Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lehigh Parkway Allentown

Today was a gorgeous late November day for a walk in Lehigh Parkway. The weather was brisk, warm enough for just a sweater, and the sky was bright and clear. Lehigh Parkway is one of the most beautiful parks in Allentown. I love visiting in all of the seasons and savoring the fragrant lilacs in Spring, lush greenery of Summer, beautiful Autumn foliage, and Winter reflections and shadows.

I loved the color of these berries.

Beautiful reflections in the stream

Bubbling stream

A refreshing spot

Who is this strange creature at the bird feeder? Must be an escaped parakeet. Oh no! Stay warm little guy!


Monday, November 16, 2009

Food, Inc. - You Can Change The World One Bite At A Time

Food, Inc. is a documentary about our industrial agricultural food system which shines some light on where our food comes from.I have long been aware of some of the abuses of factory farms, but much of the information in this documentary surprised and shocked me.

Food prices are largely determined by what our government subsidizes. Because corn and soy are so heavily subsidized, cattle are fed this diet almost exclusively instead of their natural diet of grass. This diet combined with overcrowding and unsanitary conditions leads to high rates of e coli. Chicken farms fare no better, conditions are cruelly overcrowded and birds are bred for tender meat, leaving some birds unable to even stand on their own. Sick and diseased birds lead to unhealthy food for consumers. Food laws do little to protect the consumer, and much to protect the industry.

The conditions of meat industry workers is appalling. Subsidized American corn prices force Mexican corn farmers out of business. Meat packing plants recruit in Mexico for desperate under paid workers living in constant fear of deportation. Immigration arrests a handful of workers daily, but does not go after the system which exploits them to process our cheap food.

I was not aware of the seed monopoly created by the patenting of genetic modifications. The vast majority of soybeans in this country are genetically modified to be resistant to pesticides used to control weeds. Farmers are not allowed to save seed, they must purchase from the industrial giants or risk a lawsuit for violating a patent. The small farmer who attempts to use non GMO seeds also risks legal action if their neighbor's seed happens to blow onto their land contaminating the crop and thereby violating the seed patent. It is virtually impossible for a small farmer to defend him or herself against these major companies. In fact, only a small handful of companies control the bulk of our food supply.

Agribusiness also relies on huge quantities of fossil fuels for production and transportation. The system is vulnerable to rising gas prices which cause food prices to spike, endangering millions. The system has very little resiliency.

These are just a few of the shocking facts uncovered in this documentary. I highly recommend seeing the whole movie and learning about our food supply and the effect on our health, our environment, workers, and our children.

Luckily, the news is not all bad. We can vote to change the system three times a day when we choose our meals. If we choose local, organic, whole food we vote with our fork. Industry will respond to consumer demand. A powerful example of this is the decline of the power of the tobacco industry as consumers became educated and aware and made healthier choices. We can also lobby our legislators to pass food safety laws which protect consumers.

The first step is awareness. The next step is action....


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Out of Africa

I finally managed to succumb to the cold/fever which is afflicting almost everyone I know. So I spent a lot of the weekend finishing reading Three Cups of Tea and watching the epic Out of Africa.

Out of Africa is a memoir of the life of Karen von Blixen on a coffee farm in Kenya during the last decades of the British Empire. The movie raises unanswerable questions about colonialism, power, modernization, ownership, and also choices in marriage, love, and fidelity. Karen is rather enlightened in that she provides health care and education to the Kikuyu who live and work on her farm, but the relationship is, nevertheless, one of colonialism.

When Karen's marriage of convenience to the philandering Baron Bror von Blixen fails, she falls for the ultimate unattainable man, Denys Finch Hatton, played by Robert Redford.

The movie is replete with scenes of beautiful African wilderness and wildlife, which alone is a reason to watch it. It was the perfect movie to watch while nursing a cold and wrapped in a blanket and daydreaming of travels in Africa...


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