Notes from Virginia: Love in the Time of Cholera, Air Conditioning, and Basic Human Rights

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At the end of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s book Love in the Time of Cholera, Florentino Ariza’s lifelong love is finally reciprocated. Fermina Daza, an aged widow, accepts his invitation to ride a riverboat down the Magdalena River. As owner of the company, he gives her the presidential suite.

The river’s nearly destroyed. Timber that held the bank of the river had been harvested to fuel the ships, to the point where it’s difficult to find any trees along the muddy riverbank. At the end of the trip, fearing the return to her former life, Fermina Daza says, “It will be like dying.” Florentino Ariza, to please his lover, commands the captain to turn around and continue puffing up and down the river. Jolly and obedient, the captain replies, “And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going?” Florentino answers, “Forever.” …

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China (you’ve been on my mind)

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A country full of people
I will never meet.
Some are farmers, others politicians
for the communist government.

Your rivers and lakes
run like sewers
from the west into the ocean,
and can’t be drunk from, nor swum in….

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Notes from Virginia: We Share Responsibilty for Activists’ Deaths and Rainforest Destruction

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Dear Reader,

Today I read an article on the Huffington Post called Adelino Ramos Killed: Third Environmental Activist Murdered This Week In Brazil. In case you didn’t know, as I didn’t, there’s conflict in Brazil. Loggers, farmers, and ranchers are illegally laying claim to the rainforest. The most terrifying aspect is that environmental activists, 1150 recorded to date, are being killed by hit men hired by the companies that profit from the destruction of the rainforest.

It’s hard to think of a better reason to act on principles. I’m writing to get us started on thinking of how we can make a difference for those struggling to sustain the most vital piece of our planet’s environment, our life sources, and biological diversity. The enemy is obvious, and his power is too: money. What’s less obvious is how American consumers are responsible for the conflict….

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Spinning Tires – Biking Out of Town

July 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Bicycle, Blog, Events, Front Page, Iowa, Travel

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A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, usually. Sometimes it begins with a stroke of a pedal. My ambition was not to reach nirvana, so it may be more appropriate to change the adage to something like, “A trip of 65 miles begins with a stroke of a pedal.” It was early June, and I had a three-day break from work. This was still the season when the days get longer, the nights are chilly, not cool, and storms are more prevalent than afternoons at the beach. The perfect time for vacation. A much needed one, at that. Work was beginning to wear on me, and my routine wasn’t allowing the peaceful thinking that helps me enjoy going to sleep and look forward to waking up.

A vacation doesn’t need to be a faraway place. Thoreau and Emerson both thought one should only travel as far as his own means could take him. In this way, he stays connected to himself. With my shoes in the straps of my newly purchased bicycle pedals and my tires on the pavement, I looked forward to a long and adventurous day, one that I had been preparing for by bicycling a few hours every week in the largest hills the region has to offer. The air was clean, the sun was shining, the wind like a scarf wrapped around my neck. We began, my two friends — Joe Scott and Colin Kraemer — and I on a trip from Iowa City to Fairfield…

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Book Review – The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

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If you could interview your food, what would it say? As a journalist Michael Pollan attempts to give a voice to what we eat: That is to say, he explains what food really is, where it comes from, and what it can do for us. The Omnivore’s Dilemma expounds on fast food, big organic food, local food, and foraged food, identifying the resources, causes, and effects of each one.

Devoted to the scientific, while valuing the personal significance of food, Pollan reveals not only the corn behind our food, the government behind the corn, the corporation behind the government, but also investigates the possibilities for eating that can bring us back to earth, and everything in between. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is our fascinating predicament; written for those who care about what they eat, it presents us with an array of menus, encourages us to eat, and to eat in good conscience…

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Book Review – Animal Liberation by Peter Singer

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The third edition of Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer, includes a dedication to “all of you who have changed your lives in order to bring Animal Liberation closer. You have made it possible to believe that the power of ethical reasoning can prevail over the self-interest of our species.” Readers not acquainted with the context may feel distanced by the dedication, at least until realizing there are three prefaces to the book. The first edition was published in 1975, and the preface begins, “This book is about the tyranny of human over nonhuman animals.” The last edition was published in 2002, twenty-seven years and thousands of protests later. Singer may well be correct in dedicating the book to an audience that has built momentum in the movement for animal rights and maintained the book’s importance throughout the decades.

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My 5: Elias Simpson, Contributing Writer

March 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Events, Front Page, Iowa

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BPGL asked contributing writer Elias Simpson, “What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?”

Here’s how Simpson responded:

1. Eat local (or eat vegan). From a strictly environmental standpoint, eating local is the most sustainable practice. You support people in your community who (probably) know, love, and conserve their land. You can even visit to see the wheat that makes your bread, or the cows (if you choose to pass on the vegan option) that make your steak…

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World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony

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When it comes to eating, the majority of Americans confuse complicity with simplicity. The term “meat” encompasses a vast array of products: poultry, pork, beef, all terms that mask its origin. We don’t call cabbage or celery by another name, there is a celery stalk, or celery root, or celery leaf. On the other hand, food from a pig is called bacon, pork chops, or ham. World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony, by Will Tuttle, Ph.D., seeks to explain what meat is, and what its impact is on the environment and our bodies.

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Elias Simpson, Contributing Writer

January 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Elias Simpson, Europe, Front Page, Iowa

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Elias Simpson earned a bachelor’s degree in English and French from the University of Iowa. He spent a year in France in 2007, and traveled to Prague, Venice, Barcelona, and London, among other cities in France, including Nice and Grenoble. He has volunteered for the university’s environmental coalition and is a registered member of the Iowa City Bike Library. He will be attending graduate school next fall, to study poetry writing.

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Eco-Friendly Traveling Provides Uncommon Pleasures

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Most of us who care already know that traveling and environmentalism are best kept on different conscious levels. If the draw of foreign cultures is strong enough to get you on an airplane across the ocean, then you might be interested in ways to travel without a heavy environmental impact. Aside from the “offset carbon emissions” check box that airlines now provide at a small charge, you can take a more active approach to eco-traveling.

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