Flower of the Week

Complicata: a deceiving name for this simple 5-petaled, single-bloom rose. I found it this weekend in Brooklyn, NY, and immediately noticed there was something very special about its deep, silky texture and its sprinkle-like bright yellow anthers, which make it a stunning sight. It has no thorns, and is so delectably scented that it makes itself vulnerable to honey bees and flower-pickers alike. Luckily, the shrub is a hardy one. It is very robust and reliable through the winter months, flowering in summer for a fantastic display which lasts for 6 to 8 weeks. Highly recommended for your garden at home!


"No-Good Grime Gone Fast"

This is sure to bring a smile to your face. Brought to you by Pick Up America, it's a sweet video featuring a bit of what they've been up to as they traverse our lands. Featuring music by the lovely and talented Allison Chang, and pickup artist Jeff Chen.


10 Ways to Stay off Oil

As more and more oil pours into the waters, beaches, and wetlands, poisoning the ecosystems and crippling the communities around the Gulf of Mexico, a feeling of outrage emerges. Citizens around the country are becoming enlivened with a need to take action, to help mediate the unfathomable disaster of the massive BP oil spill, and to make sure it never happens again.

The truth is, while it is impossible at this point to undo the terrible tragedy in the gulf, it is entirely possible to prevent similar spills from happening in the future. The global demand for oil is effectively fueling the drive for offshore drilling (no pun intended). Unless something changes in the public demand for oil, then oil will continue to be drilled with enormously volatile consequences, such as the one we are now witnessing every day in our waters. In order for that demand to change, some changes must first be made in our day-to-day lives. Below you will find 10 simple ways to reduce your personal consumption of oil, to make the individual impact that is necessary for large-scale change to occur:

1. If you don't absolutely have to, don't drive cars. This is perhaps the simplest and most well-known item on most "reduce your dependence" lists, but it is the also the most important. I know we all have hard-ons for autos in this country, but seriously. Just think about how many unnecessary trips you make in your car to destinations that are less than a mile away, when you could just as easily hop on a bike or take a peaceful stroll to get to that same place. It's so important: Get outside! Move your body! Interact with the community around you! Plus, with the abundance of public transportation in our world, the necessity of personal cars is becoming increasingly difficult to justify.

2. BUT, if you absolutely MUST drive (I know those summer road trips are hard to pass up), be a little smarter about your gas use. This means that you should A.) Coast as often as possible, instead of constantly breaking and then accelerating again (don't be an auto-spaz). B.) Drive slow (not like grandma- just keep to the speed limits). According to Fueleconomy.gov, driving at faster speeds reduces your fuel efficiency between 5 and 23 percent! C.) Check your tire pressure and air filter regularly to make sure they're up to standard. Dirty air filters reduce your miles per gallon by 10%! You don't want that. D.) Don't idle your car. It's just silly. Basically, turning your car off and then back on again uses about the same amount of gas as idling for 10 seconds. So, if you know you'll be sitting for longer than 3 deep breaths, turn that engine off.

3. Eliminate plastic bags from production. It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce and distribute the amount of plastic bags used in the U.S. each year, since they are not only shipped using petroleum, but made with petroleum as well. Not to mention that they are non-biodegradable, highly toxic, and one of the top polluters of our oceans and shorelines. So, we're faced with a no-brainer here: eliminate use of plastic bags, and instead switch to handy re-usables! It is completely possible to do this, when we stop to think about how unnecessary plastic bags are. I mean really, truly, sincerely, profoundly unnecessary. Reusable canvas bags are sturdier, often prettier and more interesting, and... oh yeah! They are reusable!

4.Buy Local! This means eating seasonal produce and other food items that have traveled no more than 100 miles to get to your plate. Preferably, these items should be bought from a Community-Supported Agricultural project, or from your local farmer's market. Ideally, they could be grown in your backyard! The heavy environmental burden of transporting out-of-season fruits and vegetables from other parts of the world is largely due to the amount of oil used to ship and truck these food items around. Plus, think about how much better the incredibly fresh food will taste, knowing that you're supporting local farmers.

5. Buy yourself a nice stainless steel water bottle. Just the production of plastic water bottles alone uses 1.5 million barrels of oil each year- enough to run 100,000 cars uninterrupted for a year. And that's not to mention the oil used in the transport of our simplest resource within these plastic containers over thousands of miles, when we could just turn on our tap and have the same crisp cool water, minus the oil. Staying away from plastic water bottles is also a nice way to guarantee BPA-free drinking.

6. Loose the Packaging: Buy products that are loose and not unnecessarily wrapped in excessive packaging. Food items such as bulk grains and fresh fruits and vegetables are always available at the grocery store, and don't involve overwhelming layers of plastic packaging. For other products, buying items second hand definitely helps to cut down on packaging and production, two aspects of our consumer culture which heavily intensify our dependence on oil.

7. Say no to nylon and polyester, since both items are petroleum based. Instead, choose natural fibers and textiles such as cotton, wool, and hemp. Or just go naked, whatever.

8. Don't be putting petroleum on your face. What? Ew! Well, it's true that many skin care products such as makeup and moisturizers are made from compounds extracted from the same refineries that your auto fuel is coming from. For help deciphering which products are safe, use the Environmental Working Group's database, Skin Deep, and make sure your products aren't oil-based.

9. Weatherize your home, and cut down on home energy use! Home energy audits are a great way to figure out what your home consumption looks like, and to pinpoint solutions for making your home more environmentally sustainable. For every million homes weatherized, three million barrels of oil are saved. Not to mention, it's a great way to cut down on your utility bills!

10. Call for accountability- at all levels. Sure, it might be a great idea to boycott BP. After all, they are the face of the largest and most devastating environmental disaster in the U.S., and directing our outrage at them seems almost instinctual. However, it's important to remember that BP's misbehavior took place within the context of limited government oversight and a lack of direct accountability. It's as if BP is the onerous young child who is never disciplined for his misbehavior, and so acts out destructively, and all you can wonder is... where are the parents?! It has been revealed in the month since the gulf oil spill that the government showed a sickening lack of regulation over the issuance of a multitude offshore drilling permits, and that BP's Deepwater Horizon project was one of those lucky ones that squeaked by without a full review. And still, in the face of this disaster, and despite a temporary moratorium on offshore drilling permits, the Obama administration has issued 7 new permits in the past month. So it's important to remember that our responsibility lies not only with our own personal behaviors and lifestyle choices, but with our power as a people to influence our leaders, keep the pressure on to hold them accountable for their actions, and demand that our future not be compromised by short-sight and greed.


Floating Fungi to Save the Gulf

The helpless feeling that one gets as the BP oil spill burgeons each day to sickening proportions can be almost suffocating when one thinks of the implications. We watch every day as the waters fill with oil, and stand by horrified at BP's insufficient actions. Now they are pouring dispersant chemicals into our waters... chemicals that might be more toxic than the oil itself. But there are other ways to combat this utter monstrosity, ways that do not necessarily involve further damage to our marine life and our wetlands. It doesn't always have to be about destruction, it can also be about innovation and healing. One amazing solution is the use of mushrooms to clean up oil spills. Yes, you read that correctly. I said mushrooms.

Paul Stamets is a mycologist and super-hero extrodinaire who famously advocates "6 Ways that Mushrooms Can Save the World." I was lucky enough to listen to one of his lectures 2 years ago at the Washington, D.C. Green Festival, and what he had to say changed my world. In particular, he spoke about the degenerative effects of mycelium fungi and its various enzymes on hydrocarbon toxins. In a study that he conducted with remediating diesel-contaminated soil through mycelium inoculation, Paul was able to successfully reduce the amount of Total Aromatic Hydrocarbons from 10,000 parts per million to only 200 parts per million... in just 16 weeks. The soil was then approved for landscaping use along highways. If that isn't amazing, you tell me what is.

And now Paul is suggesting we try the same thing with oil spills in our waters. Of course, the conditions are much different and there are many questions left up in the air about this strategy. Still, its effects seem promising enough that they warrant some trust and, at the very least, to be given a try. And because I couldn't put it any better myself... please read Paul Stamets' excellent piece about the petroleum problem, mycoremediation, and how mushrooms can seriously save the world:

For the earth,
Tasha Pea


Flower of the Week

Vibrant bouquets bring smiles to all at the Pike Place Market in Seattle.


Let's Move

The unflattering reputation that Americans have garnered in the minds of so many other countries- that we are fat, stupid, arrogant and ill-informed- might seem overly harsh and judgmental. But the troubling part about this critical stereotype is not the ego-blow that we suffer in the global popularity contest. I'm sure our political arrogance and militaristic bullying can take care of that. Rather, the troubling part of this stereotype is that it's kind of true, a fact which has some serious detrimental connotations for our overall well-being. The United States is currently facing a super-sized obesity epidemic; our rates of diet-related diseases are astronomical. But the most disturbing part about all of it is the fact that these unhealthy indicators are starting to become apparent earlier and earlier in life, with young children now being grossly affected by this epidemic of overweight.

In 2008, data from the CDC indicated that nearly 20% of U.S. children aged 6-11 were classified as obese. According to the Mayo Clinic, about one in three children in the United States are considered to be overweight or obese, putting them at risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and early puberty. All over the country, states and cities have been struggling to cope with this massive issue by implementing various public health approaches to curb the fatty disaster, and are being faced with enormous social and financial challenges. In Kansas, researchers and parents alike are baffled by the 91% increase in girls' obesity rates over a period of only 5 years. In Ohio, the public school system is unable to allow even 30 minutes of physical activity during the school day because of a lack of funding to do so, leading to an increased risk of overweight. And in Washington, D.C., where childhood obesity levels are the highest in the nation, a measure to fund public school nutrition programs by taxing sugary beverages is being fought back by the super-sized soda lobby (Coca-Cola and company), who have already paid upwards of $5 million to block the measure.

So, it would seem that the new federal Let's Move! campaign, headed by First Lady Michelle Obama, would be coming not a moment too late. The program's goal is to target childhood obesity by providing access to affordable, healthy foods and by increasing childrens' physical activity. It would seem that Mrs. Obama, who has repeatedly invited Mcarthur Fellow and sustainable food grower Will Allen to the White house, who boldly planted an organic vegetable garden on that same immaculate lawn, and who speaks out regularly on the troubling issue of childhood obesity and nutritional health, would be a firm and committed supporter of local, sustainable food movements. However, the focus of the program so far has not been on grassroots food campaigns working to provide communities with access to healthy, organic foods. Rather, the focus of our first lady's campaign is on the big industrial food producers. That's right. Yesterday, Michelle Obama announced a partnership with industrial food giants such as Kraft, Pepsi Co, Coca-Cola, Cambell, Kellogg, Con Agra, and Sara Lee to combat the nation's obesity crisis.

These same behemoths of the food industry who regularly and exclusively distribute non-nutritious edible food-like products are now gaining recognition and praise for their pledge to reduce the caloric count of their "foods" by a rate of 1 trillion calories annually. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, its false positive blurs the reality of the obesity epidemic that we are facing. It is going to take much more than just a simple reduction in caloric content for our children to become holistically healthy. It is also vital to address issues such as food deserts, where fresh produce is not available for miles around; we must focus on funding and supporting community-based sustainable food growing projects, to empower communities' souls and enrich their bodies. We must also focus on the one determinant which inspires the very name of the program: movement. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has praised the Let's Move! commitment to physical activity, citing the importance of making our streets safe for children and adults alike to walk and bike in their neighborhoods.

It remains to be seen whether this incredibly high-profile initiative will take root at the grassroots level, and whether it will have an effect on the obesity rates in our country. Enforcing a commitment from some of the biggest criminals in childhood obesity, while a valiant effort to pierce the belly of the beast, is also serving to bolster these companies by garnishing their image in the public eye, making them seem more cuddly, and thus more marketable. Still, it seems as if the first lady's approach is quite multifaceted, accounting for various determinants of childhood obesity, and implementing a range of approaches to target this tragic issue in our society. And if her past actions hold any indication of her tenacity and commitment to food issues, then surely Mrs. Obama deserves our preliminary trust. And once the media blitz dust settles, we will see what kinds of effects the program has actually had on the wellness of our nation's children.


Flower of the Week

Ahh, Sage. The wisest of the garden herbs. It's delicately beautiful, attractively scented, and deceptively useful in so many different ways, making it absolutely indispensable in any kitchen, garden, or healing space. Besides its obvious use in making herbal sachets & potpourri, sage can be used in a medicinal capacity to relieve soar throats, dizziness, colds, and headaches. It can also be used to aid in digestion, and to balance blood sugar and insulin levels in your body. Plus, sage tea is so tasty, and drinking it is both refreshing and relaxing. I think that if I were to be a flower, I'd want to be a sage :-)


Great Quote

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.

Yet they are the world of the individual person, the neighborhood she or he lives in; the school or college that she attends; the factory, farm, or office where she works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, and equal dignity without discrimination.

Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."

-Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States and one-time Chairperson for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, upon presenting "In Your Hands," her booklet on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.



According to Sarah Palin, drilling for oil makes our country a "more secure, prosperous, and peaceful nation." Sure. Except for when there are 25,000 barrels of crude oil pouring into the gulf of Mexico every day, slaughtering marine life, threatening 50% of our nation's wetlands, and compromising the livelihoods of countless fishing and coastal communities.

21 years after the infamous Exxon-Valdez oil spill in the northern gulf of Alaska, communities along the coast have yet to fully recover from the total environmental catastrophe that decimated their fishing industry, and left some species of marine life never to recover. In recent years, Alaskan sea otters and harlequin ducks have had traces of Exxon oil in their systems, oil remains a few inches below the surface on certain beaches, and coastal communities have reported increased rates of alcoholism, suicide, and violence. They are still awaiting a full clean-up, and it has been twenty-one years and counting.

Who knows what the effects of this recent spill will look like. But scientists are posturing left and right that this will be the worst oil spill in history, leaving Exxon Valdez to 'pale in comparison.'

Still, lunacy and denial prevail among those who support off-shore drilling. Sarah Palin herself, although claiming to be "heartbroken" over the disaster, noted on her facebook page that "accidents happen." Right. Oops! And never to be topped for the title of #1 moron, Rush Limbaugh is now claiming that the spill might have been triggered by environmentalists... because they wanted to "head off more oil drilling" and insinuated that this was somehow an earth day commemoration. Wow. What a wacko.

This event is a complete and utter environmental tragedy, an economic calamity, and a political minefield. What is truly heartbreaking about it is the lack of significance it has held in conservatives' attitudes toward energy policy. But how can it represent any action other than a full-fledged investment in alternative energies? How many more decimated ecosystems and toppled communities will it take before we learn that offshore drilling is unsustainable? As my friend Adam so wisely put it, we have to "start talking about alternative fuels as future fuels, because in reality, we have no alternative." Drill, baby, drill, is obsolete and irrelevant, and it's time we regarded it as such.

But for the United States to shift gears on offshore drilling policy, it would defer only a fraction of the tragedy that we are experiencing now along our southern gulf coast. Because spills like this happen all the time, with just as much intensity and at a higher frequency, wreaking environmental havoc all around the world. In Nigeria, for example, it is said that a spill equal to the Exxon Valdez spill has happened at least once every year since 1969, and the country is currently dealing with approximately 2,000 active oil spills. Other countries around the world have limited or no regulations on offshore drilling, and this is not just their problem, it is ours. We import approximately two-thirds of our oil supply from other countries, with half of this supply coming from unstable regions. And although the U.S. accounts for only 5% of the world's population, it is responsible for 25% of its oil consumption. So, this is not just an issue of extraction policy, although that is a central piece to achieving sustainability. This is also an issue of consumption and lifestyle in America, and hugely so.

The dangers and consequences of offshore oil drilling have been present for decades, but only now are they becoming real in Americans' minds, as the evidence is being brought right to our doorstep... our shoreline. It is time we reconsider our demand for these unsustainable forms of energy, and react in a way that will ensure no more tragedies like this one will ever happen again. But if we wait for total environmental destruction before we venture to make any changes, then it will certainly be too late.


Flower of the Week

Beautiful and tasty onion chives! As the planting season is upon us, it seemed fitting to include another edible delight to celebrate springtime home growing. This chive plant is just as decorative in my own home garden as it is useful in my kitchen. A perfect precursor to the array of edible blooms which will be gracing my backyard this growing season.