The Cleanest Line

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    From Seed to Shot

    Shimahara1 I never used to like coffee; it was too bitter. I could only drink it diluted (with milk) and sweetened (with sugar). But two years ago a couple of colleagues at Patagonia turned me into an aficionado. Betsy introduced me to the simple pleasures of the beverage. “Coffee should never be consumed with sugar,” she told me, insisting that it had a wonderful taste, alone.  Steve introduced me to the vast array of “specialty coffees”— premium coffees—which, like fine wines, naturally have hints of chocolate, fruit, nuts, and other botanical flavors.  One of his favorites was a blend from Intelligentsia, roasted in Los Angeles.  My interest in coffee was quickly percolating.  Before long, I enrolled in a home barista class at Intelligentsia and made space next to my rice cooker for an espresso machine.  I loved the challenge of pulling the perfect shot. I was an espresso devotee.  The more I practiced making it, the closer I got to perfecting the extraction of it, which, I learned is a kind of art.  Good espresso has a delicate sweetness and flavor worth savoring unadulterated.

    Editor's note: Patagonia's online advertising maestro, and Clif Bar cycling team member, Mark Shimahara shares some background on a beverage many of us rely on to kick-start dawn patrols and alpine starts. Our thanks go out to Intelligentsia for offering a discount code to Cleanest Line readers. Read on to get the code and get brewing yourself. 

    My interest in coffee and photography lead to shooting opportunities with Intelligentsia’s California locations. The assignments gave me an insider’s perspective of what it takes—from seed to shot—to serve up a cup of coffee worth writing home about.

    [Unroasted “green beans” arrive from origin and are roasted to match an exacting flavor profile. Some batches of beans are roasted longer than others. Generally speaking the darker they are roasted, the bitterer and less acidic the espresso. Photo: Mark Shimahara]

    Continue reading "From Seed to Shot" »

    Struggling Economy Means a Threat to Organics

    NV grown We discussed the elimination of Nevada’s state-supported Organics Program just over one year ago. At the time, the state was facing severe budget shortfalls and the budgetary scythe cut a wide swath. The situation has gotten worse, and despite a successful defense in early 2009, the program is once again facing elimination. Organic consumers take note: With its record-setting foreclosure rate, Nevada has been a canary for many who are trying to gauge the extent of the recession’s fallout. While few states envy Nevada’s financial position, most will be watching to see how it responds to its budget crisis. Elimination of a growth industry would be an example few organic consumers would want to see repeated in their own state.

    Folks by now are pretty familiar with cost-cutting and drastic savings measures. As one of the states hit hardest by the collapse of the housing market, Nevada has been scrambling to make up for a budget shortfall nearing $1 billion. With a deficit of this magnitude, no state program is safe. High-profile suggestions such as closing of colleges and cutting university athletic programs have been grabbing headlines and spurring protests while a vast array of more modest cuts are set to go through unchallenged. Such is the case with the state’s Organic Certification Program, a measure that – if approved – would wipe out one of the few growth areas in the state’s faltering economy.

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    Freedom To Roam and Oceans As Wilderness: Eye On Aquaculture

    Salmon_farming-BC Today's post is by Patagonia Fly Fishing Ambassador, Topher Browne, who has dedicated his energies to the protection of salmon for two decades. Says Topher, "A species that requires not one but two entirely separate ecosystems would seem a dubious proposition. The transition from fresh water to salt water and back again . . . requires some fairly elaborate plumbing within the salmon or steelhead. This adaptation is unnecessary in species of fish that do not migrate to the sea. Activism on behalf of anadromous species is a real bang for the environmental buck. As salmon and steelhead lead a bipolar life, you can focus your efforts in both fresh and salt waters. If something is wrong at any stage of their life cycle, the fish will let you know." Today, Topher's letting us know a few things about Atlantic Salmon, and why it makes sense to choose wild:

    They lie glistening on beds of frozen crystals in the great food halls of North America and Europe. Bland and lifeless eyes regard busy shoppers as they push their carts in front of polished displays. Their silver-scaled bodies—plump yet strangely devoid of muscle—advertise the healthful benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and the singular bounty of the sea. Atlantic salmon, the king of fish and the food of kings, is on sale for three dollars a pound.

    Although reared in the ocean, these salmon live a life behind bars. They are raised in cages along the coasts of the United States, Canada, Chile, Scotland and Norway. They are genetically modified to accelerate their growth and liberally dosed with antibiotics and pesticides to mitigate the spread of rampant disease and parasites. They are fed a diet of ground-up fish containing chemical dyes to give their flesh a rosy hue. Some of their tribe escape through holes in their cages and enter rivers where they compete with wild salmon. It’s an old story—greed, disinformation, a willful disregard for the health of our most sensitive and bounteous ecosystems—and one that is unlikely to be told as the butcher hands you a carefully wrapped filet.

    [A British Columbia Salmon Farm, photo courtesy of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. ]

    Continue reading "Freedom To Roam and Oceans As Wilderness: Eye On Aquaculture" »

    Growing Organic Fibers

    Davis_t_0169 As a founding member of Organic Exchange (OE), a nonprofit dedicated to expanding the production and use of organically grown fibers, Patagonia recently attended their annual conference and board meeting in Seattle. At the meeting, OE members - which include companies like Nike, GAP, Nordstrom, REI, Walmart and Target - decided to broaden their traditional focus on organic cotton “to the emerging field of sustainable textiles, in order to better support both their needs in organic cotton and to help identify other sustainable textile solutions.”

    Given the collective influence of OE members, which represent some 750 billion dollars in retail sales demand, and their ambitious goals (like increasing the amount of land used for farming organic fiber by 50 percent per year), this seemed like a significant change. I wondered if it reflected a greater willingness among businesses to take a more comprehensive look at their footprints, a frustration among businesses with existing solutions to their environmental problems, or something else. So I caught up with Jill Dumain, our Environmental Analysis Director, to find out what she thought.

    Hit the jump to read the full interview.

    Continue reading "Growing Organic Fibers" »

    Dirtbag Diaries: The New Conservationists

    New_conservaationists After attending the Tools for Grassroots Activists conference earlier this month, I'm particularly fired up to hear today's Dirtbag Diaries. Host Fitz Cahall introduces "The New Conservationists."

    Our sports, our passions provide a special opportunity to visit the natural world's wildest places. This tradition began with climber, writer and godfather of conservation John Muir. He was a dirtbag before he was an icon. Now, there are members of our community -- boaters, skiers and photographers -- who are following in Muir's footsteps. They don't necessarily come from traditional activist roots, but have chosen to take a stand for little places and big ideas. Today, we present three stories. A city girl sheds caution to start a farm. A kayaker becomes a journalist. An adventure photographer forgoes a career traveling the globe to run for office back at home. I am John Muir. You are John Muir. We all have a Yosemite.

    Download "The New Conservationists"
    (mp3 - right-click to download - contains some expletives)

    One of my takeaways from Tools was the appreciation each group had for their volunteers. If you're on the lookout for a worthy organization to support with your time or donation, visit our Environmental Grants Program page. There you can search our current list of grantees by city and state, each is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and in need of your help. You are John Muir. Thank you.

    For more information on the music in today's episode, visit The Dirtbag Diaries.

    [Radical DBD artwork by Walker Cahall.]

    Botany of Desire Looks at Human/Nature Relationship from Unexpected Angle

    Botanydesire_cover2 Humans frequently assume that we are the architects of biological change, rather than mere participants. Genetic mapping and engineering do paint a compelling picture of us in the genetic driver’s seat. But what if we’re manipulated by the very agents we believe we’re manipulating? What if, for example, in our attempts to create a more cold-tolerant tomato, we’re unconsciously fulfilling the tomato’s desire to expand the environment in which it thrives? It’s discomforting – some would say, ridiculous - to think of ourselves as haplessly duped marionettes in an elaborate drama manipulated by the omniscient tomato – especially when things like consciousness and desire are not frequently listed among the tomato’s better-known traits.

    And yet it cannot be denied that the tomato has achieved a depth of genetic diversity and breadth of distribution that it may never had known, had it not appealed to a specific set of human desires. In making itself so delicious (entire cuisines are built upon it), nutritious (rich in lycopene and Vitamins A & C), and easy to preserve (thanks to high acid content) it earned a free boat ride from the New World back to the European mainland, where it proceeded to re-write culinary history. Thus did a lowly, spindly member of the sometimes-poisonous nightshade family manage to effectively put human legs and boats and farmers to work for it, moving it from its original western Andean home to farms and backyard gardens around the world.

    We have grown accustomed to the idea of measuring the environmental impacts of our consciously chosen actions. We’ve come to see that many of our choices have unintended environmental consequences, many of them harmful. But what about those unconscious choices that have sprung from pure desire, whether it be a desire for control, for taste, for intoxication, or even the simple desire . . .

    Continue reading "Botany of Desire Looks at Human/Nature Relationship from Unexpected Angle" »

    Simple Pleasures at Good Times Farm

    Barefoot 

    A blister formed on the palm of my hand, between my forefinger and my thumb. I always thought I had tough hands. I mean, I’m supposed to be a professional rock climber and my hands are supposed to be like leather right? But not this part, not at all. This part’s soft and tender, and my back is starting to ache a little too. Man, I thought I was tougher than this. What the hell?

    Editor's note: Patagonia rock climbing ambassador Sonnie Trotter sows the seeds for a lovely weekend with this sweet story about getting dirty on the farm. [All photos by Sonnie Trotter]

    I stuck my shovel in a mound of dirt and looked around for my girlfriend Lydia. I knew she had a bottle of water stashed around here somewhere. It’s mid September but the sun is high in the sky and still very hot. The earth is cool beneath my feet; it was Sarah’s idea to remove our shoes and dig our toes into the soil. I lost track of time a few hours ago but I think we arrived about 10am, late for farming standards. At this point, I’ve completely sweat out all remaining caffeine and started fueling myself with wild apples found on a nearby tree.

    Continue reading "Simple Pleasures at Good Times Farm" »

    Freedom to Roam: A Rancher and an Environmentalist Search for Common Ground on Wolves (Part 2)

    Image[5]_2

    Last week, in regards to the recent delisting of gray wolves as an endangered species and in conjunction with our Freedom to Roam campaign, we brought you Part 1 of an interview between NRDC’s Senior Wildlife Advocate Louisa Willcox and Montana rancher Becky Weed -- two individuals with two distinct points of view and a shared willingness to engage in constructive dialogue. Here's the second half of the interview. [Photo: Roy Toft, California Wolf Center]

    Q: How common is it to find ranchers who believe there is a way to protect wolves and their way of life?

    Becky Weed (rancher): ‘Seems like a simple question, but in fact no one has really good data on this. It is safe to say that many, many ranchers wish wolves had never come back and that wolves are yet another threat to a precarious way of life; that is certainly the dominant stereotype. But it is useful to remind ourselves that quite a few ranchers have already begun “living with wolves” since the reintroduction in the '90s. It has been difficult and has come at considerable cost in some situations, but some ranchers are climbing this learning curve in spite of themselves, and right now we have no systematic mechanism for monitoring that progress. Sometimes I fear the zeal of passionate enviros (and the inflammatory rhetoric that they are fed from distant fundraisers) blinds them to the embryonic progress that is so vital for a long-term conservation ethic that transcends rural-urban divides.

    It is also useful to remind ourselves that the sons and daughters of many of today’s ranchers are growing up amidst shifting paradigms of wildlife and agricultural perspectives. Many such young people have no desire to show disrespect for their parents’ traditions but they also know that they need to find their own way, and for some that means a new tolerance for carnivores. I can’t give you an exact figure on how many people are thinking that way, but several have visited our ranch, daring to explore the rancher/conservationist turf. The exact percentage almost doesn’t matter to me; these are the "early adopters," the innovators, the leaders. The numbers will come later – if we as a society do this right.

    Even though no one can answer your question precisely, I think we can say that the more  ranchers that are encouraged and supported concretely in their efforts to ranch alongside wolves, the more such ranchers there will be. To me this means that some lethal control will be part of the story, but it will not be the whole story. There may be some ranches, or some parts of ranches or grazing allotments where people conclude it doesn’t make sense to run livestock, but I and many wolf advocates do NOT favor simply running ranchers off the land. Such an oversimplified policy would be tantamount to cutting off our nose to spite our face. Ranchers, like wolves, live and work in communities and ecosystems. Thus the most strategic responses to wolf problems and benefits will also operate at that level.

    Louisa Willcox (NRDC): More common than you might think from reading the papers. I have met a number of ranchers who believe there is a way to protect both wolves and their way of life. But these ranchers often do not want to be publicly identified as being “pro-wolf” because of the potential for negative repercussions from their more conservative, anti-wolf/rancher colleagues. As long as hardliners like the Farm Bureau are in charge of the debate from the ranchers’ side, there is little incentive for the pro-wolf ranchers to engage. But thankfully, there are a number of tolerant ranchers out there. Without them, we would not have made as much progress as we have towards wolf recovery.

    Continue reading "Freedom to Roam: A Rancher and an Environmentalist Search for Common Ground on Wolves (Part 2)" »

    Is 2009 the Year for Industrial Hemp?

    P1020266_2 Back when we were just budding bloggers I wrote a post about the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007. Unfortunately, the bill never made it to vote, but that was two years ago when things were a lot different. Now it's time to try again.

    Earlier this month, Congressmen Ron Paul (R-TX) and Barney Frank (D-MA), along with eight co-sponsors, introduced H.R. 1866, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009. With a struggling world economy and the desire to create new jobs and new industries at home, will this be the year we finally free industrial hemp from the chains of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937?

    [Fear not, your feet won't get high from walking in the Men's Olulu shoes. Photo: Free]

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    KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN - Industry reps fear organic garden

    The industry in question is the agroindustrial genetically manipulated monocrop chemicalification comglomerate. It's a mouthful, which is why folks in this business like to refer to themselves as representatives of "conventional agriculture," companies like Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont Crop Protection. Let's leave aside for a moment the fact that our friends in the agroindustrial complex have been hard at work redefining "conventional agriculture" to mean "requiring the extensive use of synthetically engineered petroleum-based fertilizers to biologically barren soils with the aim of promoting growth of genetically manipulated, non-replicating seed-like products, upon which vast quantities of industrially designed petroleum-derived biocides must be applied." Instead, let's focus for the time being on the news item at hand.

    Not long ago, Michelle Obama announced that an organic garden would be planted on the White House property. The first of it's kind in approx. 60 years, the garden was planted to feed the presidential family, but also serves a more symbolic purpose. It's this purpose that has some folks "shuddering" in fear.

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