Meat Industry: Have MRSA on Us

How to lose at Russian Roulette: 1) point this undercooked burger at your mouth, and 2) bite. (Photo by Marshall Astor, Food Pornographer/Flickr)

If the study released yesterday had found that half of all the bottled water on store shelves was contaminated with infectious bacteria, America’s streets today would look like Egypt’s Tahrir Square just before Mubarak fled. And if the industry had responded by saying, “Hey, it’s perfectly safe if you boil it, what’s the problem?” make that Egypt after the Six-Day War. Yet what the study found was in two respects much worse than that, and it has thus far produced mostly yawns of protest. Continue reading

The Empty American Street

The Arab Street (this one happens to be in Edinburgh, Scotland) is thriving. The American Street, a right-of-way for righting wrongs and warning of peril? Not so much. (Photo by baaker2009/Flickr)

The Arab Street — a slangy term for popular opinion and activism in that part of the world — is brimming with energy and resolve, it is, as they say, kicking ass and taking names in this amazing Arab spring. The American Street is empty, and it is still winter there. Continue reading

California Reaming: Big Ag Trashes Central Valley

First you blame me for global warming cause I get gas. Now you tell me there's crap in your water? (Photo by Gabrielle Gagne)

California’s Central Valley is probably the best example of the past success and imminent failure of industrial agriculture. The signs of the scope and proximity of the failure are accumulating fast, but while the past success has many wealthy fathers, the coming failure is an orphan. Continue reading

Peak Phosphorous: Worse than Peak Oil?

Whether in a farm pond like this, or the Gulf of Mexico, algae blooms stimulated by wasted fertilizer are deadly to marine life. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we're running out of fertilizer.

Here’s the bottom line, obvious to all but the most arithmetically challenged: when you base an entire civilization on the rapid consumption of a limited resource, you guarantee the collapse of that civilization on the day the resource is exhausted. But the ride to that final day is not a smooth one; you also guarantee that chaos will ensue from the time that there is not enough left of the depleted resource to meet all demands. Running completely out of water is a shared disaster, but when there’s enough water for some but not all, choosing the “some” gets ugly, real fast. It has gradually dawned on a growing number of people that this is the bottom line for oil, but it is not yet widely accepted that the same bottom line, with the same potential for destruction, exists for a number of other substances, especially phosphorous. Continue reading

Reflection: Word Pollution Rots Brains

A word cloud (the more often used, the larger) generated from a speech by Governor Bobby Jindal in 2009. (Photo by Jason-Morrison/Flickr)

While the problems caused by industrial-scale pollution of air, water and land rise inexorably to nostril level, any and all efforts to deal with them are hampered by the deliberate release of toxic words into our language. Like poisons and endocrine-disruptors, toxic words cloud our intentions, weaken our will and muddle our efforts. If we can’t talk clearly about where we want to go and why, we can’t get there. Continue reading

Lousy Fish, Dead Lobsters

One of the world's most noxious enterprises: raising fish in cages. (Photo by Ian Walsh/Flickr)

Give a man a fish and he will have food for a day; teach a man industrial fish production and you can bring famine to his whole world. The latest illustration of that (relatively new) proverb comes from Maine, where raising salmon is threatening everything else.

Industrial salmon production, like all other industrial processes, achieves economy of scale and immediate profit by concentrating and delaying risk. Continue reading

Food Crisis in Germany: a POP is the Weasel

Chicken feed? Diesel fuel? At Harles und Jentzsch we make them in the same tank. Have a little dioxin with your bacon and eggs?

Another major food scare in another part of the world demonstrates anew the boundless greed and clueless lethality of industrial agriculture. Nearly 5,000 farms in Germany were ordered closed late last week because animal feeds for pigs and chickens had been contaminated with dioxin, a toxic and carcinogenic chemical. As always in such cases, the moment the crisis erupted it became apparent that 1) it had been going on for a very long time, perhaps since last March; and 2) that criminal activity may well have been involved. Yet two vital considerations are absent from the media coverage thus far. Continue reading

Chinese Self-Destruction II

Typical Chinese farm

Small, diverse, productive, successful: these are the farms China is replacing, and the results are not good.

While the world watches with a mixture of envy and awe, China rises. Its political, economic and military power grows at dizzying speed, its leaders seem unfettered by any restraints. Yet it is the very restraints that bedevil other countries’ leaders — political opposition, free investigative journalism, special-interest activism, and public, protracted, messy debate — that slow industry’s rush to self-destruction. China started its industrialization well after the West, and may well crash and burn long before the West because the only lesson it has taken from our experience is how to commit suicide faster.

As we have reported here before, China is running chronically short of coal, oil, and electricity. And soon, according to a United Nations investigator, it will be running short of food. Continue reading

Food Fights Coming Soon

National Guard riot training

US National Guard troops train for riot control duty. Several new reports on the world's food supply indicate their services will be needed. (US Army Photo)

Crop failures and food-price shocks, often leading to food riots, are eroding world food security — which is to say they are threatening the existence of a growing number of countries — according to a number of new reports. Climate change is implicated in the most catastrophic of the crop failures this year, but scientists blame industrial agriculture for some of the gravest threats to our food supply that lie just ahead. Continue reading

Breakdown Coming: More Signs and Portents

Photo by cjohnson7/Flickr

The stress on the global web of life applied by a century of industrialization continues to increase as systems within it begin to break down. Nearly buried in the industrial media, amid the relentless stream of industrial optimism — the “we can do it, technology will find a solution” school — that floods our receivers, these stories, this week, reveal glimpses of the dark underbelly of the American way of life to which the world aspires: Continue reading