Sunday, July 25, 2010

Eating Animals

No, not the book by Jonathan Safran Foer. Rather, over the past six months or so, I've started eating meat again after 15 or so years of being vegetarian.

The impetus, as you might guess, is moving to Nicaragua. The way we figure it, eating a strict vegetarian diet may end up being harder in Nicaragua than it is here. I expect we'll continue to be largely veggie when cooking at home, but if we're eating out there may be a lack of options and if we're guests in someone's house we don't want to be rude. Hence, we are starting to eat a little meat a few times a week ... basically to prep the stomach for the transition.

It's a pragmatic choice, although honestly I've been slowly reassessing my food philosophy for a few years now and I'm not entirely sure what I think these days. Basically, my central reason for being vegetarian has been that meat in the U.S. is often not produced sustainably (e.g. overuse of antibiotics, gigantic lagoons of cow sh*t, etc) and requires a tremendous amount of resources (water, land acreage, fossil fuels) in comparison to other foods. Also, it has probably kept me a little healthier than otherwise.

But the problem is that I've replaced meat in my diet with other things--like fish (not always sustainably fished) or processed foods--that makes me wonder if I'm not really thinking consistently about the big picture. There are other ways of thinking about these issues, such as eating locally or eating less meat or simply enacting smart national policies so we're not all wasting time calculating carbon miles in the grocery store aisle.

So anyway. I expect Central America will give me a different take on this stuff--in addition to a different cuisine. A lot of the first-world problems I mentioned above just aren't as pertinent (or are very different) in a developing country. So we'll see. But for now: meat! At times, it does seem very ... strange, to be eating meat after so long abstaining. But also (more often than not) delicious.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Oil Spill Scenarios

This week NOAA released the results of some modeling (based on historical wind and water currents) that show where the oil is likely to end up. The average of all 500 scenarios looks like this:

Their models show that with some medium-ish probability some of the oil will enter the loop current and head up the east coast. For example, if the oil spill had occurred on April 17, 1997 that would have been the result, as this animation shows. Of course, other scenarios depict different results and NOAA says that currently "the Loop Current does not appear to be a major source of transport of Deepwater Horizon oil to the Florida Straits or Gulf Stream." But of course that could change if the thing keeps gushing.

Anyway, I thought they were interesting, if depressing, results. I also recommend this pretty cool website that lets you visualize the size of the oil spill by moving it to your hometown in Google Maps. Apparently, the oil slick now dwarfs the state of Maryland in size. Totally crazy.

Also, because if you have to cry you might as well also laugh...