You may have read articles—perhaps even in Grid—touting biofuels as a viable source to meet our energy needs. However, the science of biofuels points to one conclusion: They just don’t work.
The key concept is energy return on investment. Agrifuels—fuels derived from monocrops like corn or sugar—barely produce more energy than it takes to develop them. It takes at least three-quarters of a gallon of oil to produce a gallon of corn ethanol, reports the nonprofit Post Carbon Institute in their Energy Bulletin. This margin of energy is far too small to enable us to substitute agrifuels for nonrenewable fossil fuels. Without Congressional subsidies, largely going to corporate giants such as ADM and ConAgra to support their profits by boosting the price of corn, ethanol as fuel falls on its face. The petroleum needed to produce ethanol precludes independence from imported oil.
I don’t go to coffee shops that often, but I’m obsessed with the waste they generate. (Okay, I’m obsessed with the waste everyone generates). ¶ Coffee shops are big business, and, as such, one with a big footprint. But it’s also an industry with a reasonable shot at attaining nearly zero waste, at least on the retail end—very little that goes into making coffee can’t be easily reduced/reused/recycled.
In europe, they simply call it the common reed, but over here we can’t dignify the villain with such an innocuous name, especially when its scientific name, Phragmites, sounds so sinister: “frag-MITE-ees,” pronounced with a grimace.
"You’re too cute to hate,” I told the hockey puck-sized black turtle as it clawed at me to get down and craned its neck to bite my hand. Biting is cute when the critter is round, helpless and has big, black eyes. Unfortunately, cute doesn’t count for much when you’re holding up development. The bog turtle (classified under the Endangered Species Act as “threatened”), like the desert tortoise in Southern California, is one of those species that gets in the way. If you’re a retiring farmer looking to cash out by selling your land to a developer, a little turtle hiding in marshy, overgrown fields seems like a ridiculous obstacle.
One of the upsides to container gardening is that crops are less likely to succumb to soil-borne illnesses. Unlike traditional farmers and gardeners, container gardeners have the option of starting with fresh, sterile soil each year. If last year’s crops lost the battle against blights, wilts or mildews, then it’s smart to ditch the dirt, sterilize some containers, and start anew. Sadly, that’s rarely enough to keep a garden hale and hearty—every year, it seems as though my garden gets hit with one affliction or another, despite the clean dirt. Prevention is paramount, but when that doesn’t work, witches’ brews and sacrifices to the garden gods are in order.
I confess. I judge books by their covers. I’ll happily lay down an extra couple of dollars for the bottle of wine with the well-designed label. And yes, this unfortunate tendency extends to my little garden. For the past several years, containers sprouting heirlooms with awesome names (Mr. Stripey, Dragon’s Egg, Boothby’s Blonde, Painted Lady) and gorgeous packaging have taken up every available inch of dirt. Alas, the packaging often seems to be better than the yield.
I have many photographs of garter snakes attacking. Some are biting my hand. The others are going after the camera, their pink mouths open wide and ready to do battle. I am usually trying for a more peaceful composition, but garter snakes are fighters—they don’t sit there passively while a monster lifts them way off the ground and points a giant, shiny eye at them.
A retrospective of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s thoughtful, dynamic work (From One to Many: 1956-1974) opened in November at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.