Happy Earth Day…or Not!

While today reminds us of the environmental challenges we face nationally and globally, it isn’t the only day where we should be concerned about our impact on the Earth (and in turn, how our actions affect the environment and our health).

Earth Day should be about raising awareness of what we are doing every day and how to make meaningful changes, not about “greenwashing” or giving lip service to environmental issues.

Grist, the online environmental magazine, posted a series on whether Earth Day still matters-with several essays on both sides (and a tongue-in-cheek campaign called Screw Earth Day). The self-proclaimed cynical view calls the day “an empty gesture,” and says few people care enough to even make small changes in their daily lives. Then the author turns a bit less cynical and details how we can reclaim the day by doing something that actually matters. Read More >

Food System Reform–not just for the Elite

A great article in this morning’s Washington Post profiles Dave Murphy, the founder of Food Democracy Now, and emphasizes the need for strong advocates of food system reform who are from the Midwest. The importance of having advocates who aren’t coastal and who have worked the land (or are related to those who have) echoes Jill Richardson’s recent comments about the media ignoring the food justice side of the sustainable food movement and painting “a picture of the Organic Elite – Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and big wigs at Stonyfield and Whole Foods – but mak[ing] them seem as though they’ve got their heads in the clouds as they call for tripling what we pay for kids’ school lunches or changing our policy to create decentralized, regional food networks.” As Natasha Chart points out the media can play an important, and often defining, role in establishing (or defeating) a movement, and too often the media just reinforce the status quo. For me, this is another example of the need for the sustainable food movement to come together and agree on some major talking points that encompass the entire movement (while still continuing to work for local and regional change). One voice could help ensure the full spectrum of issues are heard and reported on correctly.

Move Over Ag, We Need a Secretary of Food

In yesterday’s New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristoff addressed President-elect Obama’s soon-to-be-made choice for Secretary of Agriculture, asking whether or not a “U.S. Department of Food” would better reflect the change our country needs to see realized in our food policy. 

Kristoff notes that “a Department of Agriculture made sense 100 years ago when 35 percent of Americans engaged in farming.  But today, fewer than 2 percent are farmers.  In contrast, 100 percent of Americans eat.”  As such, what we need now “is actually a bold reformer in a position renamed ‘secretary of food.'”

Read More >

Looking Ahead: Obama’s Food Policy Platform

The Huffington Post this week looks at U.S. food policy and how it could potentially change under the Obama Administration. ‘Yes We Can’ Create a Sane Food Policy in the U.S. calls for President-elect Obama to appoint “an independent-minded secretary of agriculture who shares his concern for our nation’s youth, our national health, global development, the environment, and animals, and [to] create a National Food Policy Council and appoint a food-policy “czar” to oversee and coordinate a comprehensive and forward-thinking policy.” 

The piece also highlights the findings of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production’s report, Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America — a joint initiative between The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health — as well as the recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations

Read More >

Letter to Obama: Top 6 Sustainable Picks for Secretary of Ag

This week, 88 prominent figures in sustainable food and agriculture signed a letter to the Obama transition team entitled “the sustainable choice for the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.” This letter offered up the top 6 picks for the new (and sustainable!) Secretary of Agriculture including Gus Schumacher (MA), Chuck Hasselbrook (NE), Sarah Vogel (ND, Fred Kirschenmann (IA/NY and 2008 CLF guest speaker!), Mark Ritchie (MN), and Neil Hamilton (IA).

The letter emphasizes the need for innovation as the new Ag Secretary must “…work to advance a new era of sustainability in agriculture, humane husbandry, food and renewable energy production that revitalizes our nation’s soil, air and water while stimulating opportunities for new farmers to return to the land.” The letter also emphasizes linking local farmers with school lunch programs to promote healthier options. Check out the NYT report and CLF’s school food initiatives.