27 January 2008

Meat Consumption and the Environment

The New York Times has a good overview of the environmental consequences of world consumption of meat today. See "Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler."

The article concludes, oddly, with the note that the author of the piece, Mark Bittman, has also written “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” but is himself not a vegetarian.


25 January 2008

Fuel Economy

Mother Jones on maximizing fuel consumption through driver habits:

This Guy Can Get 59 MPG in a Plain Old Accord. Beat That, Punk.

The reports are that Prius drivers' fuel economy increases by up to 20 percent over the first year as they learn from constant feedback to avoid driving habits that use more gas. If anybody is reading this, can you tell me where to get a fuel economy meter to install in my car?

24 January 2008

Nutrition Fictions

January 24, 2008

PepsiCo, Inc.
700 Anderson Hill Road
Purchase, NY 10577

Dear Pepsi Employee,

I’m writing about the bottle of, uh, beverage I bought earlier this evening. In Penn Station, I was looking for something healthy, and in a refrigerator case on the other side of the counter in one of the little shops, I saw a bottle of “Ruby Red Grapefruit Dole 100% Juice.”

Only after I had paid and been handed my purchase was I able to read the small print at the bottom of the label, written in white on light green: “Ruby Red Grapefruit Flavored Juice Blend”

This discovery led me to the ingredient label, where I found a list including water, concentrates of grape and apple juice in addition to grapefruit juice, water, and five other ingredients.* One of these is carmine, which I learned from Wikipedia is “is a pigment of a bright red color obtained from the carminic acid produced by some scale insects, such as the cochineal and the Polish cochineal.”

I’m a vegan.** This is not a good discovery. And it really makes me wonder what might be in the “natural flavor” listed a little farther down on the label.

The “100% juice” claim is repeated in two other places on the bottle’s label. I do assume that this is legal, in accordance with some carefully worded, international agri-business-approved law, but whether it’s accurate is another issue altogether.

I would respectfully ask that you clearly label the juice products to which you add animal products and other non-juice elements. I would also respectfully ask that you print the Pepsi name in more prominent type: had I known this product was one of yours, I would not have been fooled into buying it.

Thank you for your time.

Heide Estes

*The complete list: filtered water, grape juice concentrate, ruby red grapefruit juice concentrate, apple juice concentrate, pectin, ascorbic acid (vitamin c), carmine (color), citric acid, natural flavor.
**That means if it comes from an animal, I don't eat it.

Laundry List

What I took for a cold, just to get some sleep last night:
  • Mucinex, with guaifenisin to thin the mucus
  • Decongestant spray to make it go away
  • Airborne, in case all the herbs have any effect
  • Breathe Easy tea, ditto
  • Kold Kare, ditto
  • One aspirin, to take the edge off the aches and pains
  • A benadryl, to counteract the tea and the decongestant, both of which make me jittery
Oh, and a multivitamin.

It's a wonder my stomach didn't explode.

22 January 2008

Black Blog

I sent this letter to the New York Times; it also explains why I've redesigned my blog with a black background, rather than white. Next project is a redesign of my web page.

According to:


web pages with black background require less power to view than web pages with white background.

This web page


shows some other low-energy colors.

How about a redesign with a darker background? Given that you must have a gazillion viewers, it might actually have some sort of aggregate effect.

Thanks for your time.

21 January 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

It was approved for construction in Washington in 1996. Land has been set aside, a design has been chosen, and still it languishes while funds are raised.

If you'd like to help realize the dream of construction of a memorial for Martin Luther King, Jr., you can read more, and make a donation, here:


Martin Luther King Day

In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., said in Washington, "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. "

We've come a long way in these 45 years, but we're not there yet. We Caucasian Americans need to examine the contents of our own characters, day after day, to discover and root out the myriad ways in which we continue to benefit from institutions, social conventions, and individual interactions that maintain our privilege.

180 degrees away, we Americans of economic comfort need to examine the ways in which our culture of consumption is destroying poor nations -- also nations filled with people of color -- through the interconnected phenomena of deforestation, chemical fertilization, aggressive mining, and so many other acts destructive of land and contributory to global warming.

Yes, I oversimplify. But there can be no fundamental change while we continue in our current consumptive ways.

With King, I dream: "When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!' "

I dream beyond the borders of these United States: I dream that Israel and Palestine, India and Pakistan, Serbia and Croatia, and the war-torn nations of Africa will find peace. And soon.

20 January 2008


The New York Times reports today that increasing demand for plant oils is causing food prices to spike worldwide. And John Gray argues in The Guardian that Bushies and environmentalists alike are too focused on switching to alternative fuel sources. Gray's headlining claim is that we need "the technologies we fear", primarily nuclear power, to stave off global warming. However, his argument rests on the observation that "the most fundamental fact about the environmental crisis [...] is that it cannot be resolved without a major reduction in our impact on the Earth.

In other words, eco shopping and wind farms are just a small part of the equation; a bigger part is reducing consumption of fuel and the manufactured goods that require more fuel for production and transportation.

14 January 2008

Fair Trade Salvage Furniture

My neighborhood Gristede's is now carrying fair trade sugar. Better yet, in the midst of trying to get a new (to me)* book case I stumbled across Bazaar de la Paz, which imports furniture from Indonesia made out of salvaged wood, with fittings made of salvaged brass. The company is also certified as complying with fair trade practices, and is replanting forests to become carbon neutral. Beautiful furniture you can feel really good about buying: check 'em out.

*Used is even better: it keeps something out of the landfill and avoids the various ecological costs of new production, including shipping of components and the finished product as well as the various chemicals used in manufacture. But after weeks of combing Craig's List, I wasn't coming up with a whole lot other than Ikea particleboard, and ten years out of grad school, I'm trying to stop living like a student.

09 January 2008


The good folks at the 181st Street Beautification Project have put up signs: the compost bins are full, and they can't take any more compost until spring. Not only was I going to start composting again (I fell off the ... barrel ... last fall), but I was going to get a little exercise by walking over there to drop off my apple cores and beet peels four or five days a week.

Wrote a letter today to New Jersey Governor Corzine, asking him to spend some of the increase in roads taxes to improve service on New Jersey Transit train and bus lines. If you want to get people off the roads, there has to be a viable alternative, and two hours and forty-five minutes one way to get from my home in Manhattan to my job 65 miles away in New Jersey isn't viable.