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Can the Tuna

The UN’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species rejected a proposal to completely ban the fishing of Bluefin Tuna today.  It’s been overfished for years, and populations are down to about 15 or 20% of the population in 1970.  But even if the ban had gone through, Japan said they’d opt out of it, which, yes, seems to indicate they don’t understand the meaning of a complete ban.  Instead they successfully argued that someone else should regulate the fish catch, not the UN, which seems to me to skirt the point of collapsing fish stocks and completely unsustainable fishing practices (red herring kills the bluefin tuna!), but it worked.

CITES also rejected a ban on trade in polar bear parts.  Their meeting continues until the 25th of March, and they’re due to address ivory sales and endangered sharks, too.  I feel like with all this important decision-making about the future of some very endangered species, their should have mug shots on their website with important updates about what they’re going to allow to die out more this year, but it’s mostly information about their meeting’s hotel selection.  There is a poignant animal slideshow deeper into the site, though.

How depressing this all is!  I need to stop imaging a group of bears voting on how many humans to harvest and think of anything else.

Environmental Film Festival

There is one.  It’s going on starting tonight or possibly last week at places all around DC.  Website is here, and the list of movies (over 150 of them!) is here.  They have a lot on food this year, plus some on Bhutan and water and dirt, and some are documentaries and some have characters and plots and elements of fiction.  You can search what’s playing by day, and so many play each day that if you have an evening to kill you will likely find something interesting.  I’m rather interested in “Last Call For Planet Earth“, which appears to be a series of interviews with architects and planners about how their work relates to the environment.  It’s playing the same day as the Kite Festival on the Mall.  Which is also going on the same time as the Cherry Festival.  DC is going to be crowded, but as long as I get to see hundreds of kites in a blue sky, I don’t care.

March of Time

Hello!  I have been selfish with my time lately, and away from here too often.  Perhaps I have been living alone too long, and my communication skills have deteriorated past the point of blogging.  I’m only taking one easy class this semester, my graduate school applications are all in (I’ll hear back anytime between now and early April), and work is busy, but not that busy.  It’s really just the selfish-about-my-time-thing.  Since I have so much of it back after the stress of last semester, I’m piddling it away on silly things for the sheer joy of having it to waste.

But, I am a month overdue on whatever challenge I was working on, and I’ll have some big life changes soon (this blog possibly won’t be partly Alexandria-related for much longer), and I do like the blogging life, and it has been a nice round two and a half years since I started this, so I have some nostalgia and plans and a few general thoughts to work through.  So!  Onward!

The January Challenge:  Eat all my food.  This was mostly a success.  I learned lots, anyway, like how I should just never, ever, ever buy milk.  No matter how small the carton, it’s not going to be drunk.  I’ve gotten the hang of finishing large bags of greenery, and looking in my fridge and pantry to finish fresh fruit and veggies before I just have cheese and crackers for dinner.  It’s been a good practice to integrate with trying to spend less on food, eat healthier, and prepare more meals for myself.  Not “cook” mind you, just “prepare meals”.

I’ve documented what I learned by creating a chart of “Foods I Eat” and listing foods that I can trust myself to finish all of.  This is helping me edit my grocery lists. For instance, buying avocados and peppers and apples are good, useful choices, but I shouldn’t buy potatoes or onions without a pressing reason, since I’ll probably forget to use them in time.

Forget a February challenge with the snow and such, my challenge was not going insane all alone in my apartment, and that pretty much worked except for a few days in the middle of the snowpocalypse week that were touch-and-go.

March is halfway over, and the challenge for the rest of the month is posting regularly.  Regularly will be defined as posting every other day at least.  This blog keeps me honest about my attempts to live more sustainably, and when I ignore it, my resolve slips.

As for the nostalgia part:  I’ve been writing this blog for two and a half years, during which time I’ve moved thrice (soon to be, er, fource?), switched jobs, begun a career change, and ended a relationship.  The blog is not responsible for all of that, but it helped me organize some thoughts on the career switch.  Following the Eco City Alexandria project got me thinking about planning more seriously.  This blog has changed the way I eat.  I’ve cut meat out almost entirely (though if I am a guest I eat what’s prepared for me, since my vegetarianism is not anyone else’s problem).  (And also sometimes I just want to eat a lamb.)  But I can go weeks happily avoiding meat, and this was inconceivable for me just a year ago.  I’m eating healthier because of it- just paying attention to what I eat causes me to consume more vegetables, which is a thing.

Typing through my environmental worries has also made me much more comfortable about setting my personal goals and boundaries.  There’s still plenty I need to work on- my relationship with water, some of the trash I create, my transportation methods- but I know now what’s easy for me to change, and I’ve changed most of that.  I don’t get a sense of paralyzing environmental guilt in grocery stores anymore when I see plastic packaging.  I’m happy trading off warmer, longer showers in winter for turning the heat lower.  I’m comfortable with my failures at gardening and composting- though I’m ready to try again, with time and hopefully help.  Also charts.

This comfort with my efforts and failures also leads me into ruts, yes, but I can work out of those.  By blogging more.  Starting now.

Valentine’s Day Wine Tasting

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Call your grandmother.

To help you pick a bottle to celebrate your loved ones today, I had a wine tasting this weekend.  Experimental Setup:  About a dozen people, five bottles of wine (to taste- there were some warm-ups), in my apartment, with a wine aroma guide to help us narrow down the smells and tastes.   I’ve managed to find most of the tasting notes my wonderful tasters left behind, and I’ve compiled them (at least the printable ones- descriptions got a bit creative) for you.

These were the wines.  Four of them are made from organic grapes, and the Bus Stop White is certified Fair Trade.  I got the Bonterra Syrah and Orleans Hill Cote Zero (no idea what grape combo that is- bottle has no clues) at the Harris Teeter near Foxchase.  They had a decent selection of organic wine, but hidden in with the normal wines, so you have to hunt.  The Vida Organica and Fairhills came from Whole Foods in Old Town.  The Badger Mountain is from a Trader Joe’s.  None of the bottles cost more than $16, and most were under $10.

In the order we tasted, then:

FairHills Bus Stop White, 2009.  Fair Trade Certified.  Like “getting punched in the face by a grapefruit”.  Lots of citrus fruits, and some people mentioned notes of grass and haystraw.  Best for sipping on a warmer day on a sunnier porch.  I can never think of anything to pair these citrusy whites with myself, but one taster suggested food in cream sauces.

Badger Mountain Chardonnay, 2008.  Organic Vineyard. Smelled of “crazybutter” (yes one word) with some sort of nut undertones (someone said cashews, but I’m pretty sure they were joking).  Nice creamy finish on the taste.  I think drinking it with a meal would pull out some other nice flavors, and it would pair well with spicy foods.

A note on the reds:  I should have let them breathe more.  All three were strong and spicy, and a few minutes of air or decanting would have mellowed them and brought out more flavors.  Note-taking had also, totally understandably, lost its novelty by this point in the evening.

Orleans Hill Cote Zero, 2008.  Organic.  Smelled strongly of alcohol, with various bits of cloves, pepper, tobacco, and raspberries (“like eating a cigarette while snorting a raspberry”).  Would go pretty well with a pizza or other garlic-y tomato-y things.

Bonterra Syrah, 2005.  Organically grown grapes.  We got lots of prunes, raisins, plums, and a bit of pepper here.  The finish was dry.  Seemed like a serious red for a meal of meats.

Vida Organica Malbec, 2009.  Organic grapes.  This is one of my favorites, but it divided the tasting community (at least the ones still paying attention).  Several of us who tend to like malbecs liked it, and others found it completely unappetizing.  More time to breathe would have helped, but we smelled lots of alcohol initially, and some noted green tea taste on the ending- a little dryness.  After plenty of swirling, the raspberry and other dark berry flavors came out, plus the spice on the finish.  The pro-malbec contingent advises you to pair it with anything delicious, since we remember it being really great, but we weren’t really getting very specific at that juncture.

Voila.  Hope it helps!  Have a great Valentine’s Day!

Future Coming Up

I’ve been thinking plenty about the Future lately.  Not about my personal future, not any more than normally, but the Future Of People and Where We’ll Go, and mostly about how I hope it will be pretty cool with spaceships around, and to that we can pull together long enough to make that work.  This is partly because I went to the Air and Space Museum this weekend, and that conjures all sorts of cultural memories of what the Future should look like.  This is also because 2010 is the first year we’ve gotten too that’s a good, round, space-age sounding year.  Also I saw Avatar today, and if that doesn’t make you want some cool space gadgets, and then remember to worry about how humans make moral choices, nothing will.  Not that it’s a morally nuanced movie or anything, but in portraying people as either so flatly evil or so inherently good it reminds you we’re not.

Anyway, we’re getting there, to the Future with the Gadgets, day by day.  Since I’m probably a bit to early to catch the first wave of immigration too the outer planets myself, I’ll have to be content just reading the neat stuff we come up with on the way.  Dig this:  self-assembling solar cells!  That could be cool.  Meat grown in petri dishes!  Barbecue without guilt.  Though Barbecue is so delicious that it’s really hard to feel guilty eating it anyway.  And check out this article on using thorium instead of uranium for safer, cleaner, and cheaper nuclear energy.

In conclusion, I am looking forward to the Future, especially if we get those neat wraparound screens like they have in Avatar.  And if we remember to behave politely once we get into space.

Update: Compressed Goals

It sure is.  And I haven’t filled you in on how my November goal went- the staying warm one?  Or told you my December goal.  I decided it must have been “sustainable holidays” since that seems likely, and because it’s still Christmas time for me- my family was in so many places this year that we still haven’t all gotten together for food and presents.  I get Christmas until Sunday at least.  Plus I posted on holiday stuff a couple times, so that will have to count.

The “staying warm” goal is working a little.  My apartment has very poor heat distribution- the bedrooms get no heat, and have nice huge poorly-sealed windows, so they’re about 15 degrees colder than the rest of the house.  I’ve been keeping a space heater on when I have to be in them, and the covers on my bed are a foot thick, and it’s getting better.  I’m wearing a lot of sweaters to bed.  Keeping the heat at 63 when I’m home (50 or 55 otherwise) and layering worked all through November and most of December.  This apartment loses so much through the windows that in this especially cold snap, I’ve turned it up to about 68 when I’m home, just to make it feel more like 63.

So, my toes have not fallen off (though there have been evenings where I would not have felt it if they had) and trying to stay warm is a lot easier than trying to cool off was last summer.

And December!  Holidays!  Here is a link to how to make origami boxes (scroll down).  Use your 2009 calendars pictures or something similarly classy.  Or tie up presents in fabric– easy, reusable, no bits of tape sticking to you afterward.  This is good info for me, I still have Christmas to do, but you can save it for other gifts (there are plenty of people with January birthdays that sneak up on you because it’s January, aren’t there?) or next year.

That takes care of 2009, then.  I thought of a new goal for the month (not to be confused with a resolution).  I will be working on not wasting food.  I throw away so many half-bags of gross spinach and moldy bread-ends and congealed milk, and I should not waste food or money that way.  I will clean out my fridge and start fresh, and consume.  I began this Monday.  I got a smaller bag of spinach than normal, and I have eaten from it every day.  On day one, I had a bowl of raw plain spinach- all my salad dressings have gone bad.  I didn’t know salad dressings went bad.  This led to a humbling realization of just how terrible I am to have in control of a kitchen.  But now I have some balsamic vinaigrette, so it’s not so hard to eat spinach.  I’ve had salads, a spinach and cheese wrap, a spinach and cheese sandwich…I still have more spinach left.  Those bags are deceptively full, but I think I can finish it this weekend.   On the upside, finishing the one (of three, urp) jug of uncurdled milk with require me to have a lot of hot chocolate in the next three days, so that will balance all the spinach.

In conclusion, Happy New Year!  Hope yours is starting out well.  Mine is starting out…leafy.

Pregaming for the Holidays: Making a List

Hope you had a good Thanksgiving!  Mine was very relaxing.  I overheard my younger cousins discussing who was better at recycling and had hope for the world.  And nobody murdered me when I kept wondering aloud how many of the items we saw in our annual Reading Of The Seasonal Catalogs were made with child and/or slave labor.  This leads obliquely to my point:  Do you know who made what you want for Christmas?

While you’re looking for local/organic/fair trade/sustainiwhatever stuff for other people, take a look at your own wish list.  Are you asking for stuff that reflects your values?  Do you really want this stuff, or will it just get shoved in a drawer by February?  Instead of stuff, could people give you gifts of time- help with a project, dinner out, concert tickets? Are you dropping hints that you’d prefer handmade jewelry from a skilled local artisan/fair trade doodads/organic clothing to substitutes from a big box store?  Are these hints loud enough?

My immediate family has a highly effective system of a) asking each other what we want and b) including direct links in the reply emails, so there’s no hinting about it.  I’m trying to make sustainable choices.  A magazine I want comes in an online version- less expensive and less environmental impact.  I’m linking to books I want from BetterWorldBooks instead of Amazon this year, too- they fund literacy and have free shipping (and can typically beat Amazon’s prices, which they include on each page).  Found a few pretty things I want at etsy, of course.

But it’s not all so easy to make green choices when ‘wanting’ is involved.  I’m having a moral dilemma about the Slanket this year.  I would really like a thick blanket with sleeves. That would make me very happy.  But all I know is that while the Slanket started out being made in Maine as a family business, it’s now manufactured in China.  The business is still run in Maine, but I don’t really know much else about the process.  except they do donate a portion of the profits to charities, according to the website.  It’s all polyester fleece material.  So does it meet my supposedly high standards for gettin’ stuff?

Well.  Consider the alternatives.  The smaller, cheaper Snuggie (can’t find any info at all on how they’re made, and the low price point makes me pretty sure it’s not with unionized labor) is a definite no.  I could make one in an organic fabric- I have a sewing machine and I think I get the concept of sleeves.  But this does not reward the brilliant inventor of a sleeved blanket.  I could send Slanket $5 and make my own.  This convoluted option probably gets most of my principles in, but.  Seriously?  Dah.  Oh!  Slanket could make one in an organic fabric!  And tell us how their Chinese factory operates!  I’ll write them a letter to that effect, but it does not solve my immediate problem.

Anyway.  I will continue having this dilemma until Christmas, at which point I will or will not receive a Slanket.  And if I do, I’m betting living in it for a week will numb the environmental unease.  If I don’t get one, problem solved.


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