Monday, May 2, 2011

news on the wrong day...

The news business is weird. Like today... the store where I shop for most of our groceries gets a wide variety of papers, from the Times to WSJ to about 10 Oregon papers. It was a trip to stand in front of the rack this morning... virtually every headline (the Times the exception, because it was printed too early): BIN LADEN DEAD. Then, just slightly smaller, "Justice has been done", quoting Obama. Justice... doesn't that mean like a trial, like capture and charges and juries and judges? Seems to me if you decide a guy is guilty, and then go and kill him, it's a stretch to call it 'justice'. Anyway, the guy is dead (if you believe the US Government). Now we should be braced for some real action against Americans. Burning Korans was a bad idea. Killing Bin Laden may be a far worse idea. Stay tuned...

Two very good articles on page 1 of the NYTimes today. The first is "Another Side of Tilapia, the Ideal Farm Fish", by my favorite, Elizabeth Rosenthal. She writes from Agua Azul, Honduras. I'll do a few random quotes:

You're aware, I think, that fish is often promoted as 'healthy' food. "The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week". But "... farmed tilapia contains a less-healthful mix of fatty acids (the reason fish is recommended) because the fish are fed corn and soy instead of lake plants and algae, the diet of wild tilapia".

And "... environmentalists argue that intensive and unregulated tilapia farming is damaging ecosystems in poor countries with practices generally prohibited in the United States". I quote Dr. Jeffrey McCrary, an American fish biologist who works in Nicaragua: "We wouldn't allow tilapia to be farmed in the United States the way they are farmed here, so why are we willing to eat them? We are exporting the environmental damage caused by our appetites".

Think about that. It's exactly the same as all those imports from China... we don't make that stuff here because the costs, if we follow all the required environmental rules, would be prohibitive. So how are fish different?

And from another viewpoint... the global dispersal of tilapia "was maybe not the best idea because the fish is one of the most invasive species known and very hard to get rid of once they are established." Wild tilapia have squeezed out native species in lakes throughout the world with its agressive breeding and feeding. Many biologists worry that the big business of tilapia farming will outweigh caution, leaving dead lakes and extinct species.

And "For United States shoppers picking up tilapia from China or Honduras or Nicaragua or Ecuador, there is little official guidance. It's such a complicated job for consumers to decide what to eat, with aquaculture production expanding so rapidly", according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's popular Seafood Watch, an independent consumer guide to buying sustainable fish.

I happened to read this article this morning while sitting in the cafe of Market of Choice, a new upscale grocery here in Corvallis. So I walked back to the fish section. Sure enough, the label read "Fresh Honduras Tilapia". The guy behind the counter knew about some of the issues, and was willing to admit the Honduras fish is not their first choice, but that domestic supplies are essentially nonexistent. They refuse to buy fish from China... too polluted.

The issue is important. Our consumer choices affect the environments of those poor countries... the Central Americans and others who have been seduced by the American appetites. The dead lake in Nicaragua (Lake Apoyo, which is without fish or plants since a tilapia farm which existed from l995 to 2000, polluted the lake and killed everything, including the farm) is a harbinger of more troubles. An important article, and principle.

Also on page one today, "Gulf Spill is Casting a Shadow Over Shell's Plans in Alaska", from Savoonga, Alaska. About Shell's efforts to get permission to drill in a 'forbidding region' of extreme weather and deep waters. "Shell's application will pose a test for Obama, who promised to put safety first after the BP spill in the Gulf". And this issue would be a no-brainer, I think, (drilling up there is just too fraught with potential for disaster), except for one fact: "Alaska once accounted for a third of this nation's production, but its fields are now in steep decline. The decrease in production threatens the continued safe use of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, also know as TAPS, which requires a steady flow of oil to avert corrosion and spills".

So... the pressures of our addiction (and our behaviour in the oil business is entirely addiction-driven) and post-peak oil (all the easy stuff has been found and burned) will probably force Obama to approve this very dangerous drilling activity. Susan and I are working 24/7 to end our addiction. We drove our car less than 50 miles in April, and we're hoping for even less in May. Then maybe we can finally get rid of our car. It takes some life-style adjustment, so priority changes, but we think it's doable. We'll never be entirely free of the oil-based economy (just look at the bananas and oranges in the fruit bowl), but it's certainly worth some effort to gain more freedom. The tornadoes last week were partly our fault, for which we apologize.

Not an easy time to be a Buddhist. Again, I'll recommend "A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency", published by Wisdom Publications in Boston, edited by three well-known Buddhist scholars (Heidi has worked with one of these guys, and our copy of the book was a gift from her). Well worth the time it takes to read this enlightened series of essays by articulate men and women. Not an easy time to be a Buddhist.

From Ato Rinpoche: "I think everybody including political and religious leaders should discuss global warming. Everybody has to take responsibility. Everybody needs to work together and then something positive can result."

And from Hozan Alan Senauke: "Act mindfully and correctly, irrespective of results. Do things because they are the proper things to do. Our national moral authority flows from a willingness to make personal sacrifices. The world is what you make it...".




  1. Thank you, Costa, I love this.

  2. "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
    —Martin Luther King