It’s the season of overflowing market bags, heavy CSA boxes, and gardens run amok. Alexandra Stafford of Alexandra Cooks is showing us how to store, prep, and make the most of the bounty, without wasting a scrap.
A gardener’s dream, a farm stand beacon, a CSA staple — chard is the reliable friend among the dark leafy greens, seemingly there at every turn, undemanding of time and attention, capable of adapting in every which way. And while it hasn’t quite achieved the celebrity status of kale, its versatility has long been celebrated throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East.
In the U.S., chard grows year-round in California and in much of the South, but in cooler regions, its season stretches from late spring to late fall. It belongs to the same family as beets and spinach, and its sturdy leaves and sharp flavor allow it to assume countless forms, from stratas and gratins to gnudi and fritters to pasta and lasagna.Alexandra Stafford
This time of year, it’s hard not to focus solely on the local corn and tomatoes slowly making their way to market, but Swiss chard, too, can taste surprisingly summery. And although chard most often benefits from being cooked, it too can be eaten raw, finely chopped and dressed with lemon, breadcrumbs, and parmesan. This preparation perhaps best highlights chard’s versatility, its ability to adapt to every season. And I suspect that once the world embraces raw chard, kale’s reign might at last see its end.
A quick sauté with onions and garlic will strip away any mineral flavors, soften its ruffled leaves and rainbow ribs, and draw out its sweetness. Sautéed chard makes a lovely side dish on its own, but it also can be stirred into pastas, layered into gratins, or spread across a buttery cornmeal dough and baked into a savory Gruyère-topped galette, as I’ve done below. Served warm or at room temperature aside a light green salad, this slab galette will feed a crowd, and in the process free your fridge of those cumbersome bundles monopolizing prime realty.Alexandra Stafford
To store and prep your chard:
More ideas for cooking your chard:
Slab galette with Swiss chard and Gruyère
See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.
Makes 24 slices
For the galette:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion
Salt to taste
2 cloves garlic
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 bunches Swiss chard, stems removed (about 500 grams, post-stemming)
1 batch of Cornmeal Galette Dough
1 cup fresh ricotta
1 cup grated Gruyère or Comté
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon milk or cream
For the cornmeal galette dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup ice water
“It’s not warming, it’s dying.” That’s the message from the man behind the “I ♥ NY” logo, Milton Glaser. The message comes with a logo and buttons that people can buy and wear. Glaser says that “global warming” is not good language. On that, he’s right, but reframing it as “global dying” is worse.
In an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, Glaser said, “Global warming in its own way sounds sort of reassuring and comforting … that’s terrible. You begin by attacking the phrase itself — the word and what the word means — because the truth of the matter is that the earth is dying. And wouldn’t it be nice if today was the beginning of the most important date in human history which is the date we decided not to let the earth die?”
Arguing that the earth is dying is serious error and will probably do more harm than good. Two reasons why:
In the words of George Carlin, “The planet is fine, the people are fucked.” Or, if you prefer, Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Earth will survive this … earth will be here long after we render ourselves extinct.”
The primary problem with the language used by many global warming campaigners is that it’s not relevant to people: It frames the climate and environment as separate from us. We see clumsy language like “healthy climate,” “safe climate,” and “impact on the climate” too often. Hopefully “global dying” will be just a fleeting addition to that list.
We do better when we talk about impact on people, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. That language is relevant to everyone.
The planet doesn’t die when a hurricane strikes or a wildfire ignites. People do. Hurricane Sandy killed 148 people. Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines last year killing more than 6,000 people. Almost 100 people died in the recent floods in Southeast Europe. Wildfires are raging in the western United States. People are dying and it’s going to get worse. The earth, meanwhile, will just keep on spinning.At least the buttons don’t have any words on them.
Perhaps the most egregious part of Glaser’s campaign is the planned social media push under the hashtag #itsnotwarming and on the website itsnotwarming.com. Most communicators know that you never use the language of your opponent. It reinforces the opponent’s frame, and airtime is too precious to waste repeating your opponent’s message. Consider the impact of potentially millions of people seeing the hashtag that sends the message “It’s not warming.”
The U.N. Climate Summit and People’s Climate March will take place in New York next month — great opportunities to build momentum toward a global solution to cut the pollution that’s already affecting us. Let’s hope the participants wear the buttons and bury the slogan.
But, even though more than 200 miles of bike lanes wind throughout Copenhagen, congestion is a common issue. The city is home to the world’s busiest bike lane, on which up to 40,000 cyclists travel daily.
The Cykelslangen (soo-cool-klag-en), or Cycle Snake, the city’s newest elevated skyway designed exclusively for cyclists, should help keep bike traffic moving smoothly, Wired reports:
“Underneath, there’s a harbor front, so there are slow moving-pedestrians,” says Mikael Colville-Anderson, CEO of Copanhagenize, a Danish design company. “It wasn’t a smooth commute for the cyclists. The people on bikes want to get home and the pedestrians want to saunter.” Pedestrian-cyclist conflict was never an issue, but cyclists couldn’t pedal at a constant speed, and they had to deal with stairways. The new roadway, which runs one story above the ground, lets them move without interruption. At just over 13 feet wide, there’s plenty of room to pass even a double-wide cargo bike.
At roughly 700 feet long, it will only take most cyclists less than a minute to traverse the Cykelslangen, but props to Copenhagen for building another bike path that’s practical and beautiful to boot.
It seemed like one of the most wholesome, homespun things that a local library could do — but it was exactly how an innocent branch library like the Joseph T. Simpson Public Library in Mechanicsburg, Penn., headed down the road to lawbreaking.
It started this way. A local group called the Cumberland County Commission for Women had heard of a new thing that local libraries were doing — creating lending libraries for seeds. Someone found an old card catalog and turned it into seed packet storage. Someone else got advice from the local Penn State Ag Extension office. With the help of the librarians at Joseph T. Simpson, they launched the project in April, on Earth Day.
Then, in June, the library received a letter from Johnny Zook, seed program supervisor at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The missive informed the library that it was in violation of the Seed Act of 2004. You can read the correspondence because the Simpson Seed Library, like the good librarians they are, posted it on their website.
“Dear Sirs,” the letter read:
As the Seed Control Officer for PA I would like to inform you about the PA Seed Act and Regulations. It has come to my attention through various avenues (TV, postings, word of mouth, Internet) that you plan to offer your patrons the option to participate in a “Seed Library.” My understanding is that patrons will be able to “check out” seeds, take them home and plant them, harvest any resulting fruits, collect seeds and “return” the collected seed to the “Seed Library” for planting the following season. I wholeheartedly support the promoting of gardening sharing of resources, and connecting people through a communal experience, but I believe there are some issues of seed distribution that you may not be aware of.
The letter goes on to say that all persons dropping off seeds would need to purchase a seed license, leave their name and address on the seed label, and keep complete records (including samples) of each batch of seeds distributed, for two years, in a place that would be accessible for inspection during regular business hours. Seeds would also have to be tested according to Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA) rules for germination. Without these regulations, the results could be disastrous. Writes Zook:
Heirloom kinds that are open pollinated will only breed true to variety provided they are not cross pollinated with another variety … it is a real possibility that someone could plant a seed designated as an Acorn squash and when the fruit develops find a fruit that is whitish gray with green flesh that is almost tasteless.
Of course, this is a seed lending library, not a duplicitous seed emporium. And your average gardeners weren’t born yesterday; they know that while open-pollination can produce some lousy vegetables, it can also produce new varieties are both delicious and better suited to regional climates. But, just to be on the safe side, Joseph T. Simpson Public Library closed down the program.
At the city commissioners meeting following the seed library’s closure, the library system’s executive director, Jonelle Darr, told the commissioners that she thought that media coverage of the seed library was a factor in why the Department of Agriculture chose to make a move then. She said the department had indicated that it was moving to quash other seed libraries in the state.
Responses on the part of the commissioners were mixed. Wrote the Cumberland County Sentinel:
Some of the commissioners questioned whether that was the best use of the department’s time and money, but commissioner Barbara Cross noted that such seed libraries on a large scale could very well pose a danger.
“Agri-terrorism is a very, very real scenario,” she said. “Protecting and maintaining the food sources of America is an overwhelming challenge … so you’ve got agri-tourism on one side and agri-terrorism on the other.”
We’ll leave it to you, gentle reader, to speculate as to what kind of agroterrorism. There hasn’t been a single documented act of it since 2002, when American and forces supposedly found al Qaeda training manuals targeting agriculture during a raid in Afghanistan. The general consensus is that — like many of the things in our lives that could go horribly wrong — agriculture just isn’t exciting enough from a terrorist perspective.
Meanwhile, the Simpson Seed Library has forged ahead, but now only provides labeled seed from licensed seed distributors. It does host seed swap events, where local gardeners can trade their unlicensed seeds with each other.
The intent was never to shut down the program, Samantha Krepps, press secretary for the state Department of Agriculture, told the Cumberland County Sentinel. “This was accepted as a realistic solution. As a regulatory agency, it is our charge to protect commerce, and also protect the library from any liabilities.”
The story attracted the attention of seed libraries in other states. Those states may not have Pennsylvania’s laws (or at least not its zealous Department of Agriculture), but they worry that existing laws on the federal level might be used to force similar rules on them. The whole point of enabling seed sharing between backyard gardeners is to preserve crops that are adapted to local climates, and to enable the plant sex and genetic mixing that would generate new ones.
According to David King, founding chair of the Seed Library of Los Angeles, since the L.A. library started in 2012, it has managed to preserve a line of beans that dated back to the 1800s by growing plants and distributing the seeds to members — an act of organized seed distribution that would be banned under the Pennsylvania rules.
“A radish that comes from New York is not going to be the same as something from Texas,” King told the Sentinel. “We have been told the way to abundance is through scientific research, not by limiting the variety out there. This fulfills that call.”
And the bacon craze continues: A motorcycle that runs on bacon grease is about to take a roadtrip from Austin, Minn., to San Diego in time for the International Bacon Film Festival in late August (yep, that exists!). The ride will be accompanied by a film crew that aims to produce a short documentary called Driven by Bacon; upon its return to Austin, the bike just might enjoy a place of honor at the city’s beloved SPAM Museum.
Built and sponsored by bacon producer Hormel Foods — and the brainchild of ad agency BBDO Minneapolis — this bacon-biodiesel bike is basically a ploy to get us to further our national obsession with the stuff, which is pretty unhealthy and kind of gross.
Still, there’s something to be said for a biodiesel that smells like breakfast, and Hormel’s Black Label Bacon plant in Rochelle, Ill., could certainly do something with its excess bacon grease, right? Of course, claiming that meat-based biodiesel is carbon neutral is kind of a stretch. Let’s just hope it’s not a road hog, too.
Among other cataclysmic upheavals, climate change is expected to produce waves of refugees seeking asylum from their flooded, baked, or otherwise uninhabitable countries of origin. It’s already happening, but for the first time New Zealand officials have accepted a refugee application by a family from Tuvalu that cites global warming as the reason they can’t return to their sinking Pacific island nation. They chose Middle Earth over Portlandia because duh, but New Zealand has rejected similar claims in the past.
As of now, climate change and sea level rise are not officially recognized as legitimate causes of displacement by the International Refugee Convention. And while the case of this Tuvalu family’s application featured other circumstances — the family had lived in New Zealand since 2007 and had strong ties to the community — environmental lawyers have watched the situation closely, curious as to the case’s larger implications.
“I do see the decision as being quite significant,” Environmental law expert Vernon Rive told the New Zealand Herald. “But it doesn’t provide an open ticket for people from all the places that are impacted by climate change. It’s still a very stringent test and it requires exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian nature.”
The Washington Post notes that New Zealand accepted the family for a complex suite of reasons (including strong community ties and elderly relatives), but the fact that the review tribunal acknowledged climate change at all in their ruling is precedent-setting. That doesn’t mean the international community will all jump onboard: Unlike many countries, New Zealand accepts refugees on “exceptional humanitarian grounds,” which in this case included Tuvalu’s about-to-be-underwater status. Until the rest of the world catches up, here’s hoping there are enough hobbit holes to go around.
Well, damn. If a picture’s worth 1,000 words, my swear jar just got full enough to send all of the Duggar kids to college.
The photo above shows the results of a copper and gold mine tailings pond spitting more than 10 million cubic meters of discharge into nearby creeks and lakes.
It doesn’t just look ugly. The Monday spill could contain “unknown levels of arsenic, mercury, lead, copper and cadmium, among other toxins and heavy metals.” And the Mount Polley spill is threatening an important salmon spawning ground. Al Jazeera reports:
The contaminated water and debris flowed into a local creek, expanding its width from 4 feet to 150 feet, the ministry’s release said, before entering nearby Quesnel Lake — where many salmon are expected to arrive for their annual spawning in the coming weeks. …
Quesnel Lake and its connected waterways are important habitats for Chinook and Sockeye Salmon, as well as Rainbow Trout and White Sturgeon — an ancient species that can live for more than 100 years and is considered “endangered” by U.S. standards or “critically imperiled” in B.C.
This Canadian spill adds more fuel to the fire for critics of the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska. The controversial copper mine is planned for a site near the productive Bristol Bay wild salmon fishery. It would be about 10 times the size of Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley mine, NRDC’s Joel Reynolds points out. And the same company that provided designs for the failed B.C. tailings pond was also involved in pushing for Pebble Mine. From Knight Piesold Consulting’s comments on the EPA’s 2012 draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment:
[T]he assessment report is based on a fundamentally flawed premise that considers that a faulty mine design, inadequate mine development, and inappropriate mine operations would be permitted to occur within the state of Alaska.
Oh, phew. For a minute there we were worried, and then we remembered faulty mines are only built in Canada, not the good ol’ U.S. of A. See, here’s Imperial Metals President Brian Kynoch at a news conference on the Mount Polley breach: “If you asked me two weeks ago if this could have happened, I would have said it couldn’t.”
If you read the financial papers, you may be aware that the Gulf of Mexico is looking like a giant, underwater piggybank. New advances in seismic technology, and more powerful equipment developed for fracking operations, have turned oil fields that were thought to be extinct into gold rush territory again. The same dynamic that has led to oil booms in previously quiet regions of the Great Plains and Appalachia is now moving to the less-populated — but at least equally ecologically fragile — offshore drilling zone.
The rock formation that the new fracking technology is focused on is known as the Lower Tertiary. It’s an area that is considered risky to drill in – not because the oil isn’t there but because it’s really expensive and technically complicated to extract from the rock itself. The current estimate is that there’s around $1.5 trillion worth of oil waiting for us there. But the dollar-signs-in-the-eyes effect here could dim fast if we had more information about the risks involved — and if the folks going after the oil had to account for those risks.
To understand what’s going on in the Gulf, you need to travel three years back in time and a couple of thousand miles in space, to Santa Barbara, CA. In 2011, staff at the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) were browsing through the quarterly reports for companies that owned oil and gas drilling leases off the coast of Santa Barbara, and found a reference to fracking. They were surprised — they had thought that fracking was something that happened on land, rather than offshore. The EDC filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of the Interior, which was responsible for handling the leases.
What the FOIA revealed was even more surprising. The Department of the Interior “was basically unaware that fracking was going on,” said Brian Segee, the staff attorney for the center. “They were scrambling to find the information for the FOIA. There was no discussion of fracking in the permits, and very little discussion of the permits at all.”
In fact, fracking had been going on off the California coast for nearly two decades, though not with any frequency until the technology had improved. The companies doing it hadn’t bothered to make a distinction between fracking and the drilling that they had previously been doing, and the Department of the Interior hadn’t bothered to, either.
In one sense, said Segee, this isn’t a huge surprise. Offshore fracking may pump hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals into the sea floor, but it also might not be any worse for marine life than other forms of drilling. “Offshore oil and gas is very dirty,” he said. “A lot of nasty stuff existed before fracking.”
Still, that’s no excuse not to study it more closely. As Alison Dettmer, deputy director of the California Coastal Commission, told the Associated Press back in February, the environmental impacts of fracking and other well stimulation techniques “are not well understood. To date, little data has been collected.”
The effects of this underwater gold rush on sea life remains mysterious. Some of the compounds found in the fluids used in fracking are known to be toxic to crustaceans and fish larvae – but the exact composition of fracking fluid is kept as much a secret at sea as it is on land. Meanwhile, the Gulf of Mexico is one of only two nurseries in the world for bluefin tuna.
These are risks we don’t have to take blindly. Especially now that deep sea fracking is being used to open new wells, instead of just to get the last bits of oil out of old ones, it would be completely within the power of the Department of the Interior to enact a moratorium on deepwater fracking until more research can be done. If it won’t do that, it could at least prohibit the use of categorical exclusions for the process — meaning it could say that offshore fracking ought to require the kind of disclosure, environmental review, and public participation that would help us all understand any potential risks. That would be fully in the spirit of the Obama administration’s announcement, post Deepwater Horizon, that it had “launched the most aggressive and comprehensive reforms to offshore oil and gas regulation and oversight in U.S. history.”
Any time new technology for getting a lot of oil out of the ground shows up, we ought to be asking the questions, what happens when that technology backfires? And how can we prepare for that mess? And then we ought to be researching the answers.
When the Deepwater Horizon blew, it took five months to stop the spill completely. For all the incredible research that had led to the rig being able to drill the deepest well in human history, there had not been much commensurate investigation into how to handle the accidents that might result from those advances.
“Every time we have a big disaster like the Deepwater Horizon, it’s because of some new, unproven, risky technology,” said Segee. “It happened in 1969 in Santa Barbara. It happened in 2010 with the Deepwater Horizon. This is a good place to direct your attention, because it could happen again.”
Glaser does believe that climate change is a big deal, which is why he launched the “It’s Not Warming, It’s Dying” project. The centerpiece of the awareness-raising campaign is an eerily slick logo that features a green circle enveloped by black smoke. You can click on the campaign’s website for an animated version and plunk down $5 for five buttons with the logo. Or, if you’re in the Gramercy area of Manhattan, the smokey sphere appears on a billboard near the School of Visual Arts.
Glaser spoke with art mag Dezeen about the initiative:
“If half the people on earth wear the button even the ‘masters of the universe’ will be moved to action,” said Glaser, referring to the large corporations he says have prevented significant action to protect the planet against the changing climate.
Word to Milton Glaser (and He-Man). If he’s right, and world powers help save the planet, here’s precisely how we’ll feel:
Last week, watching kids frolic at a playground from the window of his home office, Liam Heneghan tweeted:
If our kids were environmentally literate they would curl up in a ball, sob, and never leave the tree house.—
A professor of environmental science at Chicago’s DePaul University, Heneghan recently started teaching a seminar called the Ecology of Childhood. Working from a list of the 100 most popular children’s books, including classics like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?, Heneghan explains that although they weren’t written with ecology in mind, the books are goldmines for environmental meanderings. More, they offer “the most gentle and loving way” to teach kids about the havoc humans are wreaking on nature.
While environmental literature began surfacing first in the 1960s and again the ’80s, titles are becoming more abundant under topics such as climate change. They don’t, however, “offer the subtlety and beauty” found in those written for the purpose of story.
What is happening environmentally is “hugely and profoundly depressing,” Heneghan says. “It’s not going to be productive to depress children with the full magnitude of the disasters we have inflicted on the world.”Liam Heneghan
Heneghan, born in Dublin, is much a child himself. He has a penchant for tooting on his tin whistle in a local cemetery, “playing for the dead,” and using his beard as a pencil holder in the classroom. He’s penned essays about the ecological lessons of Winnie-the-Pooh and killing animals in the name of science. He is currently authoring a book on environmental education for children, called Beasts at Bedtime.
Oddly creative, Heneghan’s studies range from things “unseen” such as soil mites, to better ways of disposing of human poop than mingling it with water systems. “The bear, you might recall, shits on the forest floor,” he says.
In his seminar, Heneghan uses long beloved children’s books such as Charlotte’s Web, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and Where the Wild Things Are as foundations for students in both environmental studies and in the School of Education.
Just as important as the content is the presentation, he says. “The last thing you want to do is turn something precious and carefree into a pedagogical exercise. The idea would not be, ‘Let’s close the book and talk about nutrient cycling.’ We can’t be profoundly gloomy.”
Instead, Heneghan says we must help children fall in love with nature. It helps, he says, to find a way back in our own minds to the gorgeous habitats our imaginations invented as youngsters. Then simply pass that appreciation on to children through play and hikes and all things nature – and a classic story or two.
Timothy Morton, an environmental philosopher who teaches at Rice University and author of Ecology Without Nature says, “We need more Liams,” as society is going through a massive shift in how humans relate to non-humans, from climate to microbes. “Some deep thinking is needed to get us over the speed bumps,” Morton says.
While pointing out that he’s not the first person to realize the environmental themes running through early children’s books, Heneghan says that there’s increasing interest in developing environmental curriculum for young children. The right books, he adds, are right under our noses.
Here are some of his favorites:
Climate change and the planet work a lot like the ill-fated McD.L.T. cheeseburger, according to a study published in this week’s issue of Nature Climate Change.
What? You missed that sordid chapter in fast-food history? Let me explain. McDonald’s, in its infinite hubris, decided to construct a more perfect cheeseburger, so in 1985, using way too many periods and a technology known as “Excessive Styrofoam Packaging,” the company set out to “keep the hot side hot, and the cool side cool.”
It turns out the much ballyhooed pause in global warming may be working on the same principle: A new study by scientists with Australia’s University of New South Wales and the University of Hawaii suggests rapid surface warming in the Atlantic has kept Pacific surface temperatures cool by increasing the trade winds — thus slowing warming on land and generally throwing the whole climate out of whack.
Here’s more from the University of New South Wales:
New research has found rapid warming of the Atlantic Ocean, likely caused by global warming, has turbocharged Pacific Equatorial trade winds. Currently the winds are at a level never before seen on observed records, which extend back to the 1860s.
The increase in these winds has caused eastern tropical Pacific cooling, amplified the Californian drought, accelerated sea level rise three times faster than the global average in the Western Pacific and has slowed the rise of global average surface temperatures since 2001.
It may even be responsible for making El Niño events less common over the past decade due to its cooling impact on ocean surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific.
“We were surprised to find the main cause of the Pacific climate trends of the past 20 years had its origin in the Atlantic Ocean,” says co-lead author Dr. Shayne McGregor from the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (ARCCSS) at UNSW.
“It highlights how changes in the climate in one part of the world can have extensive impacts around the globe.”
Need a little more info? Here goes:
If these researchers are correct, warm Atlantic surface temperatures reduce atmospheric pressure, causing air to rise. These air pockets later sink over the Pacific, raising the atmospheric pressure there. The disparity in pressure has caused much stronger trade winds over the last two decades — which is great for sailing, but less great for things like living in the Western United States: The winds contribute to California’s devastating drought and out-of-control forest fires, and inhibit El Niño, which might otherwise come to the rescue.
The trade winds also cause rapid sea-level rise in the western Pacific and hold heat in the deep ocean, which may explain the “pause” — a lull in the rise of global surface temperatures in recent years.
Of course, climate science is complicated stuff, and others in the scientific community are not so sure that this study offers any final answers.
But if the theory holds, we’ll all be losing sleep, because like the McD.L.T., which collapsed under the weight of its ludicrously extravagant packaging and its inherent stupidity, this climate house of cards can’t stand forever. The authors of this latest study predict the pressure will eventually balance out — and when it does, the trade winds will slow, and the cool side will stop being cool in a hurry.
For a planet already boiling despite “the pause,” this isn’t sounding very appetizing.