December 9, 2013

CLF Week in Links: Overfishing, Climate Change Line Items, and More

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Every Child Needs a Good School LunchOverfishing in the Persian Gulf. In an unprecedented study, University of British Columbia researchers used Google Earth to catch Persian Gulf nations underreporting their haul—by almost 30,000 tons. Google Earth identified weirs, the structures used to trap massive catches of fish, including young fish that have yet to spawn. Study author Dalal Al-Abdulrazzak said these catches “could have dire consequences for fisheries’ stock in the long term.”

NAFTA and aquaculture. In British Columbia, a diverse group of stakeholders concerned about the health of the wild salmon fishery has filed a complaint against the Canadian federal government for its fish-farming practices, and it’s using the Fisheries Act of the NAFTA to stake its claim. The group of complainants is composed of commercial fishermen, the Kwikwasu’tinuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation, and environmentalists; they claim that through its practices Ottawa is exposing wild salmon to sea lice, disease, toxic chemicals and concentrated waste, and that the Fisheries Act is supposed to prevent this.

Budgeting for carbon. This New York Times story reports that, “A new report by the environmental data company CDP has found that at least 29 companies, some with close ties to Republicans, including ExxonMobil, Walmart and American Electric Power, are incorporating a price on carbon into their long-term financial plans.” Meanwhile, Koch Industries is ramping up its aggressive campaign against climate policy.

School lunches. According to this NPR story, students’ lunch breaks keep getting shorter—some as short as 15 minutes. Part of the problem is that even if 20 or 30 minutes are budgeted in the schedule as lunch time, some of that time is used up waiting in line or walking to the cafeteria. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that students get at least 20 minutes for lunch. But that means 20 minutes to actually sit down and eat.”

Delaware chicken plant. The people of Millsboro, Delaware, are trying to prevent an enormous chicken processing plant from moving into town. The plant would slaughter an estimated 2 million birds a week and most likely discharge its waste into the Indian River, which is already sorely contaminated with VOCs (volatile organic compounds) left behind by the Vlasic Pickle plant. With Jillian Fry at the helm, our researchers are helping the Millsboro community demand more public health attention before the Sussex County Board of Adjustment makes a decision about the plant. There’s a public hearing on December 17.

More carnivorous. In a story first published in Nature and picked up by the Huffington Post, scientists at the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea have published a study that for the first time calculates the trophic level at which humans eat. (Trophic level is a measurement that helps us to understand the positions of different species on the food chain.) According to the study, “The fast-growing economies of China and India are driving a global increase in meat consumption, cancelling out decreases elsewhere.” It seems that in the past 50 years, an increase in fat and meat consumption has moved us further up the food web. This is not great news for the planet, because calorie for calorie, meat has a greater negative impact on the environment and on public health.

The Salmonella plan. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) responded this week to the USDA’s new Salmonella Action Plan. The USDA makes some important improvements, says CSPI, such as a “moving windows” approach for responding more nimbly and generating more data; however, the agency fails in terms of the critical issue of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella.

Food chain workers and minimum wage. This week, according to the Washington City Paper, the D.C. Council unanimously passed legislation that would raise the city’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour and another that would expand paid sick leave to include “tipped workers,” like waiters and bartenders. (Consider the hazards of forcing restaurant workers to choose between reporting to work sick versus losing a paycheck.) Despite a campaign to raise the tipped wage too, tipped workers will continue to make a $2.77 minimum base wage. The national tipped wage is $2.13. Let’s hope that the rest of the country can follow in our capitol’s footsteps in terms of the minimum wage, and that we can all work toward improving the work lives of those in charge of our meals.

Autism and food. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has published a new study on autism, diet, and environment. The study examines myriad factors that may be affecting the incidence of autism, including pollution, pesticides, and occupational exposures of the mother, among others.

TEDxManhattan. On March 1 in New York, TEDxManhattan will host “Changing the Way We Eat.” Visit TEDxManhattan’s map to find your nearest official viewing party or think about hosting one of your own. For the 2014 lineup, as well as profiles of featured speakers, check out their website.

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