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Chelsea Green Blog

Ethanol in the New Yorker

James Surowiecki gets on the ethanol-debate wagon. He’s not so much talking about “is ethanol good, is it bad.” He’s more interested in the absurdities of the interlinked lobbying interests of the corn and sugar industries, and how protecting domestic sugar production has the perverse effect of cementing corn’s role as the raw material for ethanol in the U.S.–even though it’s a totally second rate raw material for making ethanol. I recently was thinking about sugar as well. Import restrictions cause the price of sugar to be extra high in the U.S. (Surowiecki says the price of sugar in the U.S. is more than twice the world average). Sugar is generally accepted to be terribly unhealthy, certainly at the quantities eaten by the average American. So maybe if the government stopped protecting the domestic sugar industry, the price of sugar in the U.S. would go down, and Americans would eat even more sugar–with a result of even more obesity and related ill health. These health problems are expensive to take care of. So maybe, ironically, by helping a few sugar daddies get very rich through quotas and subsidies (costing American consumers millions of dollars), these policies help keep Americans just a little healthier than they otherwise would be (saving Americans millions of dollars). Is it a wash? Is it actually good policy, so that the savings from avoided healthcare costs outweigh the losses to sugar inflation? I doubt it, but stranger things have happened.

The Limits to Growth and Greece: Systemic or Financial Collapse?

Could it be that the ongoing Greek collapse is a symptom of the more general collapse that the Limits to Growth model generates for the first two decades of the 21st century? Author Ugo Bardi (Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet) examines the correlation between what is unfolding between Greece […] Read More..

Permaculture Q&A: Mulching Options for Your Garden

As Permaculture Month continues, we are making our expert authors available to answer your burning permaculture questions. If you have a question to submit, fill out this form. This week, Lottie from Florida asked if there are other garden mulch options that are as effective as hay. Josh Trought, one of our soil building and garden management […] Read More..

Designing Your Own Solar Cooker & Dehydrator

In today’s world, nearly everything we use, from phones and computers to cars and kitchen appliances, requires energy derived from fossil fuels. Wouldn’t it be nice to offset some of that energy use by harnessing the renewable power of the sun? Josh Trought, founder of D Acres—an educational center in New Hampshire that researches, applies, […] Read More..

Building a Sustainable Community: The D Acres Model

If you were going to create a community-based homestead or farm from scratch, where would you start? What building materials would you use? What crops would you grow and what animals would you raise? How would you develop an organizational structure and connect with your community? And, how would you make sure all of this […] Read More..

A Man Apart: Remembering Bill Coperthwaite’s Radical Life

A Man Apart is the story—part family memoir and part biography—of Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow’s longtime friendship with Bill Coperthwaite (A Handmade Life), whose unusual, and even radical, life and fierce ideals helped them examine and understand their own. Framed by Coperthwaite’s sudden death and brought alive through the month-long adventure of building with […] Read More..