Wednesday, October 18, 2006

UC Boulder...

I am in Boulder CO right now for an ethics conference. Today was spent mostly traveling and mostly uneventful. We traveled by bus, by plane, by car and by foot, and then walked around the campus getting our heads straight. It's a pretty nice campus if you've never been here, with buildings that look like ski lodges and students biking and playing guitars and otherwise doing what I imagine real college students doing. I'm hoping to get myself invited to a frisbee game tomorrow (even in the snow...that's how badly I want to play frisbee). Instead, we have a meeting in the morning with ROTC guys, and a dinner at a sorority at night. We'll see how that goes (I don't think I know any sorority girls other than Joanne...and she's married now, so I don't know if she counts any more).

We had dinner at a steakhouse where I somehow got on the topic of commerical agriculture (I believe it was the spinich dip and how, in my rather un-educated view, we probably wouldn't have had the outbreak of bad spinach we had if we ate more locally...Alex'll probably back me up on that one). My boss asked how long I've been "interested in the earth" and I couldn't really think of a time I wasn't "interested" in the I guess it's just who I am.

I got an email from Chuck asking when I'd post about politics again, and I realized it's been a while. Hopefully, soon, you'll read more about politics (if I can stomach it).


Blogger Alex said...

The particular strain of E. coli responsible for the recent deaths evolved in one environment only: the super-acidic digestive tracts of cows raised in confinement. Ruminants like cows evolved to eat very high fiber diets of mainly grass. When they are switched to lower fiber diets like corn/alfalfa/sorghum (as they are in confinement operations), their digestion changes, resulting in fattier meat and acid-tolerant bacteria in the manure. In the Salinas Valley (where the spinach came from), all but one waterway is contaminated with E. coli from agricutlure. When accidental flooding occurs, there is the potential for vegetable crops to come in contact with E. coli. While it is never good for humans to eat E. coli (and there are strict protocols to keep it out of our food), the acid in our stomachs can kill off most harmful bacteria we ingest. This strain was particularly deadly because its acid-tolerance allows it to survive in the human stomach. As long as manure continues to contaminate California's groundwater, and as long as people in Wisconsin and New York are eating California crops, it won't matter if we stop eating spinach. You want references I can find them.

8:54 PM  

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