News Roundup: Tuesday 3.18.2014

Searching for inspiration, we attended the Permaculture Voices conference this weekend, and boy did we find it! We were surrounded by wonderful people, all striving and working (and succeeding!) to create a healthier, safer, more-sustainable world. In that same vein, read on about: heroes for the soil; positive movement on toxics laws in California; the healing power of the natural world; and Arianna Huffington’s paradigm-shifting book. We’ve also got a few things that will motivate us to keep on fighting! Have a great week, Warriors!

Words to Live By

“You can't be any healthier than the soil that's feeding you."

— Michael Pollan, Permaculture Voices Conference

Newest News

Soil is Life
It’s easy to take for granted the ground on which we walk, but it turns out that earth is some of the most important stuff on Earth. Dr. Elaine Ingham, soil pioneer and founder of the concept of the Soil Food Web,  spoke at the Permaculture Voices conference this weekend and once again inspired folks to pay more attention to the life-giving force of soil. Along the same lines, the Mother Earth News article below is a great primer on soil health, told through a narrative, and the Food Tank link tells the story of a fabulous organization working to promote healthy soils and healthy people throughout the world.


Growth In the Meat Industry (and our waistlines)
Paul McCartney and Meatless Monday have long been touting the dangers of meat for our health and the environment, but it turns out that the true dangers of meat may not be in the meat itself, but the stuff that goes into the meat. It’s time once again to visit the world of antibiotics. They make livestock grow faster, so do they make us grow faster too? This op-ed gives a history of antibiotics in the meat industry; a history that also coincides with increased obesity in the U.S. (and in other places in the world). It also delves into the world of human-gut macrobiota and poses questions about what antibiotics may be doing to our intestinal communities. You may be joining Sir Paul on Mondays (and every day of the week!) soon. If you are interested in learning more about meat check out Nikolas Kristoff’s review of Christopher Leonard’s new book, The Meat Racket.
The Fat Drug via The New York Times


Pesticide’s Persistent Perniciousness
The folks at Environmental Working Group have been warning us about the dangers of pesticides for the last 20 years, and this week we have more definitive proof that these chemicals are bad for our health. The latest data out of the long-term NIH-funded CHAMACOS cohort study, based in Salinas Valley, California (“the salad bowl of our nation”) shows that the children of mothers who were exposed to pesticides were more likely to have developmental challenges … and more. Learn more about the CHAMACOS study, the results, and the capacity for changes in the The Nation article below. Visit our Get Involved section to learn what you can do ... and learn more about organic farming and how it differs from conventional farming at Myra Goodman’s (co-founder of Earthbound Farms) TEDXManhattan talk.
Pesticides and Health Connected to Get Involved Warning Signs: How Pesticides Harm the Young Brain via The Nation


Get Involved

Protect Organics and Our Food System
If you read the article on the CHAMACOS study above, or you pay attention to our food system, then you are well aware of the dangers of pesticides for our health. It looks like the few protections that we have against these chemicals are once again under attack, through the potential degradation of USDA organic standards. Luckily, the folks at Beyond Pesticides are making sure that this won’t happen. Visit their site to learn more and to see what you can do about it.
Protect Public Trust in the Organic Food Label via Beyond Pesticides Actual Headline name link via source


The Fast Food Frontline

Fighting Fire with Carrots
Junk food advertising is everywhere, but why can’t healthy food be advertised in the same way? The folks at Bolthouse Farms (think baby carrots and juices) and other companies are taking a page from Doritos and Pepsi and revamping their advertising to appeal to the masses. In a related initiative, this company has also developed what they are calling the Food Porn Index. Though the name is unfortunate, the concept is fairly ingenious. It scours the web for images of junk food and compares it to images of healthy food. It’s worth checking out; there are some great images (all very safe for work) and the disparity is alarming. The folks at Bolthouse farms are taking a stand and trying to beat the junk food advertisers at their own tactics. We like it!
Fast Food’s Fastidious Fight
We haven’t seen the end of the wage wars for fast food workers, and for good reason; the true costs of our food system are grossly under represented at every level of the value chain. Workers at McDonalds in three states filed a class-action lawsuit against the fast food giant, claiming exploitative practices against its workers. Read the Slate article below for the scoop. In similar news, some great commentary out of U.C. Berkeley follows the research of Saru Jayaraman and her findings on the treatment of restaurant workers. With research, activism, and lawsuits like this, it is clear that wages for food workers is an issue that we will continue to see in the news.


Prevention News

The Benefits (and limitations) of Fitness Trackers
The Harvard Medical School recently started its annual Longwood Seminars, and this weekend the focus was on the benefits of exercise. And guess, what? There are many! But, what about one of the latest crazes in exercise: fitness trackers? The New York Times was keen to answer that question this week and offered three different articles looking at the pros and cons of these ubiquitous products. Peruse all three and you’ll definitely learn a lot more about these devices and see if one might be right for you.
What Your Activity Tracker Sees and Doesn’t See via NY Times
Activity Trackers Don’t Sense Everything via NY Times
The Monitored Man via NY Times


What We're Watching

The Health of the Natural World
Richard Louv continues to be one of our heroes echoing our belief that the power of connecting to the natural world is one of the main keys to wellness. It should be clear to anyone that he’s got something right, because he is constantly on the move! Last month he was the keynote speaker at the Nature Connect Conference in Australia (read some fabulous commentary on the event via Nurture in Nature), this week he wrote wonderful piece on his blog about learning parenting tips from hummingbirds (if you are parent, don’t skip this one!) and he’ll be speaking in DC later this week. Here’s a news piece featuring Louv, Rue Mapp, founder of Outdoor Afro, and the intentionally designed community Serenbe … all explaining the benefits that the natural world can give to our health when people can easily get outside and even get a little dirt under their fingernails.
How nature can help combat effects of a sedentary lifestyle via Fox News


Wonderful Listening

Huffington Heads Up Healing
Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder will hit the shelves later this month and she was out there this week promoting the book (check out this great video on MSNBC) and her Third Metric Live Event coming later this spring. Cal Thomas describes the main points of the book and gives some interesting commentary. Hear about Huffington’s crusade to heal our culture by  moving us away from working ourselves to the bone and towards connecting to people, not technology.  Also, check out this great article that Mrs. Huffington tweeted on schools changing their schedules so that teens can get more sleep (one of Thrive’s aims is to move our culture away from putting work over rest).
The Good Life via World Radio


A Curry That's Well Worth the Chopping
Butternut squash can be a pain to peel and chop, but its richness and sweetness do well to assuage your chore once it is on your fork. This recipe combines one of our favorite bright orange cucurbits with some classic Indian spices and the ever-stalwart chickpea. Yogurt is optional and butter easily replaced with oil, so this can appeal to those of the vegan persuasion, too. 
Butternut Squash and Chickpea Curry
Photo credit: Wall Street Journal

Total time: 35 minutes
Serves: 4-6

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 10 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • ½ cup tomato purée
  • ½ cup Greek-style yogurt (optional)
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas
  • Cooked basmati rice, for serving
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced scallions


1. Move oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Set a medium pot over medium-low heat. Add butter and cook until melted and foam subsides, about 2 minutes. Stir in turmeric, cumin, cloves, salt, cayenne and sugar and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in tomato purée and squash until well combined. Transfer pot's contents to a large casserole dish and bake on middle rack of oven until squash is browned and easily pierced with a sharp knife, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, season yogurt, if using, with salt.

4. Remove casserole from oven. Stir in chickpeas until well combined. Return to oven and roast, uncovered, until chickpeas are heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Serve over basmati rice. Garnish with scallions and a dollop of yogurt, if using.

Meeru Dhalwala's Butternut Squash and Chickpea Curry via The Wall Street Journal

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