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    Land-Use Reform in China; 365 Days of Trash Paid Member

    Rural reform is a big part of communism -- take the huge estates, break them up into plots for small farmers to work, and so on, but the state owns the land. China is moving in the opposite direction and starting to re-privatize the land. (In North Korea, where people are starving, this would have a big impact. Fields that people own seem to produce more.) China's communism is very pragmatic and based on money these days rather than ideology. Money will keep them in power. Beijing wants farmers to consume: Increasing incomes in the countryside is a major part of the government’s effort to raise China’s domestic consumer spending at a time the overall economy is slowing. More than 700 million people are still designated rural inhabitants, yet their spending is minimal. More »
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    The Hidden Costs of Eating Meat Paid Member

    Ezra Klein, who blogs so often and well on food-related issues, discusses feedlots, where most of our meat comes from, the subsidization of meat which hides its true cost, and Michael Pollan's food proposals for our next president. Overconsumption of meat imposes huge costs on both the environment and on public health. And that's to say nothing of the indefensible cruelty that characterizes CAFO operations. Yet we spend billions to subsidize ever cheaper meat. And billions more to treat the ill health that results from our meat-heavy diets. And we will pay billions, even trillions, more, to handle the environmental damage that eventually results from these policies. More »
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    Eat Less Beef II: Convenience Paid Member

    Yes, the ethanol-corn debate is boring. So grass makes better ethanol than corn. Yawn! We're saturated with this stuff. But read on for some eyebrow-raising numbers (maybe). Foreign Affairs, in an article updated in May 2008, pronounces: In 2008, 30 percent of the U.S. corn crop will be used for ethanol. Meanwhile the Nebraska Corn Board, on an undated page, says: Livestock continues to be the corn grower’s most stable and important customer, consuming about 45 percent of U.S. More »
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    Police State 2.0? Paid Member

    Naomi Klein discusses how China used the Olympics as a chance to tighten security. Activists in China now find themselves under intense pressure, unable to function even at the limited levels they were able to a year ago. Internet cafes are filled with surveillance cameras, and surfing is carefully watched. At the offices of a labor rights group in Hong Kong, I met the well-known Chinese dissident Jun Tao. He had just fled the mainland in the face of persistent police harassment. After decades of fighting for democracy and human rights, he said the new surveillance technologies had made it "impossible to continue to function in China." Mikel Dunham on the question of Indian vs. Chinese influence in Nepal. More »
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    PB&J will save the planet — which bedbugs hate Paid Member

    Ezra Klein on the wisdom and all-around goodness of eating less meat. I hadn't thought of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich being a "plant-based lunch" before: Each time you have a plant-based lunch like a PB&J you'll reduce your carbon footprint by the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over an average animal-based lunch like a hamburger, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, or chicken nuggets. For dinner you save 2.8 pounds and for breakfast 2.0 pounds of emissions. Those 2.5 pounds of emissions at lunch are about forty percent of the greenhouse gas emissions you'd save driving around for the day in a hybrid instead of a standard sedan. PB&J three meals a day? More »
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    Molting Paid Member

    It was a tiny feather, not more than an inch and a half in length, pale gray and barely discernible against the matching gray surface of the sidewalk. And then there was a second feather as well. It’s unlikely that I’d have noticed them at all if a little breeze hadn’t blown them about just as I came along. This was in mid-August, and the House Sparrows that nest in the hollows and crevices under the eaves of the building that houses Chico Natural Foods we’re beginning their fall molt from breeding plumage into their winter feathers. More »