Grilled the whole shebang tonight, ribeye and the salad, start to yummy finish.
Grilled the whole shebang tonight, ribeye and the salad, start to yummy finish.
This would be our actual weekly bag of garbage, which I am proud to say is no small potatoes for a family of four. But it's also due to the fact that the city of Oakland equips each residence with more ample compost and recycling containers. The garbage receptacle is the smallest of the lot. While I do deduct a sneaky tactic to get us all on board, I've been composting/recycling for just about forever. In fact my mother made us wash aluminum foil in the 70s, much to my then shame. (It was not disimilar to my older siblings insist I listen to Procul Harem instead of the trendy Partridge Family popular with my peers.) From radio underground to garbage mainstream, I seem to have somehow traveled from these past decades. Especially strange considering how my neighbor stuffs her garbage bin to overflowing, often asking to partake of our underused bin--while recycling and composting nada. They are a foursome too. Sad to say, but who am I to tell her otherwise? Preferring a good relationship, I remain silently judgmental. I guess we cannot all evolve.
Feb 25th 2012 | from the Economist print edition
ACIDIFICATION, warming, the destruction of coral reefs: the biggest problems facing the sea are as vast, deep and seemingly intractable as the oceans themselves. So long as the world fails to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases, cause of the global warming behind these troubles, they will grow. By comparison, overfishing, another great curse, should be easier to put right, especially in the coastal waters where most fishing occurs. And yet it goes on, year after year.
Fishermen have every reason to do something. Many fisheries are hurtling towards collapse; stocks of large fish have been reduced by up to 90%. When stocks are overfished, they yield a smaller catch. The cost of mismanagement, in lost economic output, is huge: some $50 billion a year, according to the World Bank.
One reason why the pillage continues is that knowledge of fish stocks is poor, especially in developing countries. A new statistical attempt at estimating the remaining shoals (seearticle), from the University of California, Santa Barbara, is therefore welcome—even if that is not true of its findings, that stocks are even more ravaged than previously thought. The study found that better-understood fisheries are likelier to be healthy. Another reason for overfishing is new technology (developed, aptly enough, for battlefields), which makes shoals easier to detect. As large boats and refrigeration have spread, fishing fleets have covered greater distances and hoovered up larger catches. Because technology lets fishermen fish with less effort, it disguises just how fast the stocks are depleting.
Fishermen generally understand the risks of overfishing. Yet still they flout quotas, where they exist. That is often because they take a short-term view of the asset—they would rather cash in now and invest the money in something else. And it is invariably compounded by a commons-despoiling feeling that if they don’t plunder, others will.
In most fisheries, the fishermen would make more money by husbanding their resource, and it should be possible to incentivise them to do so. The best way is to give them a defined, long-term right to a share of the fish. In regulated industrial fisheries, as in Iceland, New Zealand and America, this has taken the form of a tradable, individual share of a fishing quota. Developing countries, where law enforcement is weak, seem to do better when a group right over an expanse of water is given to a co-operative or village fleet. The principle is the same: fishermen who feel like owners are more likely to behave as responsible stewards. The new statistical study confirms that rights-based fisheries are generally healthier.
The rights stuff
Yet only a few hundred of the oceans’ thousands of fisheries are run this way, mainly because such schemes are hard to get right. Limiting access to a common resource creates losers, and therefore discord. Cultural differences affect success rates; not everyone is as law-abiding as Icelanders. Almost everywhere it takes time to convince fishermen, the last hunter-gatherers, to change their habits. But, barnacled by caveats though it may be, the rights-based approach is the best available.
In rich countries, satellite imagery will increasingly help, by making monitoring cheaper and better. In many poor ones, devolution is making it easier to form local organisations. Another promising idea is to incorporate rights-based fisheries with no-catch zones. These safeguard breeding-stocks and are easier to monitor than individual catches. Where stocks are recovering, as a result of these reforms, fishermen are likelier to see scientifically determined quotas as in their self-interest. In the end, that may be the only hope.
February 11, 2012, 7:00 AM
Mitch Epstein’s series of New York City trees were featured in this week’s Voyages Issue, accompanied by an essay by Michael Kimmelman. His work will be exhibited in March at Sikkema Jenkins. Kathy Ryan, the magazine’s photography director, talked to him about the peculiar challenges of his project.
What inspired you to do the trees?
Trees have long been an interest of mine, and I wanted to do a piece that was in part about New York and also a work that would take me forward from “American Power,” where I spent five years traveling the country looking at sites where energy was produced and consumed. It had long been an idea in the back of my head to photograph trees in New York. A year ago I was traveling in the Everglades, and I had the intuition this was the time to do it. That led me to buying a box of 8-by-10 black-and-white sheet film. I’m essentially a color photographer. But I had this instinct that color would be an interference with the pictures I wanted to make. I really wanted the trees to be a part of the city — to be contextualized by the city.
Q. How does black and white give you a greater ability to contextualize the trees?
A. Well, I wanted the trees to come forward, both in a formal and a conceptual way. I realized there was a lot about the contemporary urban landscape that was colored that was going to become a distraction. Whether it was the yellow streetlights, the cross lights at the intersections, or the color of the red fire hydrant. There was also the potential to fall prey to the sameness of the color, especially in the summer season, when yes, there are varieties of green but the green is what is prevailing. Somehow black and white doesn’t prevail as a palette the same way color does. I wanted the urban populace and the architecture to in some way serve as a stage set and become something that would drop back for the trees, which would become the primary subject — the primary focal point of the picture. I also had the sense that it would be riskier in color because of the pitfalls of the picturesque.
Q. What do you mean by the “pitfalls of the picturesque”?
A. There are certain subjects for photography that are by their nature contrived. It would be hard to make a breakthrough picture of, say, a baby. At the same time, it is hard to photograph fall foliage because it’s so seductive. It takes over. It is hard to penetrate. I didn’t want the color to be intrusive. I didn’t want the color to be a distraction to what was intrinsic to the picture. The way I have moved forward with my photography is to change tools, materials, and subjects in ways that are unfamiliar and often a little bit uneasy. That was all part of the gambit here for me.
Q. How did you choose your trees?
A. I found a list the city drew up in the ’80s designating certain trees in the five boroughs as “great trees.” I also found a resource guide — “New York City Trees” — a field guide for the metropolitan area by Edward Sibley Barnard. It was also helpful in steering me as well to areas that were rich in parkland and in old groves of trees. Researching on the Internet, I found out about a 300-plus-year-old tree in Washington Square Park. That was the first tree I went to.
Q. Tell us about photographing that tree in Washington Square Park.
A. Before bringing the 8-by-10 camera, I photographed the tree several times with a little digital camera. I spent time with the tree. It was January, and I first had to educate myself as to when the light would be at a favorable vantage point in the sky.
Q. Why did you choose January for this tree?
A. After initially photographing it in January, I went back several times over the course of the winter months, trying to understand the best vantage point to photograph the tree. I wanted the transparency that the bare branches gave the tree, so you could see the buildings through the branches. Once it became spring, the trees began to bloom and suddenly there was no more transparency, because of all the leaves and growth that came with spring. So I didn’t have the opportunity again until the fall. I made several visits in the fall, but it wasn’t until late December, early January that the leaves were all gone from the tree. Not every picture is like that, but in this case it was important for me to find a way to step back, to see the tree in its full scale.
Q. So you went from showing a detail of the tree the first time you shot it, to deciding that the picture had to be the whole tree, with bare branches.
A. That often happens. Often I am making pictures that become sketches for other pictures. With the 8-by-10 camera, there is the opportunity to make pictures that are very layered. The prints of these pictures for the exhibition will be 68 inches high — the size of a human being. You will have the opportunity to step into them and to engage with every detail.
Q. Can you tell us about the gigantic Cottonwood on Staten Island?
A. What was interesting is that an old house by the tree had been torn down, and there were rows of condominiums put in, and before I had even taken the camera out, people in the neighborhood came up to me and began to tell me stories about how the contractor that put up the houses had to tear out a lot of the roots of the tree, and they were concerned about it. The tree was a kind of anchor for the people, and they were disgruntled about it. There was a sense of community ownership of the tree. I’m conspicuous with this big camera, and people are curious, especially today when nobody is using cameras like these.
Q. So when they pulled up the roots of this tree, it looks like it wasn’t enough to hurt it.
A. Well, one doesn’t know. It was within the last decade or so. The tree looks like it’s thriving.
Q. What month did you photograph this Eastern Cottonwood?
A. September 2011. There was a deep fog, and I was thinking, ‘Gosh, I got up at a this early hour, and maybe nothing’s going to happen.’ But I got there, and I photographed the tree. One of the problems that I had during multiple visits to this tree was there were always cars parked on the street, including one in the spot I needed to place the camera for the vantage point I wanted. I asked this one gentleman who was always coming out to walk his dog in the morning whether he would move his car, and he always refused to do so. He had absolutely no interest in the fact I was there. And one day, and it happened to be this day, I got lucky, and he got in his car and he drove off. This was the fixed point from which I could make the picture I’d been striving to make.
Q. You said it was arduous photographing this tree. Why?
A. I’m on a ladder. To decrease the distortion you get up on a ladder so you are not tilting too much. I have certain limitations of depth of field with a large camera like this. By being a little above the ground, I can bring the focus in. When I have a tree that’s 100 feet high, I can get myself at a vantage point which is going to enable me to photograph the lower part of the tree so that it’s not just flat to the ground. I’m always working up against time. The light is changing all the time. With this tree, I was there maybe at 7:15 a.m., but I’ve already been there before, and I know that at 8, this corner is where all the kids congregate to get picked up by the school bus.
Q. Are there trees that you want to photograph that you haven’t yet? Are there still some on your wish list?
A. Yes, there are. Many.
When Sara Moonves, T’s fashion editor, received a terrarium as a holiday gift, the entire office was smitten. This bijou oasis provided a moment of tranquility in the midst of the daily style department chaos. Incredibly low-maintenance (they only need to be watered once), terrariums are just the thing for urbanites like us who are strapped for space and yearning for a patch of greenery. Further inspired by “Nocturne of the Limax maximus,”the artist and landscape designer Paula Hayes’s recent installation of cast acrylic and hand-blown glass containers filled with tropical plants at the Museum of Modern Art, we wanted to know where we could get a mini-garden all our own.
“I was shocked to learn that not everyone makes terrariums!” says the designer Jose Agatep, who grew up making terrariums with his father in their garden. Agatep surprised friends with these handmade flora snow globes, and they wanted more. “People started calling me an artist!” he excitedly recalls.
His terrariums, which he designs under the name the Slug and the Squirrel, come in all shapes and sizes and are a recent addition to Anthropologie’s home décor collection. The containers are welded together from vases, bottles and cups Agatep that finds at flea markets and then embellishes with silver. He fills them with plants from a local Philadelphia flower shop and soil and wood chips from along forest trails and train tracks. (He particularly likes taking components from the outdoors because they come with the bacteria and insects necessary to maintain the self-contained ecosystem, and sometimes they sprout mushrooms, much to his customers’ surprise.) “Everything is so … technology,” he says. “We need the nature. It’s a good reminder of how it used to be.”
The Slug and the Squirrel terrariums ($28 to $398) are available at select Anthropologie stores.
The gifts have long since been opened, the turkey leftovers are gone, and the eggnog has been drunk. For those who purchased real Christmas firs or pines, the tree may be looking a bit droopy or thin. How to dispose of it?
Luckily, creative and eco-friendly recycling options abound around the country. With alternatives like turning Christmas kindle into kilowatts and creating fish farms from firs, locally tailored recycling can ensure that the tree keeps on giving after its retirement.
In Burlington, Vt., the tree gets turned into actual fuel for heating homes. For the last 20 years, the Joseph C. McNeil Wood and Yard Waste Depot has been organizing an annual Merry Mulch project.
“It’s kind of amazing when you see a huge pile of Christmas trees chipped into just a tiny pile of fuel,” said John Irving, Burlington Electric’s manager of generation. “Christmas trees are all air,” he added.
The depot collects about 2,500 trees a year from residents and tree sellers with unsold product. Vermonters bring their trees to the wood yard for chipping and have the option of either taking the mulch home for gardens or donating it to the plant.
Most people opt to donate their chippings to the plant, where the matchbook-size wood chips are fed into a boiler that makes heat, turning water into steam that is directed into a turbine to turn a generator. The system produces a net output of 50 megawatts — enough for about 50,000 homes, or the average load of Burlington. The power produced by each tree is worth about 36 cents, Mr. Irving said.
The energy produced by trees may seem puny: one 25-pound tree feeds a 70-ton capacity boiler for about half of a hundredth of a second. In other words, if the plant was run on full capacity using only Christmas trees, the boiler would have to be fed about 100 trees a second.
Some people favor dumping their trees in the woods surrounding Burlington, but Mr. Irving points out that decomposing trees still produce carbon dioxide. “If people are worried about their carbon footprint, it’s the same to throw a tree into the woods or into the boiler,” he said.
While trees heat homes in Burlington, a winery on the opposite side of the country uses them to build houses for fish. In Healdsburg, Ca., Jordan Vineyard and Winery recently started a holiday tradition known as “Christmas Tree Point,” a collection of submerged trees in the company’s tournament catch-and-release bass lake.
“Instead of getting things like plastic spheres and all kinds of other weird stuff, we decided to put Christmas trees into the lake as fish habitat,” said Tim Spence, the company’s director of operations.
“One requirement for growing trophy largemouth bass is prime habitat,” said the winery’s chief executive, John Jordan. Christmas trees shelter smaller fish further down the food chain, which improves the chances for the survival of baitfish and thus provides more nourishment for predatory bass.
Both Mr. Jordan and Mr. Spence are self-described fishing fanatics, and were the first to submerge their family trees about six years ago. Now, it’s a company-wide tradition. (Christmas Tree Point takes its name from the shape of the submerged pile.) “Right now, it’s almost in the shape of a Christmas tree,” Mr. Spence said. Underwater cameras allow him to check on the trees, which are tied to rocks anchoring them to the bottom of the 14-foot-deep lake.
They plan to start a new pile soon, given that more and more company employees are getting involved. “One employee said, ‘I don’t understand why you’re doing this,’” Mr. Spence said. “I told her, fish need Christmas, too, and she recycled her tree.”
Fish aren’t the only ones who can benefit from Christmas tree habitat. At Fort Macon State Park in North Carolina, recycled trees have preserved the barrier island’s dunes for the last 30 years.
“Dunes are very important for the whole ecosystem,” said Randy Newman, the park’s superintendent.
The trees are placed on the beach, where they quickly collect sand. Birds arrive and leave droppings that help vegetate the future dunes. New dunes replace those washed away in hurricanes and storms and protect inland vegetation from the harsh sea breeze.
The regenerated dunes also ensure that the 422-acre park remains fully accessible for its 1.3 million annual visitors. “We have such a large visitation, there’s a lot of damage done unintentionally by foot traffic,” Mr. Newman said. “We’re able to use Christmas trees to repair the damage and keep the park open instead of limiting our visitor capacity.”
Not to exclude the urbanites: New York undertakes perhaps the nation’s largest tree recycling program.
“After many years of literally throwing Christmas trees out with the garbage, they’re now returned to the natural system of recycling, saving money and energy,” said Adrian Benepe, commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation.
In 1988, the now-annual Mulch Fest began in Prospect Park, with a group ofBoy Scouts wielding a single donated wood chipper. By 1990, the project had become too big for just one chipper, so the city stepped in. Further encouraged by the Bloomberg administration’s green initiative, recycling stations have popped up at some 70 drop-off sites around the city, many of which are equipped with their own chippers.
Mulch Fest takes place the first weekend of January, and New Yorkers can take home their own bags of mulch for nourishing gardens, street trees or nearby parks. About 17,000 trees were dropped off last year. Taking into account the city’s Department of Sanitation curbside tree pickup, about 160,000 trees in the city end up being recycled instead of entering the waste stream.
“People who like Christmas trees feel sad just sticking it on the corner to go into the dump,” Mr. Benepe said. “They like that it’s transformed into nutrients to be recycled into the earth.”
Asafumi Yamashita posing in his garden. Photo: AFP
Not a trace of bitterness from the spinach leaf's tip to its light, fragrant stem.
Top chef Eric Briffard wouldn't dream of cooking these crisp shoots, sourced for a small fortune from his treasured Japanese vegetable farmer.
Asafumi Yamashita, a former boxer and semi-professional golf player, lives half a world away from his native Japan, near Les Mureaux in Paris' far western suburbs, where he used to tend bonsai trees for a living.
Until one day he was robbed and decided to change tack to become a vegetable farmer - learning the trade from scratch.
"At first I sold my vegetables to Paris' Japanese restaurants, but I found their standards weren't high enough," he said, adding without a flinch: "You know, if a Japanese chef leaves Japan, it means his career has been a failure."
Yamashita grows around 50 varieties of vegetable, all of them Japanese - "even the tomatoes" - on a plot almost 3000 square metres in size, half of it covered with greenhouses.
"What I'm aiming for is not rarity - it's quality," he said as he chopped off slices of kabu turnip with a machete, handing them over to taste.
Crunchy and juicy as an apple, firm yet tender, sweet with a hint of mustard at the finish. Amazing. Yamashita can deliver at most 120 pieces per week.
"This is a guy who will tear out a bunch of corn cobs so that the ones that are left can grow better," said Briffard, who holds two Michelin stars for his kitchen at the Georges V luxury hotel in Paris.
Passionate about Japan, and with roots of his own in the French rural world, Briffard has worked with Yamashita for years and often travels out from the capital for a walk around his gardens.
"It is amazing how much quality is hidden here, behind his little house lost in the countryside, the density and depth and concentration of his vegetables," Briffard said. "His sweet potatoes are a little transparent, and his tomatoes are smooth to the touch like peaches."
The chef and his prized supplier talk on the phone several times a week.
"There are tiny seasons that you mustn't miss, like the moment when peas are tender and juicy, before the starch comes in," he explained outside one of the farmer's greenhouses.
This winter, the chef's team are serving up Yamashita's daikon radish, his turnips and red Kyoto carrots, as well as his kabocha, a Japanese variety of squash with green skin and bright orange flesh.
"If you steam it you can eat the skin. Or you can mash it with a seaweed butter and a little ginger," Briffard suggests, tantalisingly.
Today Yamashita works with just six clients, including two of the world's most innovative chefs - Pierre Gagnaire and Pascal Barbot - the rising star Sylvain Sendra, and the Tour d'Argent, one of Europe's oldest restaurants.
He recently struck two Paris luxury hotels off his customer list after their chefs failed to live up to his exacting standards.
One was "never in his kitchen, there was no exchange" with him, he complained, while the other was simply cooking kabu dice in orange juice - "pointless" in the Japanese farmer's view.
"I want to work with chefs who work hard with my vegetables, to find the very best recipes," he explained.
And he can afford to be picky. "The quality is such that he can choose who and when to deliver, and at what price," said Briffard, even at rates three to four times higher than typical Paris area farmers.
"This is what absolute rarity is about. You will only find Yamashita's turnip in six restaurants in the world. White truffles, by comparison, are easy to come by," said chef William Ledeuil, another proud member of the Yamashita club
November 14, 2011, 7:35 am
In an innovative study, nest boxes installed at a California vineyard attracted hundreds of birds that picked the farmers’ crops clean of pests in exchange for the free housing. The experiment is heartening news for conservationists amid reports of shrinking habitats and population declines for so many species.
“Placing songbird nesting boxes in agricultural landscapes can provide suitable nesting sites for a lot of birds that used to be plentiful 100 or 200 years ago but lost their natural landscapes,” said Julie Jedlicka, an ornithologist at the University of California, Berkeley.
Dr. Jedlicka set out to study whether installing the nest boxes would help attract the birds and reduce pests. Her research, published last week in the journal PLoS One, confirmed her hunch. Compared with control areas in the same vineyard that did not have the nest boxes, areas with the boxes attracted twice as many birds early in the nesting season and had 2.6 times as many birds later in the breeding season.
Western bluebirds were responsible for much of the increase: 313 of them were counted at the nest box sites, versus 39 in control portions of the vineyard.
Over all, 1,122 birds representing 25 species made an appearance. Both the nest box sites and the sites without boxes had about the same number of species present, but the numbers of insect-eating species was 50 percent greater in areas with the nest boxes. Insectivorous birds removed about 2.4 times as many insect larvae at the nest box sites as they did in the control areas.
Dr. Jedlicka’s idea is not new. From 1885 to 1940, the federal Department of Agriculture devoted resources to studying “economic ornithology,” or using birds as biological controls for agricultural pests. After pesticides like DDT were developed during World War II, that approach largely faded in favor of a quick chemical fix. Now Dr. Jedlicka envisions a revival of economic ornithology through the lens of ecosystem services and bird conservation.
As cavity-nesting songbirds, bluebirds are particularly well suited to the task. Although they look for enclosures to build their nests, they tend to prefer those found within otherwise open spaces, and agricultural fields fit the bill. What is more, “they respond rapidly to new nesting opportunities,” Dr. Jedlicka said. Within one year of placing about 100 nest boxes in two vineyard study sites, bluebird families occupied over 75 percent of the boxes, she said.
Bluebirds are not picky about what they eat: caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers are all fair game. A bluebird family of five nestlings requires 125 grams of arthropods per day, and bluebird pairs can produce two broods per year.
The birds probably won’t replace farm pesticide use entirely. Some pests, like spider mites, are too small for bluebirds to consume.
Dr. Jedlicka hopes that wineries will gradually adopt the “Bird Friendly®” stamp, a certification already widely available for coffee growers. Vintners could then market their products to the growing eco-friendly consumer sector while helping the birds.
Wine growers aren’t the only farmers who can benefit: the combined range of North America’s three bluebird species extends across the United States. Farmers in Florida already use nest boxes to attract insect-eating birds, as do some apple orchard managers in New England.
Nest boxes can be used to attract bluebirds to urban gardens as well. “I imagine it would be difficult to find an agricultural system where this wouldn’t work,” Dr. Jedlicka said.