February 7, 2014

CLF Week in Links: Drought, Meatless Monday, Chesapeake Bay and More

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Worst drought in years. According to this New York Times story, California may be experiencing its worst drought in 500 years, and it’s taking a toll on the state’s drinking supply and farming practices. There are a lot of balls in the air here—a lot of causes, a lot of effects, and perhaps a few solutions. There’s no doubt that livestock production is water-intensive, so reducing meat consumption could be one of the solutions. The Meatless Monday campaign is one way to be part of the solution. The mega dairies of the Central Valley are the source of much of the ice cream sold throughout the U.S. So in addition to forgoing meat one (or more!) days each week, you might consider cutting back on your ice cream intake unless you know that it is sourced from local dairies in non-drought areas.

Speaking of Meatless Monday… The CLF team has put together an online memorial for the tenth anniversary Meatless Monday event we held at the Bloomberg School of Public Health last fall. You can read the web article, watch the slideshow or video footage, or read the transcript.

Sustainable cities and the urban poor. Americas Quarterly has done an “Ask the Experts” feature on sustainable cities, and Anne Palmer contributed some insight into the long-term policy change needed to create a fair, healthy and sustainable food system for all. The former mayor of Medellín and a representative from Rio de Janeiro weighed in as well, so Anne’s in good company.

Targeting Chesapeake Bay polluters. Our friends at Food & Water Watch are targeting poultry industries in Maryland that contribute to nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. Legislation introduced by Senator Richard Madaleno (D-18) and Delegate Shane Robinson (D-39), called the Poultry Fair Share Act, would hold Maryland’s big poultry companies partially accountable for cleanup. This is important policy in action. If the Act passes, we’ll send a message to industry that they cannot pay to pollute.

CVS and cigarettes. On Wednesday we heard terrific news from the drug store and pharmacy chain CVS. The company announced they would stop selling tobacco products, in order to stay in line with their focus on wellness. As they operate more mini-clinics, though, will they take another necessary big step and stop selling some of the worst junk food offenders? Poor diet has now edged out tobacco as the leading cause of premature morbidity and mortality in the U.S. according to the CDC, but tobacco continues to cause about 420,000 premature deaths each year.

Climate hubs for farmers. The Obama administration announced the formation on Wednesday of seven “climate hubs” to help farmers and rural communities adapt to extreme weather conditions and other effects of climate change. With the intensity and frequency of storms, fire seasons, and droughts lately, these climate hubs seem necessary, but it’s a shame that it’s come to this. I hope that as we take steps like this, we can also take the huge step of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and serving as a model for other nations to do the same.

First nations and food policy. This Food Safety News story explains how The Navajo Nation exercises their national sovereignty by taking a stand on soda. The Nation has also voted to make healthy food virtually tax-free. It’s an exciting policy decision that I hope will create some positive results.

Urban gardening study. The online science journal PLOS ONE has just released a CLF study that investigates what urban gardeners know (and don’t know) about what’s in their soil. Because Baltimore, like many cities, has a long history with factories, waste dumps, dry cleaning operations and more, it’s important for gardeners to know what they’re getting their hands into. I hope this study can further the conversation about contaminated soil and how to navigate it when gardening, as well as encouraging more urbanites who, by following the steps outlined in the paper, can garden safely and improve the quality and diversity of their diets.

The right to health. I’ll be in Mumbai this weekend to take part in a consultation with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health. Within the context of right to health, the meeting will discuss unhealthy foods and non-communicable diseases. For the first time non-communicable diseases, including those related to poor diets, are responsible for more disease and early death in low-income and lower middle-income countries than infectious diseases. This meeting will bring together many of the issues we work on at the CLF.  I’ll report back next week.

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