stimulation of previously docile citizens to engage with the political and policy gears of our nation. I have attended many organizational meeting of groups I’ve been active with for some time, where attendance has doubled or more, seemingly overnight. The newcomers say something …

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Why you should hire me (feat. Hamilton)

[Anna writes..] I think I’d really enjoy being a costume designer, Broadway superstar, or Olympic gymnast. Unfortunately, I don’t exactly have the credentials for those positions. ​ Over here in reality, I will soon be “moving out of higher education in search of new challenges and opportunities” (thanks, Jobs on Toast). So I’m currently putting …

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Maelstrom on Steroids

I know I am not the only recipient of countless takes on the U.S. election. Everywhere I turn there is a new attempt to either assess how it happened or that predicts what will follow. I’m pretty convinced that no one understands either very completely. Yet that doesn’t mean that we should not glimpse at …

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Coming home

The second part of my project involves DNA extraction from my soil samples. For that, I travel to Nanjing and work in the lab of Dr. Fang Wang in the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Soil Science Institute.  Nanjing is only about an hour from Shanghai, which makes my presence much less of a novelty, as …

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Increase

The Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) is gathering steam for a new push around food and agriculture when the new administration is installed next January. The exact nature of their initiative is still in flux at this writing, so pardon me while I take a few sentences to situate this whole mess …

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Race to the Farm

I’m headed off to the SAEA meeting later this week, where I’m part of panel. SAEA is the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association. It’s not part of my regular circuit, but I’m looking forward to it. The panel is being sponsored by INFAS, which is part of my regular circuit. INFAS is the Integrated Network for …

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Be in the know, now back on the grind

Over the past few weeks, I have grown from a perpetually disheveled data scientist and learned to dress slightly better than a sack of potatoes –an added benefit of my summer of experiential learning in the DC area. I was graciously hosted by my guidance committee member, Dr. Abigail Lynch, at the U.S. Geological Survey National Climate Change …

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Garrett Hardin

We’ll finish up “food ethics icons” month with the evil genius of the food/population debates. Everyone I know who ever met Garrett Hardin (1915-2003) spoke well of him. He was by all accounts a generous and open-minded man who welcomed philosophical inquiry and intellectual engagement. So don’t get me wrong when I call him “the …

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Linking Economics and Climate Change

Joseph Stiglitz, former World Bank economist, member of the Council of Economic Advisers was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001, just months after the September 11th attack of the twin towers in NYC. The following are his concluding remarks in his acceptance speech (December 8, 2001).      I entered economics with the hope …

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Plastic Houses

There’s an old saying to the effect that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Good advice for bloggers, I think. If you are “out there” and visible, you should think twice about digging in to someone for something that you could be dug into yourself. There’s also a variation on the …

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Going to Mexico

Is there a robot out there who can help me with one of my more importunate research problems? Some time ago—maybe four or five years back—there was a particular aphorism that was circulating in sustainability studies. I wouldn’t say that it had gone viral, but I must have heard a half dozen different speakers recite …

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Financing the Green Economy

I must have missed the NPR and local press coverage of the inaugural UN Environment Assembly held last week in Nairobi, Kenya. The five day conference of more than 1,000 attendees representing 163 member states including 113 ministers was blacked out so that we could focus more on the World Cup, baseball, and other more …

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Among the World-Feeders

I spent a couple of days last week amongst folks who are diligently at work developing new crops. They are after new varieties that do well in the dry conditions farmers may experience during climate change, and they’re working on varieties that resist disease, too. And then there are the longstanding enemies: weeds and insect …

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Valuing Nature

Carl Zimmer has written an excellent piece in the New York Times about a very important study by Robert Costanza et al. on “Changes in the global value of ecosystem services” – in other words, how to place economic value on some of the critical functions that nature provides us for free, and how to quantify the …

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Power and a Response to It

Indeed the loan [$3billion] was approved by the [Obama} administration just four days before the president delivered his address to the December 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. “As the world’s largest economy and the world’s second largest emitter, America bears our share of responsibility in addressing climate change,” Obama said then. “That …

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Thinking Big

If your life’s work can be accomplished in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough. (Wes Jackson) This quote from a recent white paper by Barrett Brown, The Future of Leadership for Conscious Capitalism, resonated deeply as I read it yesterday. Perhaps as a result of my own formal retirement from the pursuit of paychecks …

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Something Happening Here

So goes the start of a well known Buffalo Springfield song at the height of the Vietnam War. I had started another blog earlier today and let it settle before going back to edit. Looks like it will have to set a little longer as I read or viewed several powerful presentations today that I …

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What Can We Afford?

We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we …

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Word Play

I’m sure that everyone is wondering what I’ve been reading these days. [Well actually I’m being facetious. I don’t for a minute think that anyone woke up on a February morning thinking to themselves, “Gosh! It’s bothering me that I haven’t the foggiest notion what Paul Thompson has been reading of late.” But it’s a …

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Thinking About a New Economy

There aren’t too many people globally, well at least the 1 per cent, who are satisfied with the current economy. I had written in a blog last fall about differing approaches to what I was putting under the umbrella of the New Economy with links to at least 15 differing ideas of possible new economy. …

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Frances Moore Lappé

Well this one is kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? Frances Moore Lappé wrote Diet for a Small Planet, published originally in 1971. Simply noticing that date should give some recent converts to the food movement pause. It’s worth recalling that sixties hippies were eating brown rice, bulgur and waxing poetic about the miraculous benefits …

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Wes Jackson

I could go on for quite a while about Wes Jackson. Wes runs The Land Institute in Salina, KS. He has fathered and promoted a number of ideas for improving food and farming over his career. Take the “sunshine farm” as a for-instance. The driving idea is that a farm gets an energy boost from …

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Our Vast Influenza

Last week’s page 4 news from Washington demonstrated the vast influence of the Thornapple blog on the nation’s elite decision makers. Just six weeks after blogging on the problems associated with the sub-therpeutic use of antibiotics in meat production, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (that’s FDA to the policy geeks among my readership) announced …

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What is telecoupling?

Where do I fit into this picture?  How can I possibly help to sustain an entire species? That’s just it – you’re never alone in science. Previously, I mentioned the phrase “standing on the shoulders of giants,” but the great thing about science is that I actually get to work with the “giants” of Kirtland’s …

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Fossil Fuel Investment, the Tip of the Iceberg

While college students are pressuring many of their schools to divest from holdings in fossil fuel companies, there are collaborating efforts being launched by institutional investors by assessing the entire portfolio’s carbon intensity, not simply fossil fuel holdings.. Companies that perform those assessments, TruCost, Bloomberg, and yes, even Bank of America – Merrill Lynch are …

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The Movement Evolves

Possibilitator has authored a couple brief blogs “The False God of Profit” and “Evolution in Investing” on the divestment from fossil fuel companies in the past few months. Such movements, like any grassroots popular uprising are usually smugly discarded by the powers that be. This was true of the 40 hour work week, the end …

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Talkin’ About Sustainability

This week marks Campus Sustainability Week across the U.S. Many campuses are putting extra efforts into sharing the ideas and possibilities behind approaches that might make our present and future more habitable for all. The overwhelming emphasis on most campuses when talking about sustainability is environmental sustainability. Most often this is synonymous with greening or …

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