22 September 2008

fin, finito, bye bye fishies

The oceans are being depleted of their onetime abundance. Overfishing is something we can all help stop if we want to save fish from extinction. There is a sobering article in GOOD magazine about the imminent global collapse of fishing. It is a must-read for anyone who eats fish. Some eye-opening highlights:

The end of fishing = global food (and economic) crisis

The demise of commercial fishing is beyond the limits of even our darkest environmental imaginations. And yet the evidence of the ocean’s diminishment is everywhere. Leaving aside the legitimate concerns of conservationists, the possibility of a broad fish collapse is harrowing for other reasons. At a time when we are mired in a global food crisis, nearly 1.5 billion people depend upon the sea as a source of food or income. The destabilizing effect of such a collapse would be tremendous, bringing communities and countries into conflict over a resource we once considered boundless. It is fair to say that the endgame has begun.

Government support for an unsustainable industry
Many experts think that governments have been too kind to the fishing industry. The European Union, China, Japan, and the United States spend as much as $20 billion a year to subsidize a $90 billion industry. The number of industrial-sized fishing boats in the world, which the U.N. estimates at 1.3 million, will have to be reduced by more than a third to reach sustainable levels of fishing (and some conservation organizations put the number at closer to half).

Overfishing isn't the only problem, but it's the easiest to fix
We have imperiled what is perhaps the last wilderness on earth, for the simplest reason: We believed it was so vast it couldn’t be harmed. The signs of our folly are now too numerous to ignore. Massive, swirling gyres of plastic have formed in the North Pacific, as have toxic dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, and dozens more places. Coastal pollution and construction is destroying critical wetland habitats worldwide. And the ocean itself is warming, a development that will have consequences we can hardly imagine. Amid these challenges, overfishing represents the most immediate threat and possibly the easiest problem to remedy.

We are all responsible
Because of our role as consumers, we’re no less culpable than fishermen for the state of the oceans. Global seafood consumption has doubled since 1973 and, just as its health benefits are becoming known, it seems clear that we will have to eat less fish, and that the fish we do eat will have to be smaller and lower on the food chain, where the effects of fishing are less pernicious. A cod caught by a bottom trawler carries with it a different set of environmental implications than a cod caught by a hook and line—and we ought to recognize and pay for the difference. And we would do well to contemplate, too, why it is that we become indignant at the thought of a world without wolves or elephants, yet stand idly by as bluefin tuna, for instance, are hunted into obsolescence. This animal, as grand as any we know, can live for 30 years, weigh as much as 1,200 pounds, and cross thousands of miles of ocean in a single year.

Please read the whole article.

You can do something!
  1. Follow the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide. They have a free downloadable (or mail order) pocket guide you can take with you to restaurants.

    --Some common fish to avoid: Atlantic halibut, Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon, flounder, sole, monkfish, Chilean sea bass, trawl-caught haddock, skate*

  2. Tell your favorite restaurant or fishmonger to offer sustainable seafood

  3. Help the Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service make the right decision about shaping new commercial fishing regulations
*I realize this may be hard for many people to do, but if we don't change our actions now, these species will be fished into extinction. There are many viable (and delicious) alternatives, including: Arctic char, Pacific halibut, longline-caught Pacific cod, striped bass, tilapia, mackerel, U.S. Atlantic pole-caught Mahi Mahi, trap-caught lobster, plus farmed oysters, clams, mussels and more!

brooklyn harvest

It's the first day of Fall and it's already feeling a bit cooler. The kids are back in school, people are already donning boots and sweaters, and some are gearing up for harvest.

For those of us in the city, no upstate trip is required to enjoy some good ol' fashion pumpkin picking and harvest feasting. In Brooklyn, there are two harvest festivals next month.

The Gowanus Harvest Festival
Saturday, October 11 @ The Yard
Advanced tickets $10
Day of Show $12
Children under 5 Free

Brooklyn! Fall! Brews! Bounty! Yes, its that time of year again. The Yard is once again hosting a fall-themed celebration of Gowanus proportions.

Last year was an incredible success – over 1,000 people joined us at the banks of the canal to enjoy farm fresh food, live music, local vendors, pumpkin carving contests, pony rides, delicious brews and other triumphs of sustainable urban living.

This year, proceeds from the Gowanus Harvest Festival will be donated to Just Food.

So join us and enjoy the wonders of Autumn on Brooklyn’s most …charismatic… waterfront.

Red Hook Harvest Festival
Saturday, October 18 @ Added Value Farm
Annual festival featuring foods from local restaurants, live music and performances, kids' activities, pumpkin patch, raffle & contests, farmers' market, farm tours.

A bit from last year's festival description:
Join several thousand New Yorkers, young and old as we gather together to educate, motivate, inspire and create a more sustainable future for Red Hook and all of New York.

Explore the Red Hook Community Farm, New York City’s largest urban agricultural project and take a tour of the facility led by a member of Added Value’s youth leadership team. Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from the Farm, RonnyBrook Dairy, Red Jacket Orchard, and Wilklow Family Orchards

Enjoy great local, seasonal fair produced by some of the finest restaurants in the City including The Good Fork, Restaurant ICI, Tini, Baked, and Rice. Press New York State apples into fresh cider, check out the livestock, pick a pumpkin and enter into your art into the craving competition, or pickle some string beans with Classie Parker.

Explore the practicality of solar power, harvesting the wind, collecting rain water and making your own bio-fuel by learning from greening organizations such as: Tri-State Bio Diesel, The Cloud Institute, Community Wind, The Water Resources Group, Solar One, and the Brooklyn Greenway, Just Food.

What is a harvest festival?

Experience the harvest near you

2 orgs that offer abundance to those in need

[Event info via Brooklyn Based]

welcome back, nau!

While they're not open for business unusual -- as they put it on their site -- until mid-October, my favorite eco-friendly activewear company has revealed some of their latest designs. I'm so excited for the return of Nau!

I believe they had designed some of these items before they closed shop earlier this year. Apparently, and thankfully, they had fans within their own industry that helped launch Nau 2.0. West Coast apparel company Horny Toad picked up Nau in June. Read more about the acquisition here.

Check out more of the Fall 2008 sneak preview designs here.

[via Treehugger]

foraging with the wildman

We gathered a small feast of wild edibles this past Saturday in Prospect Park on our latest foraging tour -- this time with "Wildman" Steve Brill. Both the content of his tour and his conduct explain the alias.

Before he even collected our $15 "suggested donation," he was hocking his wares (field guides, a cookbook, magnifying lenses). From the wadded up piece of paper he pulled from his cargo pants' pocket, he took attendance. He phoned the stragglers.

He put his daughter, the aptly named Violet, in the care of over 20 patient tour participants as he brought his merchandise back to the car. "Has anyone seen my daughter?" he uttered more than once as we waited in Grand Army Plaza.

After about 25 minutes, he announced the start of the tour. He played us the "Brill-a-phone" -- a pseudo wind instrument created by clapping his hands in front of his open, hollowed-out mouth (somewhat akin to blowing on the top of an empty bottle).

Wildman Steve Brill

Despite The Wildman's idiosyncrasies, it was an enjoyable day. The sun shone warmly, but the shade provided relief. I learned more about the edible plants around me. Sampled some new wild food and took home enough to be able to enhance some meals.

The root vegetable of the burdock plant, known as "gobo" in Japanese cuisine, will be a good addition to some vegetable soup I'm making. As will the goutweed or bishop's elder, with it's mostly celery, partly parsley flavor.

Root of burdock (Arctium) on the plant

Root of burdock (Arctium) on my table

Goutweed or bishop's elder (Aegopodium podagraria)

I'll make a "lemonade" with the staghorn sumac I picked (with the help of a tall tour mate).

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)

I pulled a sassafras sapling from the ground -- its root makes a nice tea.

Pulling sassafras

Sassafras root

The wood sorrel (Oxalis), bright and lemony, will be a tasty addition to a salad or a sandwich. I didn't pick enough of it, but the lamb's quarters (Chenopodium album) would be a nice salad green or spinach alternative (it's high in vitamins A and C, calcium, folate, fiber, and protein).

I can make a dressing with grated garlic mustard root.

Root of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

We sampled some hackberries -- the dried, brown ones taste a bit like the candy coating of an M&M. We also ate some foxtail grass seeds. Just gently twist the head of the grass over your palm for a mild little treat. A word of warning for pet owners: I've read that the seeds are toxic for dogs.

Hackberries (Celtis)

Foxtail grass (Alopecurus L.)

I tried a bit of black walnut, and my boyfriend and I came back the next day to collect some. We only found a couple, but the tree is full of them. Maybe in a week they'll have fallen. When you do collect them, be sure to remove the husk before bringing them home -- they tend to become infested with bugs.

Lots of nuts up in that black walnut tree (Juglans nigra)

Black walnut husks

A Monarch butterfly we spied at the end of the tour

While we did collect quite a few wild edibles, I was happy to see many farmer's market stands still open so late in the afternoon. My dogs were barking at this point, so my boyfriend gathered a few things while I sat on the curb. When we got home, we used the field garlic in an heirloom tomato salad.

Field garlic (Allium oleraceum)

Grand Army Plaza greenmarket

Related reading

The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook by "Wildman" Steve Brill

Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places by Steve Brill

Take a tour with the Wildman

Related posts

exploring, gathering
yesterday's brooklyn foraging tour [with Leda Meredith]
stalking the wild asparagus