Massive quantities of antibiotics are used in animal agriculture, contributing to the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that increasingly threaten human health. An estimated 55-70% of the antibiotics used in the United States each year are used as feed additives for chickens, hogs, and beef cattle not to treat disease, but rather to promote growth and to compensate for crowded, stressful, and often unhygienic conditions on industrial-scale farms.

Many of the drugs used for these “nontherapeutic” purposes are identical or related to those used in human medicine, but their use as feed additives requires no prescription. Growing evidence links use of these antibiotic feed additives to the development and spread of resistant bacteria in our food supply and environment, making it harder for physicians to treat people suffering from bacterial disease.

Antibiotic resistance is a serious public-health problem; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control regards it as one of the agency’s “top concerns.” The National Academy of Sciences estimates that antibiotic-resistant bacteria generate a minimum of $4 billion to $5 billion in costs to U.S. society and individuals yearly.

Plastic bags are made from oil: it takes about 430,000 gallons of oil to produce 100 million plastic bags, and the U.S. goes through 380 billion of them a year.

A statistics class at Indiana U did the math: more than 1.6 billion gallons of oil are used each year for plastic bags alone. The more we use plastic bags, the more we waste oil.

Compounding the problem is the fact that, not only do we make tons of plastic bags (and use lots of oil in the process) we only recycle 1 percent. One lousy percent. It’s pitiful.

But the plastic problem gets worse. Under perfect conditions a bag takes a thousand years to biodegrade, and in a landfill, plastic bags decompose even slower. If buried, they block the natural flow of oxygen and water through the soil. If burned, they release dangerous toxins and carcinogens into the air. The damage is even more severe when the bags end up in the ocean, where thousands of sea turtles and other marine life die each year after mistaking plastic bags for food. Read the rest of this entry »

In 2007, an estimated 194 million Americans (2/3 of the total population) consumed products sweetened with sugar substitutes, according to the Calorie Control Council, an industry group. That’s 14 million more than in 2004. The council reports that the most popular are sugar-free or reduced-sugar beverages, ice cream and desserts, chewing gum and sugar substitutes spooned into coffee or tea.

Five artificial sweeteners – acesulfame K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sucralose – are approved for use in the U.S. All are chemically manufactured molecules – molecules that do not exist in nature.

More info at

  • From 1967 to 2003, average household income (adjusted dollars) grew from $7.589 to 9,996 for those in the bottom 20%, and grew from $83,758 to $147,078 for those in the top 20%.1
  • In 2003, California had a poverty rate of 13.4%, compared to 9% in Virginia, 19.9% in Washington D.C., and 12.7% for the U.S. 1
  • For those living in poverty, the poverty gap per family member (defined as the total dollar amount short of the poverty line) grew from $1,873 to $3,018 (adjusted dollars) between 1975-2003. 1
  • From the years 1980-2000, average net income (adjusted dollars) for households with children grew by $876,300 for the top 1%, and grew by $2,000 for those in the bottom 20%. 1
  • While the number of persons at poverty level declined from 13.4% to 12.5% from 1987-2003, the number of persons on Medicaid grew from 8.4% to 12.4%1
  • Approximately 7.5 million workers (6% of the U.S. workforce) earn at or near the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour.2
  • If the federal minimum wage had maintained its 1968 peak value, it would be $8.69 an hour today. 2
  • From 1956 to 1981, the minimum wage was approximately half of the average American workers wage; today it is about 30%. 2
  • Read the rest of this entry »

Chew on this: Food costs

April 19, 2008

Most Americans take food for granted. Even the poorest fifth of households in the United States spend only 16 percent of their budget on food. In many other countries, it is less of a given. Nigerian families spend 73 percent of their budgets to eat, Vietnamese 65 percent, Indonesians half. They are in trouble.

Last year, the food import bill of developing countries rose by 25 percent as food prices rose to levels not seen in a generation. Corn doubled in price over the last two years. Wheat reached its highest price in 28 years.

According to Felicity Lawrence, author of the book, Not On The Label, bread making changed in the Sixties when scientists discovered how to make a loaf quickly and bulk it up with water.

“Instead of allowing two to three days fermentation they found that air and water could be incorporated into dough if it was mixed at high speeds,” she says.

“Double the quantity of yeast was needed to make it rise, chemical oxidants were essential to get the gas in and hardened fat had to be added to provide structure. The process gave a much higher yield of bread from each sack of flour because the dough absorbed so much water.” The added fat, often in the form of unhealthy hydrogenated fat, helps today’s bread look firm and spongy. It is often included as a part of the ambiguous-sounding “flour treatment agent” usually found listed in the ingredients.

Before the traditional Iroquois convened their consul meetings, they invoked this declaration:

“In every deliberation we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.”

Thereafter, any vote included an equal vote cast by a representative who spoke specifically for the needs, the survival, and the dignity of those who would live a hundred and fifty years in the future. For the Iroquois, the generational format of their council defined a longterm relationship between government and ecology. The rights of future generations never became an issue of policy because it was, instead, the very context of policy. Conservation was, thus, the very foundation upon which their culture was built. The medium was the message.

  • Rank of shrimp in popularity among all types of seafood Americans eat – #1
  • Pounds of shrimp the average American consumed in 2006 – 4.4
  • Share of shrimp sold in the U.S. that comes from the Southeast U.S. (Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean), where fisheries and farms are held to stricter standards – 10%
  • Share of shrimp sold in the U.S. that comes largely from Southeast Asia and Latin America, where environmental regulations are sometimes lax and often not enforced – 90%
  • Share of U.S. shrimp imports that come from Thailand, our largest single supplier – 33% Read the rest of this entry »

Water, a precious resource

February 25, 2008

  • How much water does it take to process a quarter pound of hamburger? Approximately one gallon.
  • How long can a person live without food? More than a month
  • How long can a person live without water? Approximately one week, depending upon conditions.
  • How much water must a person consume per day to maintain health? 2.5 quarts from all sources (i.e., water, food)
  • How much water does a birch tree give off per day in evaporation? 70 gallons
  • How much water does an acre of corn give off per day in evaporation? 4,000 gallons

Read the rest of this entry »

Nationwide garbage stats

February 19, 2008

  • It’s estimated that this year 222 million tons of waste will be generated by Americans.
  • Americans’ total yearly waste would fill a convoy of garbage trucks long enough to wrap around the earth six times and reach halfway to the moon.
  • Since 1950, people in the United States have used more resources than any generation who ever lived before them.
  • Each American individual uses up 20 tons of basic raw materials annually.
  • At the consumption level of the average American, at least four additional planets worth of resources would be needed to support the planet’s six billion inhabitants.
  • By comparison, the average North American consumes ten times as much as the average person living in China and thirty times as much as the average person living in India.
  • Why they call it junk mail…the U.S. Postal Service delivers more than 87 billion pieces of direct mail (advertising and promotional mail) every year.