Unbridled industrialization with almost no environmental regulation has resulted in the toxic contamination of one-fifth of China’s farmland, the Communist Party has acknowledged for the first time.

The report, issued by the ministries of Environmental Protection and Land Resources, says 19.4 percent of the country’s soil is polluted with toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, nickel and arsenic. It was based on a soil survey of more than 2.4 million square miles of land across China, spanning a period from April 2005 until December. It excluded special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.

In a dire assessment, the report says: “The overall condition of the Chinese soil allows no optimism.”

The NPR Report


This week, scientists, farmers and sustainable food systems advocates will gather on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to celebrate an unusual group of honored guests: 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains that are being publicly released using a novel form of ownership agreement known as the Open Source Seed Pledge.

The University of Wisconsin Article

The NPR Report

Brain Dead ~

Food for thought !


Rapid population growth — combined with our highly unbalanced distribution of wealth — and its obvious need for more resources (water, energy, food) may lead to a breaking point beyond which civilization becomes unsustainable.

Simply put, if you don’t have any water to drink or food to eat but your neighbors do and won’t share, you and your buddies are going to yank it away from them. Social unrest is not a joke.

The NPR Report with links to the Study

EVERYTHING around me indicates humanity needs to make rapid changes in their cultural and economic values.

On a cold, blustery day at Port Elizabeth in New Jersey, one of several massive cranes whirs along a rail high above the pier, picks up a heavy container from a ship’s deck and loads it on a waiting truck back on land. The truck drives away, another arrives, and the whole process starts again.

It’s a scene played out every day along America’s coasts as massive container ships from across the globe pull into deep-water seaports, waiting to be unloaded. The ships are enormous — some 10 stories high and several football fields long.

Mark Hanafee, director for safety at the terminal, says no one on the pier knows for sure what’s inside them.

“We know the contents of anything that’s hazardous, but general cargo we don’t know. It could be chicken, clothes, auto parts, anything — computers, televisions,” Hanafee says. “We’re an import society. We import everything.”

Chris Koch, president of the World Shipping Council, says demand for cheaper goods over the past couple of decades has driven the shipping industry. He points to Walmart, which he says brings in more than 360,000 of the 40-foot cargo containers each year.

“If you add all that up, that’s probably a line of trucks that is somewhere close to 4,000 miles long. That’s a lot of cargo,” he says.

The NPR Report

SAT Testing…

Throughout my school life I’ve certainly taken more tests than most (combining Catholic schools with a rigorous small engineering school).

Did I learn anything from tests? Nothing, other than the art of test-taking.

Did I learn more because I knew I was going to be tested? Extremely doubtful.

Were there negative aspects of all the testing? Absolutely. Rather than better understanding my interests and motivation, I spent huge amounts of time ‘anticipating a test’.

Leon Botstein, the President of Bard College, does an interesting critique of the SAT Test.

I would add that the current preoccupation with standardized public school testing seems just an indication of how badly public education has ‘lost’ the relationship between student and teacher.

By most measures, David Kesten’s hens are living the good life.

“They can act like chickens, they can run around,” says Kesten, who’s raising hens in an old wooden shed in the open countryside near Concordia, Mo. “They can go out and catch bugs, they can dig in the ground.”

But most U.S. hens live crammed into very close quarters, according to Joe Maxwell, with the Humane Society of the U.S. And he says that’s just wrong.

“There are some things we should not do to animals,” says Maxwell.

California voters felt the same way, and six years ago they passed Proposition 2, requiring California producers to provide cages that are almost twice as large as most chickens have now. The Legislature followed that with a law requiring that all eggs sold in California be raised under those conditions.

The NPR Report