What Does Food Have to Do With Occupy Wall Street?
What began with an encampment of makeshift cardboard tents and an impromptu sidewalk gallery of protest signs has exploded into a movement that’s spawning sister protests nationwide. But as numbers grow, so do logistical challenges. How do you feed a crowd of 20,000?
At the cafeteria-style kitchen in Zuccotti Square (the OWS base camp), plates of donated food are doled out by a rotating cast of volunteers, including trained chefs (the overwhelming quantity of donated food has organizers scrambling to donate to local shelters, ensuring nothing is wasted). Operating on 100 percent food donations means the kitchen team has to improvise based on what’s at hand, and prepare any hot meals at apartments or kitchen space in the neighborhood. However improvised, the kitchen supports the values of the activists—food scraps go into a compost bin and dishwater passes through a filter to be reused.
Good, clean and fair food is a value of the activists, but what does it have to do with Wall Street? Food justice writer and activist Jan Poppendeick says the connection is corporate control of agriculture. The statistics are staggering. For example, 90 percent of the corn market is dominated by three companies, and the result is the degradation of human health, the environment and the future health of the food supply. Reclaiming control of the food system from corporate entities is one of the written tenets of the Occupy Wall Street declaration—corporations have poisoned the food supply through negligence and have undermined the farming system through monopolization. Another tenet speaks to animal cruelty inflicted by the common industrial practice of confining animals into tight, inhumane quarters.
Does eating the fast food pizza that comes in through donations undermine their critique? Some say yes, and choose to wait out mealtimes until food arrives that’s in line with their values. Others say it’s worth it to make an exception about what’s on your plate today in order to transform the menus of tomorrow. Food activist Christina Schiavoni of WhyHunger, who distributed farmers market veggies as she marched, said that she would love to see more local, sustainable or organic options available in the kitchen, but noted that the food served is “representative of the current situation. There is no simple way to get fresh, healthy foods down there.”
Some committed individuals and organizations have begun to change that. Kitchen volunteers are seeing more donations coming from farmers markets, and even farmers themselves. Ken Jaffe, the owner of Slope Farms Beef and a US Terra Madre delegate, hopes to be part of that change, offering to come down from the Catskills with his grass-fed ground beef in tow. Jaffe doesn’t just want to give away his meat. He's making connections between Occupy Wall Street and rural issues, and asserts that “there are a lot of people in rural upstate that feel very connected with what they are doing.” He does worry that the link between rural America and the concerns of Occupy Wall Street has yet to be clearly expressed.
With so many messages on t-shirts and banners, it’s hard for any one to rise to the top, but it’s clear that food activists are present on the scene. As Sheila Salmon Nichols noted on our Facebook page, “We might not all agree on all the ideologies of OWS…however, their position on what is happening to our food system is spot-on! Hopefully, this collective energy will move our country/world in a more positive, peaceful and sustainable direction!”
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The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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