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The Natural World / 11 Reasons why you should be eating roadkill
« Last post by Little Feather on May 26, 2016, 04:02:42 AM »
11 reasons you should be eating roadkill  AKA "Flatmeats"   

 By David K Gibson

19 May 2016

I GREW UP EATING RABBIT AND DEER hunted from the forests around my Mississippi home. I have eaten “hunter's stew” that contained raccoon (certainly) and opossum (probably). We would hunt squirrels with .22-calibre rifles and save their tiny heads in a plastic bag in the freezer; when enough had been collected, we’d scramble up the brains with eggs as breakfast before an early morning hunt.

But we never ate roadkill, because that was disgusting.

When I was about 8, my father struck a six-point whitetail buck with the front bumper of his GMC pickup. One antler pierced the grille, snapping the animal’s neck and killing it instantly. As my father assessed the situation, a sedan pulled up behind, and a woman got out.

“If you’re not going to take him, can I?” she asked, before hoisting the 100-pound carcass on her shoulder and to the trunk of her car, driving away with a friendly toot of her horn. We were not particularly wealthy — that grille stayed broken for longer than it should have — but it didn’t occur to us that we were desperate enough to eat roadkill. Yet a few months later, we piled into that same pickup to go deer hunting, after a breakfast of brains and eggs.

I don’t remember us taking a buck that day, but I can imagine the meal of pan-fried cube steak we would have eaten afterwards, as somewhere the woman with the beat-up sedan was digging into a big chunk of venison saddle.

She was the smart one. And there are at least 11 reasons why.

1. It's our responsibility.

“People tend to think that wheels are part of the human anatomy,” says Jonathan McGowan, a fierce advocate of eating roadkill — and one who says he’d be a vegetarian without it. “People drive like idiots at night, and we’ve got six species of deer here [in the UK] that are active in the twilight. That makes for a lot of roadkill.” Even if you, personally, manage to avoid hitting animals, it’s the infrastructure underneath your vehicle that leads to animal deaths. Why not acknowledge your culpability, and season appropriately?

2. It makes ecological sense.

“The world’s wild animals are being depleted at an alarming rate. Farming and the consumption of meat is having such a detrimental effect on the planet, chopping down rain forests to grow soya to feed beef and sheep,” says McGowan. “If some people can limit their carbon footprint and clean up the meat that’s already there, then that’s a more responsible way to live.” Throughout the United States, gleaner crews gather large herbivores for butchering and distribution to feed the hungry; the Alaska Moose Federation drives massive crane trucks that lift the giant ungulates from the roadways to processing centers for butchering.

    In the past, especially in the Depression, ‘flatmeats’ helped sustain people. Now it’s done from a position of living closer to nature, and knowing what you’re eating.

3. It’s ethical.

Whatever you think of meat-eating in general, an animal killed needlessly shouldn’t be left to rot needlessly — circle of life and all that. Yes, scavengers and carrion birds may get a meal out of roadkill, but the fact that a highway runs through their dinner table means that they may end up as roadkill themselves.

“People assume it has something to do with poverty,” says Alison Brierley, an artist who is known as the Roadkill Connoisseur. “In the past, especially in the Depression, ‘flatmeats’ helped sustain people. Now it’s done from a position of living closer to nature, and knowing what you’re eating.”

“It’s a moral way of living for me,” says McGowan. “I’ve grown up being a conservationist, learning to respect the world we live in. Eating roadkill helps educate the world that wildlife is beneficial — if you can eat it, it shows that it has value.”

4. It’s cheap.

If parsimony is your thing, it’s obvious that roadkill cuisine “can be a safe and affordable way to enjoy wild meat.” Minus the petrol you’ll need to collect it (though McGowan has draped a badger over the handlebars of his bike for a carryout meal), it’s free. If you don’t have the facilities to tackle break down an elk yourself, you may pay a small fee to a wildlife butcher of the kind that hunters use, but it’s a lot cheaper than your grocer’s meat counter. And it comes in volume; “If it’s a deer,” says Brierley, “It’s a year’s worth of venison in your freezer.” Roadkill dining is the ultimate in extreme couponing, though you never know exactly what the daily special will be.

    When you start getting into it, it’s not as dodgy as most people think.

5. It’s safe. Well, mostly.

“You’re not starving, so if you’re in doubt just leave it alone,” says Brierley. “When you start getting into it, it’s not as dodgy as most people think.” Few of the diseases carried by roadkill are zoonotic, and so don’t cross over into the human population. Rabies starts dying almost immediately upon the animal’s death, and very rare diseases (such as tuberculosis in deer in Michigan) are fairly evident upon butchering. Parasites are rarely a problem, and fleas can be a good indicator that the animal died a recent death.

Still, livers and other internal organs are best avoided, since (to use an automotive metaphor) it’s a bit like taking a bite out of an oil filter, and the animal may have been drinking from water sources high in contaminants. Brains and spinal tissue can carry spongiform encephalopathy similar to Mad Cow disease, especially squirrel brains (oops). Trying to field dress a carcass on the shoulder of a roadway may be life-threatening as well, so carry a tarp and carry your find home to butcher it.

    Once you start talking about cleanliness of over-processed, drugged supermarket food as opposed to something that’s been hit by a car, people start to understand it.

6. It’s better for you.

We’ll give a great big caveat to this argument in light of the last one. But in general, a wild animal found roadside has led an uncrowded and healthy life, antibiotic and growth-hormone-free, and is very likely organic, depending on its diet. Even roadkill rats gathered from country roads are typically healthy (and reportedly delicious) specimens of Rodentia. “Once you start talking about cleanliness of over-processed, drugged supermarket food as opposed to something that’s been hit by a car, people start to understand it,” says Brierley.

7. It’s plentiful.

Sadly plentiful, in fact; though most roadkill surveys are mere wild speculation, a few have extrapolated that as many as a million animals are killed on roads in the United States every day.

“You’ll find many animals on the verges of the roadway, and they look you can hardly see what killed them most of the time. Most of what I find is useful and whole,” says McGowan. “There’s lot of roadkill in areas where I live — rabbits and pheasants and rats — so I can be picky. If I see a badger, I can pass it because it doesn’t taste good anyway.”

    Mice and frogs and toads are fantastic in a stir-fry.

8. It’s delicious.

But even badger can be made palatable. “Enough herbs and garlic will cover up any taste,” says McGowan. But aside from obvious delicacies like pheasant and deer, other accidental meat can be mouthwateringly good. “Mice and frogs and toads are fantastic in a stir-fry,” he says. “You drop them in boiling water, and in five seconds a lovely white meat falls off the bone; it’s more delicate than chicken, but tastes quite like it.”

Brierley believes in good presentation. “If I present it on a plate, their eyes are interested first, then they’ll try it and really like it.” (A few of her recipes are available here.) It’s also important to remember that most meat consumed before the industrialization of agriculture was game meat procured by hunting, and that the great cuisines of the world were built on recipes for much more than beef, pork, and chicken.

9. It may save you during the coming societal collapse.

The well-prepared survivalist (who may or may not want to be called a “prepper”) knows that man cannot live on beans alone. Roadkill is a better protein source when “the smallest ripple in the industrial food machine can wreak havoc on food prices and availability.” In the event of economic collapse (that doesn’t affect petrol availability) or the impending zombie motorist apocalypse (which begs for a texting-while-driving reference), meat will be in ready supply to those who eat roadkill. But even before societal collapse, any survivalist knows better than to waste food.

10. It’s legal. Maybe.

In the UK, any roadkill is fair game, though landowners may make a claim of automotive poaching if you’re scavenging on forest lands. In Australia, in contrast, you’ll need a hunting license to claim roadkill. The US is a burgoo of regulations. Starting this July, the state of Washington will let you pick up deer and elk by applying for a permit online after you’ve made the recovery; that’s similar to systems in Idaho and Montana. Some states require permits for some species but not others, some require that you report your find to authorities, some require an inspection of the carcass, and some (such as Florida) are free-for-alls. In Alaska, all roadkill is property of the state. In Illinois, anyone may pick up deer at roadside unless they are behind on child-support payments.

11. It’s the cool thing to do.

The people that eat roadkill aren’t your average Joes, but then great ideas rarely emerge from the mainstream. The revulsion to vehicle-killed meat may be an Anglo hang-up, anyway. “Europeans are far less fussy than British people,” says McGowan, “and I suspect that a recent decline in availability, especially on local roads near towns, may not be due to the long-time locals.” Taboos vary from culture to culture, and increased globalization may be contributing to more widespread acceptance of alternative meat sources.

But it seems undeniable that the intersection of whole food, freeganism, and the locavore movements is the intersection of a wild animal and the front bumper of a GMC pickup.

Maybe you’ll want to start with a curry.

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Even though amphibian populations are declining sharply worldwide, there is no smoking gun to indicate a cause and thus no simple solution to halting or reversing these declines.


That's the conclusion of a national study that was spearheaded by the U.S. Geological Survey and featured important contributions from Penn State researchers.

David Miller, assistant professor of wildlife population ecology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, helped to organize the study and was the lead biometrician in charge of data analysis. Staci Amburgy, a Penn State doctoral candidate in ecology who worked with USGS amphibian researchers as an undergraduate student at Colorado State University, also contributed to the study. She played a key role in organizing and maintaining the database upon which the research relied.


The news about amphibians is grim, noted Evan Grant, a USGS research wildlife biologist who led the study, which was published today in Scientific Reports. The evidence shows that though every region in the United States suffered severe declines, threats differed among regions. These threats include the following:


--Human influence from the Mississippi River east, including the metropolitan areas of the Northeast and the agriculture-dominated landscapes of the Midwest.


--Disease, particularly a chytrid fungus in the Upper Midwest and New England.


--Pesticide applications east of the Colorado River.


--Climate changes across the southern United States and the West Coast.


Amphibian declines are a global phenomenon first documented in the early 1960s. This new research demonstrates that declines are continuing unabated in the United States, even in protected national parks and refuges.


Scientists have broadly linked declines to environmental factors such as climate, human influences such as land-use change, and contaminants and disease. However, they have not been able to use actual scientific data on a large scale to discern causes of the ongoing disappearance of amphibian populations.


The study provides evidence that the average decline in overall amphibian populations is 3.79 percent per year, but the rate of decline is more severe in some regions, such as the West Coast and the Rocky Mountains. If this rate remains unchanged, these species would disappear from half of the habitats they occupy in about 20 years.


"The research involved a truly comprehensive and collaborative effort to bring together data from researchers across the United States," said Penn State's Miller. "We combined nearly half a million actual observations of 84 species across 61 study areas to answer questions about the causes of wide-scale amphibian declines."


The new study, the first to test this linkage at a continental scale, suggests that the presence and intensity of the four main threats -- human influence, disease, pesticide application and climate change -- varies substantially across the United States. The causes of the declines are more variable and more locally driven than had been assumed.


"Losing 3 or 4 percent of amphibian populations might not sound like a big deal, but small losses year in and year out quickly lead to dramatic and consequential declines," said USGS ecologist Michael Adams, a study co-author and the lead for the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, which studies amphibian trends and causes of declines.




EDITORS: Contact David Miller at 814-863-1598 or by email at dxm84@psu.edu.


Jeff Mulhollem


814-863-2719 (office)

814-934-6477 (mobile)



Penn State Ag Sciences News is a free, electronic distribution of news and feature articles about research, educational programs, faculty, staff, students and events in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences and Penn State Extension. It is distributed by Ag Communications and Marketing, News Unit, 134 Agricultural Administration Building, University Park, PA 16802.
A new label on some of the steaks in your grocery store highlights a production process you may never have heard of: mechanical tenderizing.

This means the beef has been punctured with blades or needles to break down the muscle fibers and make it easier to chew. But it also means the meat has a greater chance of being contaminated and making you sick.

The labels are a requirement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that went into effect this week.

"Blade tenderized," that label might read, followed by safe cooking instructions: "Cook until steak reaches an internal temperature of 145 F as measured by a food thermometer and allow to rest for three minutes." (Other labels might simply recommend cooking to 160 degrees, which doesn't require a three-minute rest time.)

Why do you need to be so careful about how you cook tenderized meat?

If pathogens like E. coli or salmonella happen to be on the surface of the steak, tenderizing can transfer those bacteria from the surface to the inside. Since the inside takes longer to cook and is more likely to be undercooked, bacteria have a higher chance for survival there.

And without a label, you can't tell if you need to be especially careful with your steak.
Before labeling became a requirement, the grocery giant Costco voluntarily began labeling its mechanically tenderized beef in 2012, after an E. coli outbreak in Canada was linked to its blade-tenderized steaks.

Before labeling became a requirement, the grocery giant Costco voluntarily began labeling its mechanically tenderized beef in 2012, after an E. coli outbreak in Canada was linked to its blade-tenderized steaks.
Lydia Zuraw/KHN for NPR

"It doesn't look any different," says a spokesman for USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. "It's not filled with [visible] holes from the needle piercings."

Mechanical tenderizing is not uncommon: Approximately 2.7 billion pounds, or about 11 percent, of the beef labeled for sale has been mechanically tenderized, according to FSIS. The new labels will affect an estimated 6.2 billion servings of steaks and roasts every year.

And it's not unheard of for tenderized beef to be linked to food poisoning: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tracked six outbreaks of foodborne illness since 2000 that were linked to mechanically tenderized beef products prepared in restaurants and consumers' homes.

In 2009, 21 people in 16 states were infected with the most common strain of dangerous E. coli, called O157. Nine had to be hospitalized, and one victim developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially fatal kidney disease. USDA food safety officials connected the illnesses to blade-tenderized steaks from National Steak and Poultry, and the company recalled 248,000 pounds of beef products.

"We need to improve how we tell consumers and the food service workers about the particular risks that would be involved in cooking it so that they can reduce the risk of illness," says Patricia Buck, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Buck, who has been pushing for the labeling rule since 2009, says she's "very excited" to see it happening. "I think it's an important step in the direction we need to go."

Even before the label became a requirement, Costco had been voluntarily labeling its meat. According to Consumer Reports, the grocery giant began labeling its mechanically tenderized beef in 2012 after an E. coli outbreak in Canada was linked to its blade-tenderized steaks.

Consumer advocate Buck lost her toddler grandson to an E. coli O157 infection in 2001. "I don't like scaring people," she says, "but on the other hand, people don't really know that these can be really deadly pathogens."

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Horseradish contains cancer-fighting compounds known as glucosinolates. Glucosinolate type and quantity vary depending on size and quality of the horseradish root. For the first time, the activation of cancer-fighting enzymes by glucosinolate products in horseradish has been documented.

The humble horseradish may not be much to look at, but a recent University of Illinois study shows that it contains compounds that could help detoxify and eliminate cancer-causing free-radicals in the body.

"We knew horseradish had health benefits, but in this study, we were able to link it to the activation of certain detoxifying enzymes for the first time," says U of I crop scientist Mosbah Kushad.

Kushad's research team had previously identified and quantified the compounds responsible for the cancer-fighting compounds, known as glucosinolates, in horseradish, noting that horseradish contains approximately 10 times more glucosinolates than its superfood cousin, broccoli.

"No one is going to eat a pound of horseradish," Kushad points out. Luckily, a teaspoon of the pungent condiment is sufficient to get the benefit.

In the new study, Kushad and his team looked for the products of glucosinolate hydrolysis, which activate enzymes involved in detoxification of cancer-causing molecules. They compared the quantity and activity of these products in 11 horseradish strains rated U.S. Fancy, U.S. No. 1, or U.S. No. 2. The USDA puts fresh-market horseradish in these categories based on diameter and length of the root.

"There was no information on whether the USDA grade of the horseradish root is associated with cancer preventive activity, so we wanted to test that," Kushad explains.

The group found that the higher-grade U.S. Fancy accessions had significantly more glucosinolates than U.S. No. 1. Concentrations of various glucosinolate hydrolysis products differed according to USDA grade, with U.S. Fancy having greater allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) and U.S. No. 1 having greater 1-cyano 2,3-epithiopropane (CETP).

The two compounds differ, with CETP being a comparatively weaker cancer-fighter than AITC. Still, the detection of CETP in horseradish is noteworthy, according to Kushad. "To our knowledge, this is the first detection and measurement of CETP from horseradish," he says.

The team suggests that AITC is a good dietary anti-carcinogen, not only because it activates the enzyme responsible for detoxifying cancer-causing molecules, but also because a large proportion of it, 90 percent, is absorbed when ingested.

Bottom line? Next time horseradish is on the menu, pick up a spoon.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). The original item was written by Lauren Quinn.
Real Life / Spiritual Agnosticism
« Last post by Little Feather on April 27, 2016, 03:52:41 AM »

I am not today who I was yesterday.

Nearly five years ago, under the fading trees, I reached an important decision in my life. I left the church, never to return. I left because the church became more about absolutes and rules than it did about spirit.

Before the "rising" and the "setting" of the sun, I declared myself a Spiritual Agnostic, after much soul searching. (I am Spiritual, in the sense I feel our humanity connects us to each other [though we are different from one another, we are not separate from one another], and Agnostic, in the sense I am without knowledge in God’s existence—as a physical entity. I am also without belief in God’s existence—as a physical entity.)

I grieved the loss of my religion for quite some time, after I accepted the tenebrous fact I would never again see my brother in his physical form—only in his spiritual form. (Indeed, when he died, his atoms dispersed out into the universe. The Great Circle of Life is endless, inexhaustible, infinite. His spiritual form lives on.)

To Spiritual Agnosticism I was introduced by reading the ethereal Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke and You Can’t Go Home Again, Thomas Wolfe’s magnum opus. These books do not advocate for Spiritual Agnosticism, per se, but their themes (soul searching, ‘reality’, meaning of life) irrevocably do.

Letters to a Young Poet presented itself to me in the most donnishly possible way: on a dusty bookshelf, with its pages open, it cried for me to take it home.

I did.

In my personal library of 1,100+ everlasting books, my copy of Letters to a Young Poet is nestled, comfortably, between The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and Mortality by Christopher Hitchens.

- - -

You may be wondering what Spiritual Agnosticism is. It is a philosophy that condemns the conservative “believe-or-burn” religious ideologies, places importance on actions, and maintains life is a mystery.

Donate to Atheist Republic

I do believe God is a spiritual energy that is ever-present. However, I do not think this spiritual energy needs a name. I have felt said energy. It is alive. That is all I need to ‘know’. A name would only anthropomorphize said energy, which is what spirituality is not; spirituality is above that. Spirituality is.

Regarding actions: my spiritual accountability comes from within. The good deeds I commit here will be rejoiced hereafter, while the bad deeds I commit here will be condemned hereafter.

The spiritual energy I speak of gives my life a deeper meaning. In nature spirituality thrives (nature and spirituality are symbiotic): for in nature there is a pulse, a rhythm, a meter; a musicality that binds all life together.

In the city I witness the construction of a skyscraper, but in nature I witness the growth of a Sycamore. In the city I witness an ever-expanding crack in a street, but in nature I witness roots digging into fresh dirt. In the city I witness an airplane flying overhead, but in nature I witness a Blue Jay flying, lithely, through the branches of trees.

I feel at home in nature.

When a street is abandoned, nature takes its course. The street itself begins to crack, through which grass emerges in time. Nature is the most powerful force, the wisest teacher.

Nature has revealed to me I am lucky to be alive, that my existence is as probable as a rock hitting an ant at random between Seattle and Miami. I, therefore, cherish every inhale and exhale of breath.
FARMER'S FORUM / Jerusalem Artichoke Tubers Organic, plant Spring or Fall
« Last post by Little Feather on April 18, 2016, 06:55:10 AM »

What would you think about planting a crop for your livestock and never having to plant again?
Jerusalem Artichokes are a perennial tuber crop with edible tubers, leaves, stalks and flowers that contain up to 28% protein and come back year after year. Stalks will grow up to 10 feet tall with enormous yellow flowers on top.

The Jerusalem Artichoke is not a widely known plant in our country, but it can and does grow here from Canada to Florida. Each plant produces up to 10 pounds of tubers that are delicious and consumed by people the world over. They are even considered a gourmet food in Europe. The rest of the plant, and even the tubers, can be fed to every kind of livestock from chickens to pigs to cattle with favorable results. They are an extremely vigorous growing plant and once planted will completely take over an area so they should not be planted unless you desire them as a perennial crop. They are very hard to get rid of once planted.

The variety we grow is called Stampede, and is one of the most sought after of all varieties, which is why we grow them! They are superior in flavor and size to all other Jerusalem Artichoke varieties, some of which are barely suitable for human consumption. This variety is delicious.

Each tuber left in the ground over the winter will produce numerous new plants with each of those plants producing up to 10 pounds of tubers the following fall. This plant puts on tubers in November throughout the winter. The plants will grow in any type of soil regardless of whether it is sand, clay or mulch and can tolerate drought conditions without failing.

I sell the plants as both a livestock crop and for human consumption in home gardens. My family loves them. They are a bit like a potato with a nutty flavor. They sell about as fast as I can grow them, and that is saying a lot because these are extremely vigorous growing.

Order from:   www.shop.B40gs.com

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Why is the U.S. unwilling to pay for good public transportation?

By John Rennie Short, University of Maryland, Baltimore County   |   April 1, 2016 at 12:15 PM

Officials in Washington, D.C., said this week they may have to shut down portions of the Metro subway system for months because its piecemeal approach to maintenance is no longer sufficient.

The disclosure follows a shutdown of the entire Metro system on March 16 for 24 hours. Three-quarters of a million people use the system each weekday, so the inconvenience and cost were considerable.

The reason: frayed electrical cables discovered in at least 26 locations that posed an immediate danger. Closing the Metro was probably the safest thing to do.

Just two days previously, an electrical fire in a tunnel forced stoppages to busy commuter service. In September 2015 a train was stuck inside a tunnel, and passengers choked for over an hour as smoke from a fire was accidentally pumped into the train. One woman died. In the last six years, 15 people have died in seven separate incidents.

A system that opened to such fanfare in 1976 is now crumbling. It is a depressingly familiar story that is not limited to urban public transport. The United States has a major and growing infrastructure gap – though chasm is a more appropriate metaphor.

The quality of a country's infrastructure is directly linked to its competitiveness because it makes businesses more productive and improves the quality of life. Why has the United State let its public transit slip so far?

From First to Third World

The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the nation's infrastructure a D+. Its report from 2013 depicts a woeful tale of deferred maintenance. More than 70,000 bridges are in need of repair. We need around $1.7 trillion for our surface transportation alone.

The week that the D.C. metro was closed, I was in Zurich, Switzerland. The contrast could not have been starker. There, a ticket is good for rail, bus and tram. It is clean and efficient, a widely shared experience and a deep source of pride. Most people in the country use public transport in the cities to get around. It is a vital part of urban public life.

In international comparisons, the United States is falling further behind. To fly from either Seoul or Shanghai into Los Angeles airport is to make the journey from a First World to a Third World airport. To fly into New York's JFK from Zurich or most European capitals is to fly from the future into the past.

For people coming and going to Dulles – the main arrival point for international travel – there is no Metro rail station, which would shield travelers from road traffic.

And when you arrive in Los Angeles or New York City airports, the public transport connections are often nonexistent or inadequate. If you fly into Dulles, the main international airport for D.C., you will wait in vain for a train to the city (although buses are available). The Metro has yet to link the city to the airport, 40 years after the system opened.

Now Switzerland, which ranks at the top globally for overall infrastructure, may be a reach for the United States. But when the United States ranks 16th for infrastructure quality, easily outranked by countries such as France and Spain, then we should start worrying.

There are substantial costs to the decline of our public transportation system. Closures, accidents and inefficiencies cost individuals and companies and reduce the efficiency of our national economy. Poor infrastructure means Americans spend $120 billion each year in extra fuel and lost time.

To some extent, this state of affairs should be no surprise.

Our competitors are out-investing us in the vital infrastructure necessary to make our economy efficient and internationally competitive. Even when our public infrastructure spending is higher than our competitors, it is less well-targeted because decisions are more politically motivated than based on economic rationality.

We seem unwilling to pay for public services. Our declining road system, for example, is funded by the Highway Trust Fund, which is derived from a gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon. It has not been raised since 1993, and more fuel-efficient vehicles means less revenue. Raising the gas tax is not considered politically feasible, even in a time of declining gas prices.

What went wrong?

At least four reasons can be cited for the decline in the quality of urban public transportation.

The first is the early and continuing embrace of the private car as a form of urban transport. In Europe, expensive gas and restrictive land use measures kept people in dense cities, and urban growth followed along the lines of mass transit, reinforcing and consolidating their use.

In the United States, growth spread across a landscape of freeways and motorway exits, encouraged by federal investment in the national highway system in the 1950s. As low-density suburban sprawl spread, public transport became less viable. New suburbs and Sunbelt cities constructed in the last half of the 20th century were built around the private automobile.

Encouraged by the construction of the highway infrastructure, Americans moved out to the suburbs and started to rely more on cars, rather than public transit, to get into cities.

Over time, Republican-dominated suburbs came to see mass transit as a special Democratic interest and voted accordingly. For example, the mayor of Nashville's plans for public transport last year were blocked by state politicians and right-wing national interest groups.

Second, as cities were designed to meet the needs of the motorist, mass transit systems that had been owned by private companies were abandoned or effectively dismantled in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s because they were losing money.

As a result, many mass transit systems were taken over by municipalities. This led to a high-cost, low-revenue system dependent on the vagaries of federal, state and city funding. Meanwhile, car drivers were economic free riders, not charged for the social costs of their accidents, pollution and congestion.

The third reason is that all infrastructure ages and needs costly maintenance and continual improvement, yet funding is often constrained.

Even when new transit systems were built, such as in D.C., or existing ones were upgraded, as in New York City and Boston, they still had to be maintained, which takes up large chunks of public money without the benefit of a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Building something new gives politicians a photo opportunity, replacing a frayed electrical cable does not. And there are many other claims on government such as pensions, schools, Social Security and a large military. Our infrastructure chasm is a quiet, slow-moving but relentless crisis only brought into focus when wires fray to the point of immediate danger.

Across the country, transit systems have a backlog of deferred maintenance. Chicago Transit Authority, for instance, spent $5 billion on infrastructure upgrades in the past five years, but needs another $13 billion. Cities in the United States have a repair backlog that amounts to $86 billion.

Private affluence and public squalor

Fourth, there is a deeper tension in the United States, first noted by economist Kenneth Galbraith, between private affluence and public squalor.

Many of us, it seems, have lost faith in the public realm. The private car is the embodiment of U.S. individualism. The decline of our cities' infrastructure is one expression of loss of faith in the public realm as a place of beauty and efficiency and an embodiment of what one journalist refers to as "our anger and our pessimism."

This thinking has made our cities less about shared experiences and more a place of different lives and separated spaces.

There is some room for optimism. A series of reports highlight the advantage of investing more in public transport. And as more people want to live in cities in dense walkable neighborhoods, the demand for public transport is increasing.

Ridership rates vary by city and with the price of gas, but the overall usage trend is upward. The top 10 transit systems carry 12.6 million people each workday.

And millennials lack their parents' and grandparents' love affair with the automobile. We may be at the cusp of a generational shift in attitudes to the car and mass transit. Cities and cars were never a good fit, something more people appear to be realizing.

Urban public transport may come to be seen as a more desirable, more sustainable, more equitable way of getting around the city. If only we can remember to ensure we have enough money to replace those electric cables before they pose a serious danger.
The Conversation

John Rennie Short is a professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

DIRECT FARM MARKETING / Vermont Farmer Opts Out of Regulated Beef Slaughter
« Last post by Little Feather on March 26, 2016, 01:07:56 PM »
  Vermont Farmer Opts Out of Regulated Beef Slaughter
 By David Gumpert on March 25, 2016 at 8:32 pm | Comments 24 | Affiliate Disclosure

John Klar, with some of his cattle, in Vermont.

Many sustainable farmers have privately railed against state and federal rules that require cattle  to be slaughtered in regulated beef slaughtering facilities. Now, Vermont farmer John Klar has resolved to do something about his personal frustration, describing his plans in the article that follows.

Klar raises grass-fed beef and sheep in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. He and his wife have also raised chickens and pigs, and made raw-milk artisanal cheeses from cows’ and goats’ milk. Klar practiced law until he grew ill in 1998 from Lyme disease, which caused him to succumb to severe pain from fibromyalgia syndrome, which he still battles. The clean food and routine exercise provided by his modest farming efforts have helped him to improve over the years: stress and food additives aggravate his condition. 

By John Klar

The health of our children depends on the health of their food.

I raise grass-fed beef because I want to know what my animal has eaten, how it has been treated through life, and that it has been killed humanely. My customers wish for these same assurances, and understand that cheap meat bears other costs – of antibiotic and hormone contamination, risks of pathogens, and the suffering caused when 400 beef are inhumanely slaughtered every hour in horrific factory “environments.”

This is why I will face prison rather than comply with laws in Vermont that interfere with the ancient connection between animal, farmer and consumer. Vermont’s Department of Agriculture has interrupted this connection, at the behest of the federal government and profit-hungry agribusiness. It is time for consumers and local farmers to weld their connection tightly against such intrusions, in the interests of the welfare of both child and beast.

For years I have raised beef cows here in Vermont, slaughtered them on my farm, and processed them at the request of my customers at local custom processing facilities. Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture has decided to “protect” the public from this connection, even as our nation has consolidated animal “husbandry” into toxic CAFO’s and industrial slaughter-factories, increased the importation of unlabeled meats from dubious foreign sources, and authorized Frankensteinian experiments on man and beast alike. But as is happening in most every state in America, these laws “protect” corporate oligarchy, not human health and our vital food connection.

New laws mandate that I may no longer sell halves of beef to my longstanding customers, unless I route those animals to large slaughterhouses, file periodic forms, and pay a fee for the privilege. My customers do not typically purchase a whole beef, because of cost, family size, and freezer space (a half beef occupies a full-size freezer). The law permits me to slaughter a whole beef on-farm, and send it to a local custom processor: apparently this is not a health risk. But now we can only sell whole animals directly to the public; all others must pass through a large federally-inspected processor. Please take note: no one has ever been made sick in Vermont by on-farm slaughtered meat, and the federal government has no constitutional right to regulate intrastate commerce like that between me and my customers.

If I comply with the law, the following changes occur: The itinerant slaughterer who comes to my farm has been removed, as has the local custom processor; the animal that was killed without warning on the farm on which it spent its life must now ne herded onto a truck and shipped to a large slaughterhouse, at additional expense; the stress to the animal compromises the quality of the meat (stress increases cortisol levels); and the animal is exposed in the livestock truck, and again at the larger facility, to pathogens from sick or CAFO animals.

These laws, which purport to remove unfair competition, destroy local small businesses; and which purport to improve food safety, contaminate meat from small farms. These laws compel me to torment animals that I seek to treat humanely, add costs to my customers, swell government budgets for the employment of “inspectors”, and benefit large businesses at the expense of small.

I was visited last summer by a “compliance investigator” from the State of Vermont, who informed me that my business is illegal. I have now appointed myself a “Compliance Investigator.” As an attorney and small farmer, I know what the Federal and Vermont Constitutions require, and that those requirements exist precisely so that I may “police” the large corporate influences that hide behind regulators to protect “market share” from the growing local agricultural movement that is reconnecting the frayed relationship between consumer and local farmer. To use government to intrude into our business relationship is the exact opposite of a “free market.” It is also patently unconstitutional.

For government to regulate, it must have a purpose that is legitimate, and laws which reasonably achieve that purpose. These laws fail on both counts. No one is sick. My animals are antibiotic- and hormone-free, and graze on green grass. My customers pay for the animals to have been treated well. These laws achieve the exact opposite of their stated objectives: they impose unfair competition to make my products less safe, torment my animals, and increase costs to consumers.

What Wes Jackson aptly dubs “the feudal lords of corporate agribusiness” are pulling the strings of Vermont’s bureaucratic puppets. And we are on to them. Joel Salatin was similarly invaded by government mercenaries at the behest of corporate instigators, and observed: “That’s one of the things that fries me about these people. They can just waltz into your business and be cavalier about destroying your livelihood because they draw their steady paycheck, have the power of the police, and the authority of the attorney general behind them. No apologies, no feelings.” (Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal, Polyface, Inc., Swoope, Virginia, 2007).

But Mr. Salatin is not an attorney: I am. I have the power of the Constitutions behind me, together with the authority of consumers and farmers who are not going to take this anymore. I have my animals behind me as well – for I will stand guard for their rights to be treated with moral responsibility in a profit-driven assault. All Americans must take heed: this is a national battle, and there is no sideline.
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