Friday, January 22, 2010

George Washington Carver

Its black history month and I thought it would be a good idea to highlight one man who was the vanguard of the agriculture and bio-green movement. That man is George Washington Carver.

He was born on or around July 12, 1865 into slavery. After slavery was abolished, he was raised by his original slave owner as his son. He was taught how to read and write at a time when African-Americans received no such fundamental training because they were not allowed to go to school where he lived. He ultimately went to a school for blacks and later attended college in Iowa where he ultimately studied agriculture.

In 1896, he joined the faculty at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (nka Tuskegee University), which was founded by Booker T. Washington. He became the school's director of agriculture. He devoted his time to research projects for helping farmers improve there methods of agriculture. He conducted experiments on soil management. He was shocked coming from the beautiful diverse agriculture and farming industry of Iowa to the limited astere cotton growing agriculture of the South. He wanted to change this myopic method of agriculture in the South.

Due to the poor condition of the soil in the South, he provided solutions to revive the soil by planting peanuts and soybeans. These crops help inject nitrogen back into the soil restoring it to a more fertile condition.

During his research and an effort to promote other crops in the South, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes, he developed 300 derivative products from peanuts, including inks, dyes, plastics and cosmetics, and another 118 from sweet potatoes, including postage stamp glue and rubber. His efforts help transformed the Southern agriculture to a multi crop and profitable business.

His concepts in reinventing agriculture were the stepping stones for other agriculture innovations that followed. Therefore, he was not only an important person in African-American history, he was a very important and influential figure in American history.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What a Waste?

Americans have criticized for being wasteful in many ways even though there has been a slight shift to becoming a more frugal society due to the economic downturn. Nevertheless, there is one area, however, where frugality has not set in, our food consumption. I will not bore you with a story about America's obesity problem. The issue I am concerned about is that we tend not to do what my Grand mom always made sure I did at the dinner table, clean off my plate. We have become a wasteful society when it comes to food. There are reports out there stating that the rich countries throw away 25 to 30% of what is bought at the supermarkets.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, in Bethesda, Maryland has looked into this issue in regard to Americans. They concluded that the average American wastes 1,400 kilocalories a day, which amounts to 150 trillion kilocalories a year for the entire country. This represents 40% of the US food supply, which is up from 28% in 1974.

The production of these wasted calories has accounted for more than 1/4 of America's consumption of freshwater and 300 million barrels of oil a year. Add in the amount of methane that this rotting heap of thrown away food creates, which is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, this level of waste is not just a food problem anymore.

One must be scratching his or her head trying to tie the obesity problem with this wasted food crisis. At first blush, they would seem to be contradictions; however, scientists concluded in their above report that there is a connection. They call it the "push effect" in which the increased supply of food and how it is marketed has created this wasteful food culture. Also, the fact that food still is relatively cheap is another contributing factor. If food was more costly, we would not be so wasteful because we would see both money and food that is being thrown away every time we turn to that garbage can.

Perhaps we can all make a another New Years resolution this year along with our goal to lose weight. Let's be less wasteful. Of course, this still means us cleaning off your plate, but this time we will not asking for seconds.