Food is a tricky. For some people, food choice is an essential component of cultural heritage and national identity. For others, food choice is a statement of philosophical or moral principles. For many, being able to reject food is an unobtainable luxury. One thing is certain: food is so central to the human experience that when we question our food choices, when we are forced (or force others) to change them, when we discover that the choices we make are not what we think they are, it is impossible to separate our food ethics from our social structure. Which is why seemingly trivial revelations–bugs in your coffee, meat made slime, or a fish by any other name–often result in major outrage and structural changes. Eating is simultaneously a deeply personal experience and one in which, for much of the developed world, we are completely detached from the source.
So you’ve decided to commit to a more sustainable lifestyle, you’ve built a Pico-farm and are ready to stock it with a flock of happy, egg-laying chickens. Congratulations, you’ve reached the fun part.
Before you go out and buy chickens, you need to ask yourself a few questions: do you want hens only, or do you want a rooster for breeding? Do you want to raise them from chicks or buy adults ready to lay? How big a flock do you want?
Several months ago, I began a new personal challenge to live more sustainably. I wanted to do something more substantial and larger in scale than the conventional methods of reducing your environmental impacts, which involve changes in habit, not changes in lifestyle. After many discussions, Bluegrass Blue Crab and myself decided it was time to try our hands at backyard agriculture.
The world is rapidly approaching 7 billion people and the challenges of food supply, security, and sustainability will, along with climate change, be the defining issues of the 21st century. While the issues of the wealthiest nations revolve around the quality of our food, the environmental impact or our farming practices, and the value we place on a perceived degree of “naturalness”, the rest of the world is simply concerned with having enough to eat. What we chose to value in our society affects the rest of the world, and perhaps the most visible, and most dramatic difference between the developing and developed world is the ways in which we treat our pets.
The Nicholas School of the Environment is hosting the Flat Grok Video Contest.
We are on an unsustainable course. While world populations and consumption grow, resources diminish and global warming threatens our way of life. In his blog The Green Grok, Dr. Bill Chameides, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, elucidates causes of and potential remedies for environmental change and identifies pathways towards a more sustainable future. And he wants to know what YOU are doing to create a sustainable future.
Dr. Bill can’t be in all places, so he wants you to videotape his representative, The Flat Grok, on the scene of your sustainable adventure. Are you conserving water? Buying or growing local produce? Changing out all of your lightbulbs to compact fluorescents? Biking to work?
You can check out the contest rules here.
Below is Bluegrass Blue Crab and my entry on raising backyard chickens.
Happy New Year to all our readers! 2010 was a big year for Southern Fried Science. We added a new blogger, moved to our own server, and launched The Gam. Along the way we’ve won a few awards, hosted the first Ocean of Pseudoscience week, cooked a whole pig, exposed some blatant greenwashing, challenged conventional wisdom, laid out the shark ultimatum, crunched the numbers on mercury (twice!), and had some fun along the way. After 365 days, Charlie completed his epic adventure, which spanned three continents and an ocean. I’d like to thank all our readers and commenters for participating last year, and I look forward to hearing from you in 2011.
In the spirit of the pseudoscience of astrology here are our top ten predictions for 2011, based partially on informed guesswork and mostly on Yuengling.
- Largely ignored by the mainstream media, the impact of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill will continue to be felt across the Gulf Coast. BP and NOAA will continue to make it difficult for scientists to get access to sediment cores. The first developmental effects of oil and dispersant exposure to fetuses and young children will be reported.
- Science will be more frequently put on trial, as politicians attempt to supplant peer-review by suing climate scientists and challenging NSF and NIH grants. This approach will backfire as more Americans come to accept global climate change and a new generation of Monkey Trials makes a mockery of anti-science politicians. Both sides will frequently pat themselves on the back and declare victory.
- The Southern Fried Scientist will start raising chickens, Bluegrass Blue Crab will start raising goats, WhySharksMatter will raise some sort of ruckus.
- The economy will improve, just in time for everyone to start campaigning for the 2012 election. All sides will claim responsibility for the recovery and all side will blame the opposition for the collapse. Despite almost every politician claiming responsibility for a now successful economy, most Americans won’t notice any change.
- Sea Shepherd will claim their best year ever in the Southern Ocean whale campaign, despite there being no significant difference in the average number of whales killed since 2005 – 450 (+ or – 50). Theatrics will ensue.
- Several large mammal species will make a comeback, as populations begin to rebound after years of conservation initiatives.
- As the world population continues to grow, people will slowly begin to realize that Malthus was wrong, and that in cases such as India, demographic momentum will have massive positive benefits for quality of life, food availability, and environmental consciousness.
- Every piece of plastic you used last year will still exist this year.
- Sales of hybrid and electric cars will reach an all time high. I will continue to drive the same truck I’ve driven for 10 years until it won’t run, then replace it with something used.
- WhySharksMatter will finish his book – Why Sharks Matter: Using New Environmentalism to Show The Economic And Ecological Importance of Sharks, The Threats They Face, and How You Can Help. He will decide to use a shorter title.
What are your predictions for 2011?
~Southern Fried Scientist