Letters for the Week of December 18

Readers sound off on food waste, panic over Fukushima, and the governor's water tunnels plan.

“Measuring Food Waste,” Feature, 12/04

Invest in Food Recovery

Great article backed by thorough research. We need to measure wasted food in this country so we can more effectively institute changes that hold businesses accountable. In a country with such need there is no reason food should be thrown away. In order for all this surplus food to be collected in a safe and professional way we need to begin to shift our thinking around food recovery. It’s a massive job. We can’t rely only on volunteers and charities to get the job done. By investing in a food recovery service sector we have an opportunity to provide jobs to those who need the jobs the most — tackling hunger at its roots not just providing a temporary fix.

Dana Frasz, Founder and Director,
Food Shift, Oakland

Need Efficient Consumer Shopping

The large amount of food waste is a lose-lose situation for the environment, the struggling families in today’s tough economy, and for the food retailers. We should address the food waste problem in every link in our food supply chain. For example, the excess inventory of perishable food items close to their expiration on supermarket shelves causes waste.

The consumer “last in, first out” shopping behavior might be one of the weakest links of the fresh food supply chain. Why not encourage efficient consumer shopping behavior by offering consumers automatic and dynamic purchasing incentives for perishables approaching their expiration dates before they end up in a landfill?

The new emerging GS1 DataBar standard enables automatic applications that offer dynamic incentives for perishables approaching their expiration dates. The “End Grocery Waste” application encourages efficient consumer shopping behavior that maximizes grocery retailer revenue and makes fresh food affordable for all families while effectively reducing the global carbon footprint. You can look this application up at: EndGroceryWaste.com.

Rod Averbuch, Chicago, Illinois

“Fukushima Panic,” Eco Watch, 12/04

Pseudoscience Undermines Reason

One of the more depressing things about life in America today is the fact that legitimate topics of concern tend to get buried under avalanches of paranoia and misinformation. I wish I could say that this phenomenon is unique to the right, but Fukushima (along with similarly fashionable panics about anti-vaccination and alternative cancer treatments) shows that’s not the case. The Fukushima meltdown was unquestionably a catastrophe, but is this really the best we environmentalists can do in response? It’s bad enough that we’re doing silly things like avoiding the rain because we think it’s radioactive. What’s worse is that we’re borrowing tactics from global warming deniers and trying to discredit any scientist whose findings disagree with what we feel to be true. How convenient for the hated nuclear industry, which can then dismiss even its legitimate critics as a bunch of cranks who are afraid of rain.

I can understand all of the paranoia to a degree. As global capitalism continues its long-term decline, social structures are crumbling and long-held beliefs are being discredited. To paraphrase Karl Marx, all that is solid is melting into air. People of many different ideologies are responding to this terrifying new reality by retreating into whatever unfounded ideas offer to restore their sense of moral clarity and personal safety. However, if we environmentalists ever hope to be a credible and effective alternative to the status quo, we need to do better. Conspiracy theories and pseudoscience may offer temporary comfort, but they undermine our capacity for reason and factual inquiry at precisely the historical moment when we’ve never needed it more. It is only by exercising this capacity that we can hope to come together and find a solution to global warming, which will require the abolition of an economic system based on greed and growth and its replacement with one based on equality and sustainability.

David Wilcox, Oakland

Information Means Less Anxiety

Regarding the group Fukushima Response Bay Area (FukushimaResponseBayArea.org), according to our mission statement, our goals are:

1) To mobilize an international, independent effort to stabilize Fukushima now.

2) To draw attention to the ongoing dangers at Fukushima Daiichi and all other nuclear power plants, and to their implications for California, the United States, and the world.

3) To express solidarity with the Japanese people.

Nowhere does it state that we want fear or panic. On the contrary, being informed leads to less anxiety than not knowing. I’m sure even the pro-nuclear people interviewed for this article would agree that stabilizing the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi is a priority.

Holly Harwood, Oakland

No Sources Are Independent

Thank you for providing coverage on the Fukushima disaster. It is very important to provide unbiased information to the public on such a serious accident with global implications. While your article offered some balance, I was disheartened by calculated ridicule directed at people concerned about the health and environmental effects of radioactive contamination from the Fukushima nuclear disaster: “She even removes her boots.” The title “Fukushima panic” furthers this one-sided narrative of irrational people ignoring so-called sound science.

To begin, let’s be clear here about sources. There is no such thing as an independent source. Citing a University of Berkeley lab as proof of your argument is faulty on several counts. First, all universities today rely heavily on corporate and (politically charged) government funding, even if not immediately transparent. One of the scientists has been funded by the Department of Energy and Homeland Security. There are many people who would regard that type of funding as entailing serious conflicts of interest.

Occasionally, an independent minded scientist within today’s academic scene risks an unpopular conclusion based on research, but all too often, scientists are concerned about continued funding, and or tenure.

I’m not going to write a thesis here. I don’t have time for that, and neither do most people to read it. My point is that there are many valid public concerns, which cannot be explained away with a few bland statements of scientists dismissing risk. We need more transparency, not more geo-political maneuvering and lockstep journalism without regard for the long-term welfare of humanity and all life.

Jordan Van Voast, Seattle, Washington

“Brown Should Kill the Water Tunnels — Not the High Speed Rail,” Seven Days, 12/04

Ill-Thought-Out Ideas

No water tunnels. Definitely not. Nothing good will come from the tunnel project (unless you are a corporate agrifarmer wanting to sell almonds to Asia or perhaps want to start fracking). Tunnels are definitely bad for Northern California and the Southern California rate-payers will be paying for them.

The train seems like another ill-thought-out idea, especially since its track goes through land that is likely to “sink” due to ground water overdraft. We need to solve the problem of the Central Valley water table being depleted. The tunnels do not do that; the train will fall into them.

Jan McCleery, Discovery Bay


Our December 11 restuarant review, “Filipino Fresh,” misstated the address of the restaurant Kain’bigan. The correct address is 2101 14th Ave. And our December 11 Full Disclosure, “Berkeley’s Parking Solution,” should have noted that Oakland’s free parking program on Saturdays in December is limited to a maximum of two hours.


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