Thursday, June 28, 2012

BBQ carrots!

I grill a lot of veggies but at a friend's house the other night I had BBQ carrots.  Never had them like this.  Marinated in olive oil and kosher salt, the whole carrots were sliced in half or quarters (lengthwise) and wow were they good.

Try it at your next BBQ; I know I will.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tomato hummus

Let's see if I can recreate this lovely discovery I made while making some apps for a happy hour we were hosting with our neighbors last night...

1 can garbanzo beans
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes
2 large cloves of garlic
1/8 cup olive oil
4 Tbs concentrated lemon juice
2-3 Tbs cumin
1 Tbs black pepper

Rince the garbanzo beans in fresh water.  Strain out all extra water.  Put in food processor and mix (using the blade) until a smooth consistency.  Adjust cumin and pepper if needed and add more olive oil to make the hummus smoother.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Featured in UCLA Magazine

In a UCLA magazine on the vegan lifestyle, Eating Our Way to Civility was quoted (as was I).  While I'm not a vegan, I'm quite happy cooking vegan and many of the recipes in the book are vegetarian or vegan. Veganism is explored in several ways in the article.  Always something to discuss at your next dinner party!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

tilapia burritos

I'm using these Kirkland tilapia fillets which I have to say are really, really good.  Here's what I invented tonight.

3 tilapia fillets cut into 1/2" chunks
tossed in about 2-3 Tbs of the dry rub (recipe in book) and left to sit for about 10 min

1/2  fennel bulb, sliced into rings
1 small, red onion, sliced into rings
1 red pepper, sliced into thin strips

In a 14" frying pan, stir fry (in about 2 Tbs of oil) the veggies until they start to caramelize; remove from heat.

In the same (14") fry pan, add another 2 Tbs of olive oil and quickly fry the tilapia fillets

Place some caramelized veggies and about 4 chunks of tilapia on warmed large tortillas, add a bit of sweet chili sauce, wrap up and enjoy!

If you're serving for friends, discuss the value of eating a sustainable fish, like tilapia, for dinner.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

We've lost a great one: Elinor Ostrom has died

I just read that Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, has died at age 78.  She was a hero of mine because of her work discussing solutions to common property management and her magnificent book, Governing the Commons, changed how I think about solutions.

Turns out her life story (written about elsewhere) was also great and as a UCLA alum (before she moved to Indiana, she studied and worked at UCLA), she won a UCLA medal. We met one fine evening at the event where she was being awarded the medal.

Her insights and positive attitude towards solving common-property problems are profound and, if more people read and internalize her messages, she will have left a priceless legacy.

Today, the day she died, she published her last work--a call for action at Rio+20 called Green from the Grassroots.  Read it, and discuss it with your friends, neighbors, and family.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

We really are in this together...

Evidence of Impending Tipping Point for Earth

ScienceDaily (June 6, 2012) ­ A group of scientists from around the world is warning that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth toward an irreversible change in the biosphere, a planet-wide tipping point that would have destructive consequences absent adequate preparation and mitigation.

"It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point," warns Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of a review paper appearing in the June 7 issue of the journal Nature. "The data suggests that there will be a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life, including, for example, fisheries, agriculture, forest products and clean water. This could happen within just a few generations."

The Nature paper, in which the scientists compare the biological impact of past incidents of global change with processes under way today and assess evidence for what the future holds, appears in an issue devoted to the environment in advance of the June 20-22 United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The result of such a major shift in the biosphere would be mixed, Barnosky noted, with some plant and animal species disappearing, new mixes of remaining species, and major disruptions in terms of which agricultural crops can grow where.

The paper by 22 internationally known scientists describes an urgent need for better predictive models that are based on a detailed understanding of how the biosphere reacted in the distant past to rapidly changing conditions, including climate and human population growth. In a related development, ground-breaking research to develop the reliable, detailed biological forecasts the paper is calling for is now underway at UC Berkeley. The endeavor, The Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology, or BiGCB, is a massive undertaking involving more than 100 UC Berkeley scientists from an extraordinary range of disciplines that already has received funding: a $2.5 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and a $1.5 million grant from the Keck Foundation. The paper by Barnosky and others emerged from the first conference convened under the BiGCB's auspices.

"One key goal of the BiGCB is to understand how plants and animals responded to major shifts in the atmosphere, oceans, and climate in the past, so that scientists can improve their forecasts and policy makers can take the steps necessary to either mitigate or adapt to changes that may be inevitable," Barnosky said. "Better predictive models will lead to better decisions in terms of protecting the natural resources future generations will rely on for quality of life and prosperity." Climate change could also lead to global political instability, according to a U.S. Department of Defense study referred to in the Nature paper.

"UC Berkeley is uniquely positioned to conduct this sort of complex, multi-disciplinary research," said Graham Fleming, UC Berkeley's vice chancellor for research. "Our world-class museums hold a treasure trove of biological specimens dating back many millennia that tell the story of how our planet has reacted to climate change in the past. That, combined with new technologies and data mining methods used by our distinguished faculty in a broad array of disciplines, will help us decipher the clues to the puzzle of how the biosphere will change as the result of the continued expansion of human activity on our planet."

One BiGCB project launched last month, with UC Berkeley scientists drilling into Northern California's Clear Lake, one of the oldest lakes in the world with sediments dating back more than 120,000 years, to determine how past changes in California's climate impacted local plant and animal populations.

City of Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, chair of the Bay Area Joint Policy Committee, said the BiGCB "is providing the type of research that policy makers urgently need as we work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare the Bay region to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change. To take meaningful actions to protect our region, we first need to understand the serious global and local changes that threaten our natural resources and biodiversity."

"The Bay Area's natural systems, which we often take for granted, are absolutely critical to the health and well-being of our people, our economy and the Bay Area's quality of life," added Bates.

How close is a global tipping point?

The authors of the Nature review -- biologists, ecologists, complex-systems theoreticians, geologists and paleontologists from the United States, Canada, South America and Europe -- argue that, although many warning signs are emerging, no one knows how close Earth is to a global tipping point, or if it is inevitable. The scientists urge focused research to identify early warning signs of a global transition and an acceleration of efforts to address the root causes.

"We really do have to be thinking about these global scale tipping points, because even the parts of Earth we are not messing with directly could be prone to some very major changes," Barnosky said. "And the root cause, ultimately, is human population growth and how many resources each one of us uses."

Coauthor Elizabeth Hadly from Stanford University said "we may already be past these tipping points in particular regions of the world. I just returned from a trip to the high Himalayas in Nepal, where I witnessed families fighting each other with machetes for wood -- wood that they would burn to cook their food in one evening. In places where governments are lacking basic infrastructure, people fend for themselves, and biodiversity suffers. We desperately need global leadership for planet Earth."

The authors note that studies of small-scale ecosystems show that once 50-90 percent of an area has been altered, the entire ecosystem tips irreversibly into a state far different from the original, in terms of the mix of plant and animal species and their interactions. This situation typically is accompanied by species extinctions and a loss of biodiversity.

Currently, to support a population of 7 billion people, about 43 percent of Earth's land surface has been converted to agricultural or urban use, with roads cutting through much of the remainder. The population is expected to rise to 9 billion by 2045; at that rate, current trends suggest that half Earth's land surface will be disturbed by 2025. To Barnosky, this is disturbingly close to a global tipping point.

"Can it really happen? Looking into the past tells us unequivocally that, yes, it can really happen. It has happened. The last glacial/interglacial transition 11,700 years ago was an example of that," he said, noting that animal diversity still has not recovered from extinctions during that time. "I think that if we want to avoid the most unpleasant surprises, we want to stay away from that 50 percent mark."

Global change biology

The paper emerged from a conference held at UC Berkeley in 2010 to discuss the idea of a global tipping point, and how to recognize and avoid it.

Following that meeting, 22 of the attendees summarized available evidence of past global state-shifts, the current state of threats to the global environment, and what happened after past tipping points.

They concluded that there is an urgent need for global cooperation to reduce world population growth and per-capita resource use, replace fossil fuels with sustainable sources, develop more efficient food production and distribution without taking over more land, and better manage the land and ocean areas not already dominated by humans as reservoirs of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

"Ideally, we want to be able to predict what could be detrimental biological change in time to steer the boat to where we don't get to those points," Barnosky said. "My underlying philosophy is that we want to keep Earth, our life support system, at least as healthy as it is today, in terms of supporting humanity, and forecast when we are going in directions that would reduce our quality of life so that we can avoid that."

"My view is that humanity is at a crossroads now, where we have to make an active choice," Barnosky said. "One choice is to acknowledge these issues and potential consequences and try to guide the future (in a way we want to). The other choice is just to throw up our hands and say, 'Let's just go on as usual and see what happens.' My guess is, if we take that latter choice, yes, humanity is going to survive, but we are going to see some effects that will seriously degrade the quality of life for our children and grandchildren."

Story Source:

The above story is
from materials provided by
<>University of
California - Berkeley. The original article was written by Robert Sanders.

Anything that works is obsolete

Anything that works is obsolete
Daniel T. Blumstein

"There are no easy shortcuts to solving the problems of revolutionary war. In fact, I would like to close with one last thought, which applies, of course, to everything that is done in the armed forces, but particularly to revolutionary war: If it works, it is obsolete."

--Bernard Fall (French underground and then killed in Vietnam).

In nature we see arms races between predators and prey. Such arms races explain why there is always very strong selection on prey to evolve new defenses.  Evolutionary Biologist Geerat Vermeij has written extensively about the long evolutionary record of snails and other armored marine animals and their predators. The fossil record shows a ratcheting up of defenses over time until it becomes too expensive for those defenses to be maintained. The mammalian fossil record is also rich with examples of the length of legs (longer legged animals can run faster) of wolves and cheetah and their prey.

Richard Dawkins and John Krebs refer to the driver of this inevitable ratcheting up a notch of defenses as the ‘life-dinner principle’. They suggest that it’s better to lose a meal than your life (in terms of maximizing the number of offspring you leave behind). Thus, we see commonly see evolutionary arms races between predators and prey.

Such predator-prey dynamics are also seen on the battlefield. On the battlefield a particular offensive strategy provides a very strong selective pressure for a new defensive strategy and as soon as that has been created, then there are strong pressures to come up with a new offensive strategy that can get through existing defenses. A trip to a major European country’s war museum will provide ample evidence of the increase in armor as arrows and later bullets were invented. But this is still going on: think about the constant pressure for terrorists to develop weapons that can pass through existing screening technology and the great expenses associated with creating new screening technologies.

Yet all arms races face an inevitable outcome:  at some point it’s simply too expensive to maintain defenses. For example, there’s a limit on the weight of armor a knight and his horse could wear and carry. Some have suggested the end of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and NATO was precipitated by the unsustainable size of the former Soviet Unions’ defense budget.

While Bernard Fall was talking about true arms races, there are many situations outside war where there are arms races—situations where innovations by one player make the other player’s strategy/product/defense obsolete which in turn stimulate further innovations by the other player to get ahead. How far can we and should we go with this evolutionary arms race lesson? Is everything we see today obsolete?

Here’s a thought:  what if it’s not just about a game between two (or more players). What if, from society’s perspective, it’s a game against the environment?  A recent special feature in Nature highlights the widespread ecological problems 20 years after the Rio Earth Summit. Society is experiencing substantial losses of ecosystem services and biodiversity; and those that are not already felt, will be felt by many soon. How should we solve these problems? Should we view all current technology as obsolete? Will new technology be our savior?

Yes and no.

Yes, in that it’s apparent that to maintain anything like our current Western standards of living in a post-carbon world, we’ll need some new technology.  Thus, at this level, we really need a major re-think. New technology will be essential. 

Yes, in that the drivers of this new technology are often companies, who find themselves competing in the economic market. Companies find themselves locked in an arms race that may drive new innovations.

No, in that when we’re not dealing with a true arms race—a contest between two or more actors—it is possible to step back a notch and still do better. Evolution does not create the best conceivable outcomes. Rather, evolution creates the best possible outcomes given current constraints. The distinction between conceivable and possible is important.  Evolution, as Francios Jakob wrote, is a process of tinkering with what you have.

Thus, if we’re looking for evolutionary insights on solving some of today’s environmental problems, we should consider all possible options, including those that include going back to previously successful strategies. Save carbon, hang your clothes out to dry!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Food security: Eating globally

Food security: Eating globally

(07 June 2012)
Published online
Tom MacMillan gets a taste of the argument against consuming only locally grown food.

The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-Mile Diet

Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu Public Affairs: 2012. 304 pp. $26.99/£18.99
ISBN: 9781586489403
For all the fanfare about local food, you might think that we eat a lot of it. Yet in the United Kingdom and North America, almost everything people eat comes from far away, shipped from distribution centres and delivered by truck. Only a tiny fraction takes a short cut. So, although about one-third of UK shoppers say that they buy local food, the market share is nearer 2–3%.
In The Locavore's Dilemma, geographer Pierre Desrochers and economist Hiroko Shimizu suggest that even that is too much. They say that it is ignorant to want shorter supply chains and dangerous to achieve them, whether in the developed or developing worlds. “The road to agricultural, economic and environmental hell,” they argue, is “paved with allegedly fresher and more nutritious local meals”. With this spirited polemic they want to nip the 'locavore' trend in the bud.