Wednesday, January 31, 2007
This author, of last year's outstanding The Omnivore's Dilemma, has an article in the nation's paper of record (the "Magazine," actually), which nicely encapsulates many of the problems with the US industrial food system (and make no mistake, "industrial" is the best term here) and the way we eat. If readers are too consumed with other matters to make it through the book, this article is a nice summation of the topic. Pay particular attention to how the food industry, through its lobbyists and bought-and-paid-for representatives in Congress, manipulates official government recommendations on what should constitute healthy eating. Also particularly insightful is the discussion on why "scientific" findings regarding diet are frequently wrong. Towards the end, Pollan has some rules or suggestions on what to eat (which is what we really want to know, isn't it?):
1. Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims.
3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.
5. Pay more, eat less.
6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks.
8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden.
9. Eat like an omnivore.
Peruse the article for the explanatory comments. The man really does have a fine perspective on the whole question of what and how we should eat. Since most of the sentient beings in Chaos' world consume food, this is a somewhat burning question (Chaos has always been somewhat of a gourmet, in fact).
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Last week, Chaos sorta ignored the latest sign that the citizens of the world's most frivolous nation have reached new heights of silliness, having been driven crazy by the overabundance of a peak energy environment: a new pill for obese dogs. However, when the phenomenon occurs twice in a fortnight, its time for action, or, at least a few words. Here's the latest: beer for dogs. Chaos thinks that the two events are somewhat backward in time, but at least at present, your pet can sit back on the couch with you and enjoy a cold one, and later, take a pill along with you to mitigate the weight gain. As an example of "peak" everything, this is certainly a fine one, and one can only think things cannot really continue to reach higher levels of absurdity for much longer.
Monday, January 22, 2007
There has been much discussion throughout the community about growth, the need for enhancing our transportation system, toll roads and the role of the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority. (Yeah, a lot of people around here don't like the idea of toll roads; wonder why..)
The Alamo RMA was created to work with the community to explore and develop mobility solutions to help keep our region moving forward in the face of continued growth. We are making every effort to ensure that local voices throughout the community are heard in the discussions, evaluations and debate — not only on tolled lanes, but on various other transportation options and improvements. (Those voices are heard, all right, and then they're ignored. And the 'other options'? They don't exist.)
We are here to listen. We are here to work with our partner agencies and, most important, to work with our community to find solutions to today's transportation problems. We need to face the reality that we have seen a dramatic increase in population and a resulting surge in congested roads and highways. (Hmm...increased population and decreased quality of life? Ever heard of that little correlation?)
I wish there were a quick fix. I wish we could expand funding sources for highway construction and maintenance. I wish we could build projects quicker. I wish we didn't have to spend increasing and countless hours each week looking at the car stopped in front of us on our highways and interstates. (Chaos wishes the city wasn't run by delusional pro-growth hacks like this one, who seems to think we can build our way out of an unsustainable lifestyle).
During the next 25 years, an estimated 1 million new residents will be moving into this region. Businesses are moving to San Antonio, bringing with them higher-paying jobs and more opportunities for our city to grow. (Ok, this is the city that wants to rival India for call centers? A million more residents? How many more Mountains of Shame does one community need? And why is growth considered good? A cancer cell is the only entity that enjoys unlimited growth).
More and more residents are looking for new ways to travel throughout the city to ensure quality of life as we work and enjoy all that is San Antonio. Unless something is done soon, we won't be in the position to enjoy the unprecedented growth and prosperity. (Chaos supposes that 'new ways' to travel will include sitting in ever longer traffic jams, because building more freeways will guarantee it. The only people who 'enjoy' the increased growth and prosperity are those who run things...the rest just put up with the mess).
Accelerating transportation projects makes good economic sense. It is important to realize that we can buy more today than we can buy tomorrow in terms of highway project costs. (And we could surely buy a whole lot more than that 20 years ago, so we should have paved over the entire area back then, right?).
There is no silver bullet to solving congestion and no single funding method to address our growing transportation needs. We need new ways to finance, build and maintain roadways. (Ever hear the one about how building new freeways just increases the traffic? Ever been to California?)
I think we all agree that we need a balanced approach to meet these challenges. We need integrated road, rail and bus systems to keep a major metropolitan area like San Antonio moving forward. (This is just simply a lie. No such things exist here, and no plans to make them so. 85% of residents get to work in a single car.)
By having a balanced approach to meet our needs and by considering a variety of funding solutions — from gas tax to tolling — we can keep our community moving forward. (Does 'moving forward' stop when we hit the brick wall of finite resources? How much growth is enough? When does it stop?)
At the Alamo RMA, we are laying the groundwork to help address this coming growth, which also addresses the congestion we see today. (By building more freeways).
We need to be visionary. While we debate change, we ask for your help in embracing new ideas and concepts. We ask for you to be open to finding innovative approaches to transportation and congestion relief. (Toll roads are the only option, despite what anybody says. 'Not driving as much' is never even going to be mentioned.)
In the coming months, we will provide opportunities to hear your input through public meetings and open houses, and we look forward to a continued dialogue. (And then we'll just do what we said we would at the beginning).
Together, we can create roadways that are built years and decades sooner, which will cover their own maintenance, and allow limited state and local funds to be spent on other projects to keep our community moving. (The reason there are no state funds for highways is because the Lege spent all the proceeds from the gas tax on other stuff).
The Alamo RMA, contrary to some assertions, is not simply a "tolling authority." Toll revenue, while controversial — and a stark challenge to the status quo — is an important element into the funding discussions. Yes, we are looking at toll financing as an option to help build roadways. No, that is not all we are about. (Chaos is willing to suspend some disbelief here and would ask the writer to prove it by coming up with a plan for dedicated bike lanes, stopping suburban sprawl, and some light rail, instead of highways).
We are committed to finding ways to bring relief to our community, to helping finish needed projects and to listening and respecting the voices of our community. (When you're in a hole, perhaps it's best to stop digging. What does Peak Oil have to do with highways? Think about it).
At the end of the day, our mission is a simple one — to move people faster, to find new solutions we haven't tried yet, to make use of every tool and resource and to ensure that we solve the problems of today now instead of leaving a burden for future generations. (How about the 'burden' of a planet with species and habitat destruction, polluted water, soil, and air, and disastrous climate change? You might want to address these before mouthing pious platitudes).
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Friday, January 19, 2007
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Friday, January 12, 2007
Monday, January 08, 2007
A few weeks ago Chaos was performing almost-daily ablutions to the God of Exercise, this time on a bicycle, and when rounding a corner came face to face with a large mountain of dead trees, seemingly three or four stories high, in the middle of a field. As amazing as this was, and as a symbol of the local environmental destruction, it was small potatoes for what happened next: someone set it on fire, and it will burn by itself for quite a long time (a year or more) if not extinguished, which of course will cost quite a lot of money (hence the reluctance of various state and local officials to get involved). Much has been made in the local media about "health hazards" of the said burning, but nothing mentioned about what an embarrassing symbol of willfully ignorant environmental disaster this is. The sickening irony is almost perfect: not only do the effects of the destruction of the ground cover (for enabling the building of unsustainable suburban sprawl)linger for years, but the detritus actually further contributes to air pollution. As a further totem of the cluelessness of the local population, this is fine beyond measure. Chaos wishes to have the wit to make this stuff up, but unfortunately, reality is much more bizarre than imagination.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
A couple of slightly off-topic comments on today's post: recall that European countries also have had very high gasoline taxes for quite some time, and typically use 50% less energy per capita than the US. Also, Japan's birthrate has been quite a bit below replacement rate for quite some time, and its population will be the first to undergo a massive age shift, to be followed by quite a few European nations (and China).
Geography matters, because a nation's culture matters.
Friday, January 05, 2007
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
"It is futile to want the old days back, but that doesn’t mean one should ignore the lessons of the visitable past — say, when there were half that number of people in the country. In some important ways life really was better then because of it. The overcrowded, much noisier, more hectic, intensely urbanized and vertical world of the present can seem hostile and hallucinatory to anyone who knew America in a simpler form.
In my lifetime the population has doubled. I’m glad I grew up when the number of Americans was so much smaller. How does one explain to anyone under 50, or to the grateful unfazed immigrant from an overpopulated nation, that this was once a country of enormous silence and ordinariness — empty spaces not just in the Midwest and the rural South but in the outer suburbs of New England, like the one I grew up in, citified on one margin and thinning to woods on the other. That roomier and simpler America shaped me by giving me and others of my generation a love for space and a taste for solitude."Sadly, the issue is a worldwide one as well, and so there is no escape (or is there? there will be a future post addressing this....) At any rate, this is one well stated and sobering piece of work.