Reducing Food Waste in the Event of An Erupting Volcano and Other Farming Hazards

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

As Iceland's erupting volcano strands thousands of air travelers across Europe and worldwide, a less publicized but arguably more costly catastrophe is mounting 15,000 miles away: piles of gourmet produce and cut flowers, some of Kenya's chief exports, are rotting in limbo. Meant to be shipped to upscale grocery stores throughout Europe, lilies, roses, carnations, carrots, onions, baby sweet corn, and sugar snap peas are going bad in heaps, on the vine, and in the ground because airport warehouses are already full and there's no local market for the expensive produce in a country where half the population lives on less than a dollar a day.

As food prices continue to rise worldwide, reducing food waste will be a critical element in alleviating hunger and poverty worldwide. Already, Nourishing the Planet has highlighted the many ways that growing indigenous vegetables for local markets and improving storage techniques can help to both reduce food waste and improve access to food, in Kenya and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa.

To read more about food waste and ways it can be prevented, see:  Reducing Food Waste, Finding Creative Ways to Grow Food in Kibera, Farming on the Urban Fringe, and Investing in Better Food Storage in Africa. Also, stay tuned for an entire chapter on the subject, written by Tristram Stuart, in State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet.

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Explaining the Swiss Minaret Vote

By: Inoljt,


Switzerland's landslide vote to ban Muslim minarets surprised many pundits and commentators, more familiar with the nation's image as a bastion of tolerance and European enlightenment.

These results, in fact, are not so surprising. They derive from the peculiar structure of Swiss democracy, which effectively creates a voter base less diverse than the general public. These voters are generally predisposed to support such initiatives as the minaret vote.

I am specifically talking about Swiss citizenship. Becoming a Swiss citizen implies that one has become part of the Swiss people, and the Swiss have a very strict definitions of what this means. Since - of course - only citizens may vote, this strictness directly impacts the Swiss electorate.

While Switzerland may have an image as a tolerant place, its naturalization policy is one of the least tolerant in the Western world.

More below.

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U.S. falls behind Europe in Economic Mobility between Classes

In discussing health care, I do not often explain why the issue matters so much. The core issue is that of economic mobility. That is the ability of individual actors in the economy to move up the ladder to the middle and wealthier classes.  Health care cost is one big factor in that picture along with other risk factors like education and housing. The core issue is whether we are building a plutocracy or an economy like you may find in Latin America, Russia or China. For this article, I will focus on economic mobility.

The link below includes a video of Paul Krugman and Eliot Spitzer on Bill Maher's show saying something quite surprising- that the U.S. has less economic mobility than Europe. To me, this is a stunner. I suspected it, but I had always put in the back of my mind. Here's the link: /krugman-the-american-drea_n_300702.html

But is this true? I decided to do a quick search of the issue on Google, and, the answer is "Yes, we seem to have less economic mobility than Europe."

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American Exceptionalism

The phrase 'American exceptionalism' has become toxic for many on the left who resented the Bush administration's arrogance in dealing with the international community, particularly their destructive policies meant to fulfill the neo-con dream of spreading democracy around the world at the barrel of a gun. It wasn't so long ago that criticism of the American president and of America in any way shape or form was equated with anti-Americanism and it was this concept of American exceptionalism that drove these criticisms of the left. Now that we have a Democratic president, it's interesting how suddenly it's patriotic to criticize the president and hope he fails. American exceptionalism, we hardly knew thee.

The other day, President Obama was asked if he subscribes to the notion of American exceptionalism and I agree with Arianna who raved about the president's response on This Week this morning.
He really struck just the right tone, walking a line between nationalistic pride and humility.

Steve Benen has Obama's full response:

"I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I'm enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don't think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.

"And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.

"Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

"And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone."

By both embracing the concept and redefining it completely, the president at once shatters the conservative notion of American exceptionalism and renders his critics who long to lump him into the "blame America first" crowd without a leg to stand on. When you have a Democratic president express American pride with such enthusiasm, what else can a conservative head do but explode? But it is a strange time indeed because not only is the American exceptionalism crowd actively rooting for the president to fail but they are arguing against the exceptionalism of America at every turn. When they rail against unions, raising the minimum wage, imposing stricter fuel standards or capping carbon emissions, the argument is always that it will hurt business. What happened to American ingenuity and innovation and the flexibility of the marketplace? And when they claim on rightwing radio that our freedoms are being infringed and we are on the road to fascism (or Marxism, or socialism...fill in your -ism here), how fragile they think American freedom is. Their entire bluster about the greatness of America seems to actually be obscuring what is really a sense of insecurity about the weakness of America.

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What Was It Like To See The World Change?

It's been a week since I returned to my adoptive homeland. The Flight from JFK ro Fiumincino was suprisingly smooth...or maybe I was just still so stunned and excited to notice turbulence. I teared up only once...on takeoff when flying over Long Island and Connecticut. I was listening to my IPod as soon as I was allowed to. I kept playing one song over and over again;

"Jump" by Madonna.

The song has come to define my own personal struggle post college from job hunting to family situations to my decision to throw caution to the wind and move to Rome with my cousins.

I also used it to pump me up during the campaign. When I first started knocking on doors in Loudoun County in an office full of campaign workers who, at the time of my arrival, were still skeptical of victory in the wake of Palinmania.

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