aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Monday, February 25, 2008
The future for Tuna is bleak
How ironic is that after waxing poetic about buying a cow and going on about confusing morality and science I go with our German visitors for their first ever experience with sushi right here in rural Georgia.
They came all the way from Germany to have sushi here? What about Bar-B-Q, collard greens and back-eyed-peas? We got that, too. But downtown these days we eat sushi.
From 60 Minutes last month:
[T]he Japanese have turned it into a multi-billion dollar international business. For them, tuna is an object of reverence, particularly when it comes to bluefin tuna, which they call the “king of sushi.” [...]
In the 1990’s a new vessel started fishing for tuna in the Mediterranean. It was called a “purse seiner” and it brought on a revolution in tuna fishing. Each of the vessels could encircle and trap some 3,000 bluefin in one go.
Before long, there were more 300 purse seiners working there and the new method proved so efficient that it made the mattanza look like some old relic left over from the Middle Ages.
It is high-tech fishing on an industrial scale. The purse seiners prowl the Mediterranean’s spawning grounds, waiting for word from spotter planes that are patrolling overhead. When schools of bluefin come to the surface, the planes relay the coordinates to the purse seiners, who then rush to encircle them.
The future for the poor Tuna is bleak:
These days, Roberto Mielgo spends his time tracking fishing boats and monitoring catches. And he’s found that the international quotas which limit tuna fishing are not being enforced. And those spotter planes? They’re officially banned, but are still hunting tuna. Illegal fishing is rampant.
“And if this trend continues?” Simon asks.
“All I can say, is that if we carry on like this, we are bound to catastrophe. I mean, it’s as simple as that. No more fish. No more industry. No more culture,” Mielgo predicts.
And no more mattanza. This may well be the last year that the weary fishermen of Carloforte raise their flag, telling their village that they’ve had a catch. The future of fishing in the Mediterranean is no longer in their hands - it’s in the hands of large fishing fleets, who are in a race to catch the last tuna.
I’ll get to farm-grown salmon in another post.
For a business school take (gag me with a spoon!) on this very same situation, here’s a fun excerpt from a Knowledge@Wharton review of Sasha Issenberg’s ode to globalization, The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy:
Don’t confuse morality and science
If you missed Michael Specter’s BIG FOOT: In measuring carbon emissions, it’s easy to confuse morality and science in last weeks New Yorker, you really, really ought to go read it!
I won’t begin to capture it here, so I won’t even try. This isn’t where he starts, but it’s a very important point:
How do we alter human behavior significantly enough to limit global warming? Personal choices, no matter how virtuous, cannot do enough. It will also take laws and money.
How about labels?
In order to develop the label for Walkers [potato chips], researchers had to calculate the amount of energy required to plant seeds for the ingredients (sunflower oil and potatoes), as well as to make the fertilizers and pesticides used on those potatoes. Next, they factored in the energy required for diesel tractors to collect the potatoes, then the effects of chopping, cleaning, storing, and bagging them. The packaging and printing processes also emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, as does the petroleum used to deliver those crisps to stores. Finally, the research team assessed the impact of throwing the empty bags in the trash, collecting the garbage in a truck, driving to a landfill, and burying them. In the end, the researchers-from the Carbon Trust-found that seventy-five grams of greenhouse gases are expended in the production of every individual-size bag of potato chips.
“Crisps are easy,” Murlis had told me. “They have only one important ingredient, and the potatoes are often harvested near the factory.” We were sitting in a deserted hotel lounge in Central London, and Murlis stirred his tea slowly, then frowned. “Let’s just assume every mother cares about the environment-what then?” he asked. “Should the carbon content matter more to her than the fat content or the calories in the products she buys?”
Should I be a locavore?
Many factors influence the carbon footprint of a product: water use, cultivation and harvesting methods, quantity and type of fertilizer, even the type of fuel used to make the package. Sea-freight emissions are less than a sixtieth of those associated with airplanes, and you don’t have to build highways to berth a ship. Last year, a study of the carbon cost of the global wine trade found that it is actually more “green” for New Yorkers to drink wine from Bordeaux, which is shipped by sea, than wine from California, sent by truck. That is largely because shipping wine is mostly shipping glass. The study found that “the efficiencies of shipping drive a â€˜green line’ all the way to Columbus, Ohio, the point where a wine from Bordeaux and Napa has the same carbon intensity.”
The environmental burden imposed by importing apples from New Zealand to Northern Europe or New York can be lower than if the apples were raised fifty miles away. “In New Zealand, they have more sunshine than in the U.K., which helps productivity,” Williams explained. That means the yield of New Zealand apples far exceeds the yield of those grown in northern climates, so the energy required for farmers to grow the crop is correspondingly lower. It also helps that the electricity in New Zealand is mostly generated by renewable sources, none of which emit large amounts of CO2. Researchers at Lincoln University, in Christchurch, found that lamb raised in New Zealand and shipped eleven thousand miles by boat to England produced six hundred and eighty-eight kilograms of carbon-dioxide emissions per ton, about a fourth the amount produced by British lamb. In part, that is because pastures in New Zealand need far less fertilizer than most grazing land in Britain (or in many parts of the United States). Similarly, importing beans from Uganda or Kenya-where the farms are small, tractor use is limited, and the fertilizer is almost always manure-tends to be more efficient than growing beans in Europe, with its reliance on energy-dependent irrigation systems.
Plasma or LCD?
Watching a plasma television for three hours every day contributes two hundred and fifty kilograms of carbon to the atmosphere each year; an LCD television is responsible for less than half that number.
Adam Walsh Act provisions ignore real harms
Sarah Tofte, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, has an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer today:
State lawmakers will need to decide whether to comply with the federal Adam Walsh Act on sex offenders or lose federal money for law enforcement. The choice for states is to dramatically increase their registration and community-notification requirements for convicted sex offenders by 2009 or lose significant federal law enforcement grant money.
It doesn’t seem like a difficult choice. Who wouldn’t want to support laws targeting convicted sex offenders and be paid for it? Yet legislatures from Arizona to Illinois to Rhode Island are leaning against implementing the law. Because once you get past the painful emotions and look hard at the problem of child sexual abuse, it turns out that sex-offender registration and community-notification laws might not actually prevent sexual violence.
Sex-offender laws are based on two popular myths about child abuse: that children have most to fear from strangers, and that sex offenders will repeat their crimes. In fact, more than 90 percent of child sexual abuse is committed by someone the child knows. And authoritative studies show that three out of four sex offenders do not re-offend within 15 years of release from prison. In fact, 87 percent of sex crimes are committed by people with no previous sex-offense convictions.
The Adam Walsh Act doesn’t tackle the real dangers to children, and contains disturbing provisions. It requires states to register and identify online children 14 and older who commit sex offenses. Many states treat juvenile sex offenders differently from adults, exempting them from community notification. They understand that young sex offenders respond well to treatment and have an excellent chance of rehabilitation - and that crimes they committed as children should not haunt the rest of their lives. Thus the Illinois legislature, knowing it was acting in conflict with the Adam Walsh Act, recently overrode the governor’s veto of a law exempting child offenders from online registration.
RELATED: LA’s CityBeat had a piece last week worried that California’s registry for life may soon include promiscuous kids. You’ve got to wonder, are we really trying to protect the kids? Or just lock them up?
Political prosecution in Alabama
60 Minutes had a piece last night asserting that the former Democratic governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman, is in prison not but instead because he’s a member of the wrong political party. He was the most popular Democrat in that very Republican state.
Now 52 former state attorneys-general have asked Congress to investigate whether the prosecution of Siegelman was pursued not because of a crime but because of politics.
From the 60 Minutes piece:
[A] Republican lawyer from Alabama, Jill Simpson, has come forward to claim that the Siegelman prosecution was part of a five-year secret campaign to ruin the governor. Simpson told 60 Minutes she did what’s called “opposition research” for the Republican party. She says during a meeting in 2001, Karl Rove, President Bush’s senior political advisor, asked her to try to catch Siegelman cheating on his wife.
“Karl Rove asked you to take pictures of Siegelman?” Pelley asks.
“Yes,” Simpson replies.
“In a compromising, sexual position with one of his aides,” Pelley clarifies.
“Yes, if I could,” Simpson says.
She says she spied on Siegelman for months but saw nothing. Even though she was working as a Republican campaign operative, Simpson says she wanted to talk to 60 Minutes because Siegelman’s prison sentence bothers her conscience.
Simpson says she wasn’t surprised that Rove made this request. Asked why not, she tells Pelley, “I had had other requests for intelligence before.”
“From Karl Rove?” Pelley asks.
“Yes,” Simpson says.
Siegelman was manacled and frog-marched from the courthouse to the paddy-wagon and taken directly to prison, highly unusual in a white collar case
[Grant Woods, the former Republican attorney general of Arizona says it’s politics, not bribery.] “You do a bribery when someone has a real personal benefit. Not, â€˜Hey, I would like for you to help out on this project which I think is good for my state.’ If you’re going to start indicting people and putting them in prison for that, then you might as well just build nine or ten new federal prisons because that happens everyday in every statehouse, in every city council, and in the Congress of the United States,” he says.
“What you seem to be saying here is that this is analogous to giving a great deal of money to a presidential campaign. And as a result, you become ambassador to Paris,” Pelley remarks.
“Exactly. That’s exactly right,” Woods says. [...]
“Help me understand something. You’re blaming the Republican administration for this prosecution. You’re saying it was a political prosecution. You are a Republican. How do I reconcile that?” Pelley asks.
“We’re Americans first. And you got to call it as you see it. And you got to stand up for what’s right in this country,” Woods says.