If you are planning to use the extra hours of daylight to sit out in your favorite Adirondack chair or lounge in your peaceful hammock with a good book—and you are intrigued by all-things-food—then consider Food Tank’s hand-picked book list designed to educate and inspire readers.
What will you be reading this summer? Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Food Tank, which strives to create a new way of thinking about global food system issues, has selected books to create ideas on how to eat healthier, safer, more fairly produced food. And of course to create anticipation to cook, eat and share what you learn.
Food Tank's 18 summer must-reads are as follows:
1. Agri-culture: Reconnecting People, Land and Nature by Jules Pretty
This book takes an in-depth look at the issues enveloped in the agriculture and food systems. Pretty emphasizes changing behaviors and reforming policies in order for an agricultural revolution to take place. He draws on stories of successful agricultural transformation in both developing and industrialized countries, calling on the next agricultural revolution.
2. Cooperative Farming: Frameworks for Farming Together by Faith Gilbert
Gilbert designed this 54-page guidebook through interviews with 42 start-up and established collaborative farm projects across North America. She gathered input from 18 professionals and advisors, and 50 publications in cooperative development, farm business, finance, land access and more. This book highlights processes that make collaborations effective and function in order to provide mutual satisfaction and benefits.
3. Don't Cook the Planet: Deliciously Saving the Planet One Meal at a Time by Emily Abrams
An 18-year-old activist from Massachusetts, Abrams' new cookbook features 70 recipes shared by celebrity and all-star chefs including, actor, producer and eco-activist Chevy Chase, MasterChef judge and acclaimed chef, Graham Elliot, and Stephanie Izard, Top Chef Star and executive chef at Girl & the Goat. This cookbook offers recipes and tips on how to minimize your carbon footprint. Abrams hope to impact her generation through this cookbook featuring positive food choices.
4. Eating Wildly by Ava Chin
Follow Chin in this touching and informative memoir as she forages for food in New York City. Chin is an “urban forager” on the quest for eating better, eating healthier and more sustainably, regardless of location. She takes the reader on an emotional journey—finding solace in parks and backyards where she connects with rare and delicious edible plants. Her experiences in nature enliven taste buds and stir emotions.
5. Fields of Hope and Power by Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé
Fields of Hope and Power is a chapter from the upcoming Navdanya book on agroecological movements, living democracy and the limits of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and industrial agriculture. This chapter takes an in-depth look at food scarcity and how agriculture and climate affect this issue. The Lappés investigate how the farmers at Navdanya have contributed to setting up the largest direct marketing fair trade organic network in India.
6. Foods for Health: Choose and Use the Very Best Foods for Your Family and Our Planet by Barton Seaver and P.K Newby
Seaver and Newby have created a science-based guide to healthy eating for the whole family which features tips, food pairings and sample menus. The authors take the reader on a culinary tour of 148 foods which have high nutritional value and the least environmental impact. This book teaches readers how to prepare healthy food and meals while making the best choice for their body and the planet.
7. Food Systems Failure: The Global Food Crisis and the Future of Agriculture by Christopher Rosin, Paul Stock and Hugh Campbell
The authors provide a critical assessment of the global food system during heightened food crisis and feeding a growing population. This book explores contraindications in policy and practice that hinder solutions to the food crisis. Case studies expose neoliberal policies involved with the production end of the food system which provides insight to the current challenges for feeding the world. Rosin, Stock and Campbell provide alternative strategies to create a more just and moral food system.
8. Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity by Lester R. Brown
Brown exposes the planet’s volatile food system with eroding soils, rising temperatures and countries competing for land and water resources. He writes, “food is the new oil.” Political up rise and food scarcity are concerning issues, which Brown addresses and presents solutions to.
9. Grabbing Power: The New Struggles for Land, Food and Democracy in Northern Honduras by Tanya M. Kerssen
This book explores the history of agribusiness and land conflicts in Northern Honduras. In the Aguan Valley, Honduran peasants battle large palm oil producers and fight for democratization of land, food and political power. Kerssen shows how peasants in crime and drug laden communities are leading a strong and inspiring movement, with no signs of backing down.
10. In the Garden: A Botanically Illustrated Gardening Book by Sandra Lynn McPeake
Great for the coffee or kitchen table, this book includes basic growing information and detailed images of vegetable growth cycles from seedlings to the inside of veggies. McPeake provides gardening tips, supplies growers will need, and how to keep a gardening journal. Learn to share and grow with this illustrated guide.
11. Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in America by Douglas Gayeton
A guide to more than 200 agriculture terms explained by experts in the field and complemented by stunning visuals, this book explores rebuilding local food movements. Gayeton traveled the U.S. taking photos and learning from today’s top sustainability practitioners to create this reference book.
12. Savor: Mindful Eating for Life by Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung
This book will make you stop and think about your eating habits and patterns. Buddhist monk, Hanh, and nutritional expert, Dr. Cheung, discuss how to become more aware and mindful of our bodies, drawing special attention to how we eat. This book explores the physical, emotional, psychological and environmental factors which control our weight.
13. Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity by Barbara Burlingame and Sandro Dernini
This publication, by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), investigates the link between sustainable diets and biodiversity. It addresses the relationship between agriculture, health, environment and food industries- indicating the most sustainable diets have low environmental impacts. This text can be used as a reference for policy, research and action.
14. Sustainable Revolution: Permaculture in Ecovillages, Urban Farms and Communities Worldwide by Juliana Birnbaum and Louis Fox
This book is a collection of profiles, interviews and essays which feature 60 innovative community-based projects around the globe in diverse climates. Birnbaum and Fox visited communities all around the world looking for ecological design systems. From urban gardeners to native seed-saving collectives to ecovillage developments, the common thread that weaves these thriving communities together is permaculture systems.
15. The Arcadia Mobile Market Seasonal Cookbook by JuJu Harris
This cookbook incorporates Women Infants and Children (WIC) staples along with seasonal produce to create easy and delicious recipes. Harris, Arcadia Culinary Educator and Mobile Market Outreach Coordinator, wanted to create healthy and nutritious recipes around WIC provisions. What started out as a simple compilation of recipes has turned into a successful business venture; Harris plans to offer a Spanish version later this year.
16. The Ecological Hoofprint: The Global Burden of Industrial Livestock by Tony Weis
Weis discusses the “meatification” of human diets and the adverse impact it has on the earth and human health. Weis believes the conversion of grain and oilseed into meat is inefficient in a world striving to provide a basic diet to those chronically hungry. He explains why the growth and industrialization of livestock production is a central part of industrial capitalist agriculture.
17. The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber (coming soon!)
This book explores Barber’s vision for a new future of American eating. After a decade of research on farming communities throughout the world, Barber concludes America’s food needs a radical transformation to ensure the future of our health, food and land. From his restaurant’s kitchen to farmers’ fields, Barber’s experiences lead him to propose a “third plate”—a new pattern of eating rooted in cooking with and celebrating the whole farm.
18. We the Eaters by Ellen Gustafson (coming soon!)
Gustafson explores how eaters and consumers can transform the global food system by changing what is on their dinner plates. The book investigates the global industrial food system using the classic American dinner as a template and provides actionable solutions to start ripple effects of change. The book’s manifesto is: If we change dinner, we change the world.
Any books you would add to the list?
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By Lynne Peeples
Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.
In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.
Unintended Consequences<p>Chemists first discovered disinfection by-products in treated drinking water in the 1970s. The trihalomethanes they found, they determined, had resulted from the reaction of chlorine with natural organic matter. Since then, scientists have identified more than 700 additional disinfection by-products. "And those only represent a portion. We still don't know half of them," says Richardson, whose lab has identified hundreds of disinfection by-products. </p>
What’s Regulated and What’s Not?<p>The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently regulates 11 disinfection by-products — including a handful of trihalomethanes (THM) and haloacetic acids (HAA). While these represent only a small fraction of all disinfection by-products, EPA aims to use their presence to indicate the presence of other disinfection by-products. "The general idea is if you control THMs and HAAs, you implicitly or by default control everything else as well," says Korshin.</p><p>EPA also requires drinking water facilities to use techniques to reduce the concentration of organic materials before applying disinfectants, and regulates the quantity of disinfectants that systems use. These rules ultimately can help control levels of disinfection by-products in drinking water.</p>
Click the image for an interactive version of this chart on the Environmental Working Group website.<p>Still, some scientists and advocates argue that current regulations do not go far enough to protect the public. Many question whether the government is regulating the right disinfection by-products, and if water systems are doing enough to reduce disinfection by-products. EPA is now seeking public input as it considers potential revisions to regulations, including the possibility of regulating additional by-products. The agency held a <a href="https://www.epa.gov/dwsixyearreview/potential-revisions-microbial-and-disinfection-byproducts-rules" target="_blank">two-day public meeting</a> in October 2020 and plans to hold additional public meetings throughout 2021.</p><p>When EPA set regulations on disinfection by-products between the 1970s and early 2000s, the agency, as well as the scientific community, was primarily focused on by-products of reactions between organics and chlorine — historically the most common drinking water disinfectant. But the science has become increasingly clear that these chlorinated chemicals represent a fraction of the by-product problem.</p><p>For example, bromide or iodide can get caught up in the reaction, too. This is common where seawater penetrates a drinking water source. By itself, bromide is innocuous, says Korshin. "But it is extremely [reactive] with organics," he says. "As bromide levels increase with normal treatment, then concentrations of brominated disinfection by-products will increase quite rapidly."</p><p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15487777/" target="_blank">Emerging</a> <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.7b05440" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">data</a> indicate that brominated and iodinated by-products are potentially more harmful than the regulated by-products.</p><p>Almost half of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of either the Atlantic or Pacific coasts, where saltwater intrusion can be a problem for drinking water supplies. "In the U.S., the rule of thumb is the closer to the sea, the more bromide you have," says Korshin, noting there are also places where bromide naturally leaches out from the soil. Still, some coastal areas tend to be spared. For example, the city of Seattle's water comes from the mountains, never making contact with seawater and tending to pick up minimal organic matter.</p><p>Hazardous disinfection by-products can also be an issue with desalination for drinking water. "As <a href="https://ensia.com/features/can-saltwater-quench-our-growing-thirst/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">desalination</a> practices become more economical, then the issue of controlling bromide becomes quite important," adds Korshin.</p>
Other Hot Spots<p>Coastal areas represent just one type of hot spot for disinfection by-products. Agricultural regions tend to send organic matter — such as fertilizer and animal waste — into waterways. Areas with warmer climates generally have higher levels of natural organic matter. And nearly any urban area can be prone to stormwater runoff or combined sewer overflows, which can contain rainwater as well as untreated human waste, industrial wastewater, hazardous materials and organic debris. These events are especially common along the East Coast, notes Sydney Evans, a science analyst with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG, a collaborator on <a href="https://ensia.com/ensia-collections/troubled-waters/" target="_blank">this reporting project</a>).</p><p>The only drinking water sources that might be altogether free of disinfection by-products, suggests Richardson, are private wells that are not treated with disinfectants. She used to drink water from her own well. "It was always cold, coming from great depth through clay and granite," she says. "It was fabulous."</p><p>Today, Richardson gets her water from a city system that uses chloramine.</p>
Toxic Treadmill<p>Most community water systems in the U.S. use chlorine for disinfection in their treatment plant. Because disinfectants are needed to prevent bacteria growth as the water travels to the homes at the ends of the distribution lines, sometimes a second round of disinfection is also added in the pipes.</p><p>Here, systems usually opt for either chlorine or chloramine. "Chloramination is more long-lasting and does not form as many disinfection by-products through the system," says Steve Via, director of federal relations at the American Water Works Association. "Some studies show that chloramination may be more protective against organisms that inhabit biofilms such as Legionella."</p>
Alternative Approaches<p>When he moved to the U.S. from Germany, Prasse says he immediately noticed the bad taste of the water. "You can taste the chlorine here. That's not the case in Germany," he says.</p><p>In his home country, water systems use chlorine — if at all — at lower concentrations and at the very end of treatment. In the Netherlands, <a href="https://dwes.copernicus.org/articles/2/1/2009/dwes-2-1-2009.pdf" target="_blank">chlorine isn't used at all</a> as the risks are considered to outweigh the benefits, says Prasse. He notes the challenge in making a convincing connection between exposure to low concentrations of disinfection by-products and health effects, such as cancer, that can occur decades later. In contrast, exposure to a pathogen can make someone sick very quickly.</p><p>But many countries in Europe have not waited for proof and have taken a precautionary approach to reduce potential risk. The emphasis there is on alternative approaches for primary disinfection such as ozone or <a href="https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/eco-friendly-way-disinfect-water-using-light/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ultraviolet light</a>. Reverse osmosis is among the "high-end" options, used to remove organic and inorganics from the water. While expensive, says Prasse, the method of forcing water through a semipermeable membrane is growing in popularity for systems that want to reuse wastewater for drinking water purposes.</p><p>Remucal notes that some treatment technologies may be good at removing a particular type of contaminant while being ineffective at removing another. "We need to think about the whole soup when we think about treatment," she says. What's more, Remucal explains, the mixture of contaminants may impact the body differently than any one chemical on its own. </p><p>Richardson's preferred treatment method is filtering the water with granulated activated carbon, followed by a low dose of chlorine.</p><p>Granulated activated carbon is essentially the same stuff that's in a household filter. (EWG recommends that consumers use a <a href="https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/reviewed-disinfection-byproducts.php#:~:text=EWG%20recommends%20using%20a%20home,as%20trihalomethanes%20and%20haloacetic%20acids." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countertop carbon filter</a> to reduce levels of disinfection by-products.) While such a filter "would remove disinfection by-products after they're formed, in the plant they remove precursors before they form by-products," explains Richardson. She coauthored a <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.9b00023" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019 paper</a> that concluded the treatment method is effective in reducing a wide range of regulated and unregulated disinfection by-products.</p><br>
Greater Cincinnati Water Works installed a granulated activated carbon system in 1992, and is still one of relatively few full-scale plants that uses the technology. Courtesy of Greater Cincinnati Water Works.<p>Despite the technology and its benefits being known for decades, relatively few full-scale plants use granulated active carbon. They often cite its high cost, Richardson says. "They say that, but the city of Cincinnati [Ohio] has not gone bankrupt using it," she says. "So, I'm not buying that argument anymore."</p><p>Greater Cincinnati Water Works installed a granulated activated carbon system in 1992. On a video call in December, Jeff Swertfeger, the superintendent of Greater Cincinnati Water Works, poured grains of what looks like black sand out of a glass tube and into his hand. It was actually crushed coal that has been baked in a furnace. Under a microscope, each grain looks like a sponge, said Swertfeger. When water passes over the carbon grains, he explained, open tunnels and pores provide extensive surface area to absorb contaminants.</p><p>While the granulated activated carbon initially was installed to address chemical spills and other industrial contamination concerns in the Ohio River, Cincinnati's main drinking water source, Swertfeger notes that the substance has turned out to "remove a lot of other stuff, too," including <a href="https://ensia.com/features/drinking-water-contamination-pfas-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">PFAS</a> and disinfection by-product precursors.</p><p>"We use about one-third the amount of chlorine as we did before. It smells and tastes a lot better," he says. "The use of granulated activated carbon has resulted in lower disinfection by-products across the board."</p><p>Richardson is optimistic about being able to reduce risks from disinfection by-products in the future. "If we're smart, we can still kill those pathogens and lower our chemical disinfection by-product exposure at the same time," she says.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://ensia.com/features/drinking-water-disinfection-byproducts-pathogens/" target="_blank">Ensia</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649953730#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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