Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How brown was my valley

You gotta wonder what Jonathan Safran Foer would think of the latest news from our neck of the woods: Lancaster County, the bastion of traditional Amish farming, is polluting the Chesapeake Bay with manure runoff far more than any other surrounding county - six times as much as the norm, in fact.

How brown was my valley

Trouble may be lurking beneath traditional pastoral scenes.
Trouble may be lurking beneath traditional pastoral scenes.

Last fall, the Daily News and Earth to Philly were among the first outlets to tip everyone to Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, which wound up creating quite a mainstream-media stir over the winter.

Foer's key point was that 99% of the animal products Americans eat comes from factory farms, through processes none of us would condone, so if we want to act according to our own values we would either stop eating animals or carefully seek out smaller family farms to source our meat and dairy.

You gotta wonder what Foer, who not only accepted but actively championed more "traditional" farming of animals, would think of the latest news from our neck of the woods, courtesy of the New York Times: Lancaster County, the bastion of traditional Amish farming, is polluting the Chesapeake Bay with manure runoff far more than any other surrounding county - six times as much as the norm, in fact. The EPA visited 23 "plain-sect" farms and found that the vast majority were "managing their manure inadequately."

There are ways to improve manure-handling to mitigate the pollution, but Donald Kraybill, a professor at Elizabethtown College who studies the Amish, puts the basic problem succinctly in the Times piece: “We have too many animals here per square acre — too many cows for too few acres.”

And that large number of animals is going to be a problem, no matter how you, um, slice it. The massive amount of animal products Americans consume inevitably generates a huge amount of manure as well as many other problems for animals and people alike.

Lately "factory farms" have become a useful, trendy scapegoat, as if these institutions operations were uniquely evil and could be changed to an idyllic alternative. The pollution problem, though, is not on surface particulars but at the core: It's a matter of volume, and we need to turn it down. Way down.

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About this blog
Earth to Philly is a weblog focusing on earth-conscious technology, trends and ideas, from a Daily News perspective. We look at the "green" aspects of your home, business, food, transportation, style, policy, gadgets and artwork. If you have a Philly-related story, Click here to let us know about it!

The experts at Philadelphia's Energy Coordinating Agency answer your energy questions in our regular feature Stay Warm, Stay Green. Send in your question or questions to

Look for Jenice Armstrong to supply tips on green living as well as occasional columns on the subject of Green. She also blogs at Hey Jen.

Becky Batcha stays tuned for the here-and-now practical side of conservation, alternative energy, organic foods, etc. - stuff you can do at home now. Plus odds and ends.

Laurie Conrad recycles from her ever-growing e-mailbag to pass along the latest travel deals, fashion statements, household strategies, gadgets, cool local events and other nuggets of interest to those who appreciate a clean, green world.

Vance Lehmkuhl looks at topics like eco-conscious eating, public transportation and fuel-efficient driving from his perspective as a vegetarian, a daily SEPTA bus rider and a hybrid driver, as well as noting the occasional wacky trend or product. Contact Vance with your 'green' news.

Ronnie Polaneczky sees the green movement through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter, who calls her on every scrap of paper or glass bottle that Ronnie neglects to toss into the house recycling bins. Ronnie will blog about new or unexpected ways to go green. She also blogs at So, What Happened Was...

Sandra Shea and the DN editorial board opine on any green-related legislation or policy. And we'll pass along some of the opeds on the subject that people send us.

Jonathan Takiff will be blogging mainly about consumer electronics - those things that we love to use and that suck too much energy. He'll spotlight green-conscious gizmos made in a responsible fashion, both in terms of materials used and the energy it takes to run them.

Signe Wilkinson draws the comic strip Family Tree, which follows the Tree family as they try to live green in the face of nattering neighbors, plastic-wrapped consumer products, and the primal teenage urge to spend vast quantities of money on hair care products of dubious organic quality.

In addition to these updates from our newsroom bloggers, watch for an occasional feature, Dumpster Diver Dispatches, from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. You'll learn about creative ways to reuse and recycle while you reduce, and about the artists who are making little masterpieces from what others throw out.

  • Dispatch #1: Margaret Giancola's rugs from plastic bags
  • Dispatch #2: Dumpster Divers in City Hall (Art in City Hall series)
  • Dispatch #3: Wild wood, New Jersey
  • Dispatch #4: Dumpster Divers award winners announced
  • Dispatch #5: From sweaters to colorful cuddling
  • Dispatch #6: Green artists retake South Street Sunday
  • Dispatch #7: Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man

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