Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Two statistics you must stop repeating!

1) “People only use 10% of their brain’s capacity.”
Wrong. A goofy idea instigated by third-rate (in critical thinking terms, even though in some respects cutting edge technically speaking) turn-of-the-century research. They opened some folks’s skulls, zapped different places with an electrode, and asked the subject what happened. 90% of the zaps resulted in no perceived reaction. They concluded, with the Ancient Egyptians, that this gray matter must therefore be used as mere filler. So lame!

[Addendum: apparently the source of the myth is not certain, but the fact of the myth is. See Snopes article.]

2) “The average piece of food in America travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate.”
Possibly true, but consistently quoted out of context. The study that this is based on was done for food consumed in (or near, I forget) Chicago. Not for the country as a whole. It is possible that Chicago provides an accurate approximation of the national average, but there’s no good reason to expect this to be true. I wouldn’t be surprised if the real number is significantly lower, or (more likely, to my gut instinct) quite a bit higher. Plus, the study was done a few years ago. International trade in food has only increased. Grapes from South Africa. Bell peppers from Israel. Them’s far away places.

[Addendum: I’ve just done some quick Googling, cuz I wanted to see if I could find the source of the food mileage estimate. Turns out that there’s more than one source (shocking!) since a few different people have studied it over the years, but none that I saw was very recent. So anyway, this is a question that deserves a good, up-to-date, and thorough study. Any graduate students out there in search of a topic?]


New French edition of The Resilient Farm and Homestead available

Great news for French-speaking fans of Ben Falk’s The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach. The French language translation is now available from Imagine Un Colibri, from French booksellers, and on Amazon.fr. Falk’s book is a technical manual that details the strategies he and his team have developed for […] Read More

How to Make Biochar

Doing some spring cleaning around your property? By making biochar from brush and other hard-to-compost organic material, you can improve soil—it enhances nutrient availability and also enables soil to retain nutrients longer. This excerpt from The New Farmer’s Almanac, Volume 3, explains how to get started. To make biochar right in your garden, start by […] Read More

Generosity as Activism, and Other Homesteading Principles to Live By

“Like everyone I know, we occasionally find ourselves faced with a decision to which there is no obvious answer,” says Ben Hewitt, coauthor of The Nourishing Homestead. “Do we borrow money to build a bigger barn, or do we keep getting by with what we have? Do we spend our meager savings on trees and […] Read More

Pass the Walnut Syrup?

Everyone knows and loves maple syrup, and in some states (like Chelsea Green’s home state of Vermont), it’s big business. However, it’s a widespread myth that maples are the only trees that can be tapped to produce sap, according to Michael Farrell, sugarmaker and director of Cornell University’s Uihlein Forest. Sap can also be collected […] Read More

Prepare! Keep a Grab-n-Go Survival Kit Handy

Are you prepared in the event of a sudden emergency? Blizzard, earthquake, insurrection after the inauguration? We know a lot of people are wondering what’s coming next in the US, as well as the world, given terrorism, politics, and global warming, among other threats. In this excerpt from When Technology Fails, a popular book on […] Read More
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