Friday, April 06, 2007

Party at the Deuce


My roommate and I are having a big birthday bash this weekend on Saturday. We'll be grilling food around 6 (bring your own stuff if you like), and we'll have a keg of Little Apple's Irish Amber. Come one over! I know it will be cold, but not to fear, we have a chimenae.

Address: 404 S. 18th St.
Time: Anytime after 6
When: Saturday 4-7-07

~Sir Knabe



Local Events for National and Global Youth Service Day and Earth Day

Kansas State University, the city of Manhattan and surrounding communities will be offering activities for National and Global Youth Service Day and Earth Day. Below is a partial list of upcoming local events.

This national time of service will be April 20-22, but events in Manhattan and the area will be April 18-22. It is the first time K-State and the community have worked together to mobilize youth through service and education, demonstrating what young people can contribute as leaders in the community.

This year's theme, selected by young people, focuses on reducing solid waste, and various activities and service projects are planned. Area youth and community volunteers are encouraged to participate and can sign up by calling K-State's civic leadership program at 785-532-5701.

The area's National and Global Youth Service Day kickoff will be 9:30 a.m. Friday, April 20, in Manhattan's City Park, Poyntz Avenue and 11th Street. The kickoff will celebrate and recognize youth for their community leadership and volunteer efforts. A proclamation by the city of Manhattan will be read, buttons will be distributed and special thanks will be given to the youth of Manhattan.

Projects and events planned in the area include:

* April 18-22, Onaga Community Development Project, Leisure Land Playground. Recognizing a need for a safe playground to serve Havensville, Onaga and Wheaton. Students in grades K-8 and community members have designed and will construct a handicap-accessible playground. Volunteers are needed each day from 8 a.m. to dark and will work with youth and community members. All supplies and food will be provided. Transportation also will be provided by K-State civic leadership. To participate or for more information, call civic leadership at 532-5701.

* April 20, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Respond, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Manhattan's City Park. Events include displays, educational materials and activities to help youth make environmentally aware decisions. Waste Management will display trucks and have staff available to talk about how to reduce waste and what happens to trash once it is picked up. K-State students, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity's ReStore in Manhattan will ask youth to help decorate doors for display at the Manhattan Town Center. The doors will be auctioned as part of ReStore's grand opening Saturday, May 5. Howie's Recycling will show what recyclable items look like, and Manhattan's Sunset Zoo will be promoting its Go Green Initiative for schools, classrooms and businesses. To be a part of the day's activities, contact AmeriCorps and Lynda Bachelor at 785-532-7607.

* Saturday, April 21, Olsburg community clean up, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Olsburg, a Kansas PRIDE community, will be participating in the Keep Kansas Clean So Our PRIDE Can Be Seen campaign. Volunteers will be cleaning up Osburg's local park by picking up debris, cultivating plant beds, rebuilding horseshoe pits and painting various structures. Volunteers are needed and transportation will be provided by K-State civic leadership, 532-5701.

* April 21, Willie's Fun Zone, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., K-State indoor practice facility. As part of K-State's Fan Fest, K-State students will encourage youth to "practice" football drills, dress up in football gear and get to know how staying physically fit is vital to overall health. To volunteer, call Jennifer Pollard at 785-532-7933.

* April 21, Revitalize the Trails, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The youth board of the Manhattan Community Foundation, Youth Impacting Community, is inviting all Manhattan-area high school students to participate in this communitywide effort to revitalize the trails and parks throughout Manhattan. Youth Impacting Community will coordinate the efforts of area youth organizations and interested youth as they work with the Manhattan Parks and Recreation Department. All high school-age youth are welcome, and organizations are encouraged to participate as a group-building activity. For more information or to receive a participation packet, call the Manhattan Community Foundation office at 785-587-8995.

* April 21, "It's All About Three: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle" trike-a-thon, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., K-State indoor practice facility. The K-State Leadership Studies and Programs Ambassadors will sponsor tricycle races for registered teams and tricycle relays for youth focusing on reducing solid waste. The team entry fee is $30 and all tricycles need to be decorated with recyclable materials. The elimination competition begins at 3:30 p.m. Prizes will be given to the winner of the races and for the best decorated tricycle. Youth tricycle relays take place throughout the day and encourage youth to reuse, restore and recycle. To enter, contact Ella Todd at 785-770-2329.

* Sunday, April 22, Helping Fish Habitat, 9 a.m. to noon, Tuttle Creek Reservoir. The Tuttle Creek Association is looking for volunteers to help set up a man-made fish habitat in the reservoir. Transportation will be provided to the site and lunch will be provided afterward. For more information, contact K-State civic leadership at 532-5701.

* April 22, Earth Day at the Zoo, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Manhattan's Sunset Zoo. In conjunction with the zoo's annual Earth Day celebration, youth will be promoting the expansion of the zoo's Go Green Initiative, a recycling project, to include schools, classrooms, businesses and other organizations. The public will be encouraged to become "green" and experience how big tasks can become small when we work together. For more information, contact Rachel Soash at 785-587-2737.



Food Fight: the 2007 Farm Bill

Here is an interesting article about the role of legislation in determining our food and farm policy in the U.S. The essay is published as part of "Thinking outside the Lunchbox", an ongoing series of essays connected to the Center for Ecoliteracy's Rethinking School Lunch program.

Food Fight: The 2007 Farm Bill

By Dan Imhoff

Every five years, Congress revisits and passes a massive but little understood legislation known as the Farm Bill. This year will be one of those years, and if things play out the way they're headed, this could become the most scrutinized food and farm policy debate in recent history. Originally conceived as an emergency bailout for millions of farmers and unemployed during the dark times of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, the Farm Bill has snowballed into one of the most — if not the most — significant forces affecting food, farming, and land use in the United States. In a country consecrated to private property rights and free market ideals, it might seem hard to fathom that a single legislation could wield such far-reaching influence. But to a large extent, the Farm Bill determines what sort of foods we Americans eat (and how they taste and how much they cost), which crops are grown under what conditions, and, ultimately, whether we're properly nourished or not.

Why the Farm Bill Matters

If you pay taxes, care about the nutritional value of school lunches, or worry about biodiversity or the loss of farmland and open space, you have a personal stake in the tens of billions of dollars committed annually to agriculture and food policies. If you're concerned about escalating federal budget deficits, the fate of family farmers, a food system dominated by corporations and commodities, conditions of immigrant farm workers, the state of the country's woodlands, or the marginalization of locally raised organic food and grass-fed meat and dairy products, you should pay attention to the Farm Bill. The dozens of other reasons the Farm Bill is critical to our land, our bodies, and our children's future include:

* The twilight of the cheap oil age and onset of unpredictable climatic conditions;
* Looming water shortages and crashing fish populations;
* Broken rural economies;
* Euphoria over corn and soybean expansion for biofuels;
* Escalating medical and economic costs of child and adult obesity;
* Record payouts to corporate farms that aren't even losing money;
* Over 35 million Americans, half of them children, who don't get enough to eat.

"The farm policies we design now will likely determine whether we will continue to have a sustainable food system in the future," writes longtime North Dakota organic farmer and food activist Fred Kirschenmann, in the introduction to Food Fight: The Citizen's Guide to a Food and Farm Bill. Although the economic challenges of modern agriculture may seem abstract to many urban and suburban residents, he argues, "an enlightened food and farm policy is of considerable consequence to every citizen on the planet." We all do have to eat, after all.

What Is the Farm Bill?

The Farm Bill is essentially a $90 billion tax bill for food, feed, fiber, and, more recently, fuel. Each bill receives a formal name, such as the Food and Agriculture Act of 1977, the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (a.k.a. "Freedom to Farm"), but more often each act is simply referred to as "the Farm Bill."

While many people equate its programs and subsidies with assistance for struggling family farmers, the Farm Bill actually has two primary thrusts: (1) Food stamps, school lunch, and other nutrition programs account for 50 percent of current spending — an average of $44 billion per year between 2000 and 2006. (2) Income and price supports for a number of storable commodity crops combine for another 35 percent of spending. In addition, the Farm Bill funds a range of other program "titles," including conservation and environment, forestry, renewable energy, research, and rural development.

For decades, Farm Bill negotiations have been dominated by a tag team of two powerful interest groups. The "farm bloc" (representatives from commodity states along with the agribusiness lobby) has orchestrated a quid pro quo with the antihunger caucus (urban representatives aligned with hunger advocacy groups). As a result, ever-increasing payments have been successfully directed toward surplus commodity production and the livestock feedlot industry. In return, the Farm Bill's desperately needed hunger safety net programs have survived relatively unscathed.

Who Gets the Money?

For the simplest answer, one might twist a line from Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, "It's the commodity groups, stupid." Thanks to a growing number of nongovernmental, governmental, and mass media resources, following the Farm Bill money trail is not that difficult. (Excellent places to start include Environmental Working Group, Oxfam International, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Washington Post, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.) According to the Congressional Research Service, 84 percent of commodity support spending goes to the production of just five crops: corn, cotton, wheat, rice, and soybeans. Half of that money currently goes to just seven states that produce most of those commodities. The richest ten percent of farm-subsidy recipients (many of whom are corporations and absentee landowners who can hardly be classified as "actively engaged" in growing crops) take in more than two-thirds of those payments.

A few other broad brushstrokes:

* Almost 50 percent of all commodity subsidies went to 5 percent of eligible farmers in 2005;
* Subsidies help the largest farms to acquire the best land and squeeze out smaller growers;
* The growth rate for jobs trailed the national average in nearly two-thirds of counties receiving heavy subsidies between 2000 and 2003, according to a recent report.

What about the Food Pyramid?

Very little of the agriculture we subsidize is directly edible, at least by humans. Out of the hundreds and even thousands of plant and animal species that have been cultivated for human use, the Farm Bill favors just four primary groups: food grains, feed grains, oilseeds, and upland cotton. Most are either fed to cattle in confinement or processed into oils, flours, starches, sugars, industrial food additives, and, increasingly biofuels.

It only takes a stroll down the supermarket aisles to understand how Farm Bill dollars flow into the country's food chain. A dollar buys hundreds of more calories in the snack food, cereal, or soda aisles than it does in the produce section. Why? Because the Farm Bill favors the mega-production of corn (resulting in cheap high-fructose corn syrup) and soybeans rather than regional supplies of fresh carrots, healthy fruits, and nuts. Unfortunately, eating a diet high in calories doesn't necessarily ensure that one is well-fed — even if that food is cheap.

While the USDA's Food Pyramid emphasizes the nutritional advantages of five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, Farm Bill funding for diversified row crop and orchard farming remains relatively disconnected from the balanced, healthy diet that professional nutritionists endorse. Meanwhile, most consumer food dollars spent in farm country end up leaving the region because our agricultural areas have effectively become "food deserts." There is at least one simple solution to this. Farm and food subsidy programs could be realigned to support the federal dietary guidelines and reoriented toward food chains that produce and distribute locally grown, healthy foods.

A Food and Farm Bill for the 21st Century?

The silver lining is that Americans actually do have a substantially large food and farm policy program to debate. Conditions for change have perhaps never been better, as market dynamics and public awareness rapidly align to create uncertainty about farm politics as usual. Indeed, the Farm Bill matters because it can actually serve as the economic engine driving small-scale entrepreneurship, on-farm research, species protection, nutritional assistance, school lunches made from scratch, regional development, and habitat restoration, to name just a few.

Our challenge is not to abolish government supports altogether, but to ensure that those subsidies we do choose to legislate actually serve as valuable investments in the country's future and allow us to live up to our obligations in the global community. How we get there is still to be determined. But most observers agree that the era of massive giveaways to corporations and surplus commodity producers must yield to policies that reward stewardship, promote healthy diets, secure regional economies, and do no harm to family farms or hungry kids and their families.

"Today, because so few realize that we citizens have a dog in this fight," writes Michael Pollan in his excellent foreword to Food Fight, "our legislators feel free to leave the debate over the Farm Bill to the farm states, very often trading their votes on agricultural policy for votes on issues that matter more to their constituents. But nothing could do more to reform America's food system, and by doing so, improve the condition of America's environment and public health, than if the rest of us were to weigh in."

© 2007 Daniel Imhoff

Dan Imhoff is the author and publisher of numerous books, including Farming with the Wild (Sierra Club Books, 2003), Paper or Plastic (Sierra Club Books, 2005), Building with Vision (University of California Press, 2001), and Farming and the Fate of Wild Nature (University of California Press, 2006). His most recent book, Food Fight: The Citizen's Guide to a Food and Farm Bill (Foreword by Michael Pollan and Introduction by Fred Kirschenmann) was released by the University of California Press in February 2007.

This essay is part of Thinking outside the Lunchbox, an ongoing series of essays connected to the Center for Ecoliteracy's Rethinking School Lunch program. Read all the essays at .



Thursday, April 05, 2007

Greenpeace ranks Apple as least eco-friendly electronics firm

From the Daily Grist: April 5, 2007

Are you reading this on a Mac? D'oh. A new Greenpeace report ranks Apple's environmental record worst among 14 major electronics firms, based on use of hazardous chemicals in production and efforts to recycle products at the end of their lives.

The iPod manufacturer was i-poohed for continuing to use several types of harmful chemicals, including PVC and some brominated flame retardants, and for the lack of a comprehensive recycling program for its products. Little-known Chinese PC maker Lenovo got top honors in the Greenpeace report, and was lauded for letting all of its customers give back their computers for recycling. Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Dell, and Samsung filled out the top five. Apple disputed the rotten report and claimed through a spokesperson that it "has a strong environmental track record and has led the industry in restricting and banning toxic substances such as mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium, as well as many [brominated flame retardants]." How's that for biting back?

straight to the source: BBC News, 04 Apr 2007



Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Wondering what is going on with the jukebox?

The jukebox is constantly and randomly feeding music from Jamendo within a defined subset. That defined subset can be a number of things, but it currently is feeding from the "ambient" tag. Jamendo is essentially Flickr for music. So, just as individual SEAers can now upload their own photos to the coblog via Flickr, with Jamendo, individual SEAers can now upload their own music to the coblog. The main principle behind the coblog is that it is created by the people who use it. A basic structure is provided, but from there the users create the content. Already users create the textual content with their posts, they create the textual commentary with their discussion, they create the visual content via Flickr slideshows and embedded photos, they create the visual/auditory content via embedded videos (and soon to come feeded video player), and now they can create the auditory content via Jamendo.

Jamendo is all Creative Commons music and audio. This means that it is licensed for free use, publication (sometimes), and modification (sometimes). So, the type of audio that SEAers can now put up, is their own audio. There are many musicians in SEA and many in the extended network of SEA. These people can now upload their recorded music to Jamendo and have it fed directly to the Coblog. This just adds one more dimension to the possibilities of collaboration and sharing on the Coblog. In order to do this, we will create an SEA tag or two, just like we have done with Flickr. Then we will change the jukebox feed and voila!

If you are interested in doing this, comment here.

Any questions?

All it takes is participation...



Yay for Free Moolah$$$



A couple weeks ago we applied for $800 in grant money from the EPA for
an Earth Day Project. Our project was to build a bike powered light
machine where we can switch between incandescent and compact
fluorescent lights to literally feel the energy difference...

And we were approved for funding!!!

I want to thank Rachel Sherck and Rylan Ortiz for all their help in
composing the proposal, and David Carter for the tip and his feedback.




Tuesday, April 03, 2007

USDA announces loans and grants for renewable energy

West Lafayette, Indiana - Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced the availability of $176.5 million in loan guarantees and $11.4 million in grants to support investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements by agricultural producers and small businesses..

“By promoting energy efficiency and development of energy sources that are farm based and renewable, we’re taking another step toward achieving the President’s goal of reducing America’s gasoline consumption by 20 percent in ten years,” said Johanns. “We hope to dramatically expand renewable energy programs like these, as reflected in our 2007 farm bill proposals.”

USDA Rural Development State Director Banks commented, “USDA’s energy programs offer Kansas farmers and ranchers, along with rural businesses owners and public entities, the opportunity to receive funding assistance to harness the untapped renewable energy resources and achieve greater energy efficiency. Establishing renewable energy projects and enhancing energy efficiency can also provide additional economic development opportunities for Kansans ."

State Director Banks also announced that the Agency is expanding the number of workshops covering USDA’s energy programs during March, April, and May. Details will be made available soon. The Agency workshops are being presented to inform agricultural producers, business owners, public bodies, lenders and individuals of the funding opportunities for projects eligible under USDA Rural Development’s various energy assistance programs.

The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency loan and grant program was established under Section 9006 of the 2002 Farm Bill. It provides loan guarantees and grants to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems or for energy efficiency improvements.

The Administration’s farm bill proposals recommend a more than $1.6 billion increase in renewable energy related funding. This includes a $2.1 billion loan guarantee program, a $500 million bioenergy and bioproducts research program, $500 million for alternative energy and energy efficiency grants, and other initiatives. Details are available at

The President’s FY 2008 budget proposal for USDA includes $397 million for energy projects, an increase of $161 million over FY 2007. Part of the increase, $132 million, is sought for renewable energy loans and grants. The remainder is sought to fund research and development activities to enhance bioenergy feedstocks and improve conversion technologies for cellulosic ethanol.

Kansas applications for grants must be completed and submitted to a Kansas USDA Rural Development office postmarked no later than May 18. The deadline for submitting loan applications as well as for loan and grant combinations is July 2. For more information, refer to the announcement in the March 22 Federal Register or contact the USDA Rural Development state office in Topeka at 785-271-2744. --Dan Kahl



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