February 2009
PASA hosts expert on global food issues
by Heather Simmons
coffee after being processed and bagged is
“The U.S. economy is built
purchased by Nescafe in London for $1.64
“The weird paradox is that 40 million
per kilo and subsequently sold for $26.40
on low-wage workers who
people went hungry in the United States in
per kilo. Patel describes how and why this
are forced to shop at Wal-
2008,” Raj Patel, author of S tuffed and
consolidation of power in the food industry
Mart...[which] drives local
Starved told Voices in an interview leading
is affecting not only the producers of our
business out thus depriving
up to this year’s Pennsylvania Association
food but the consumers as well.
for Sustainable Agriculture
“If people are unwilling to look at the suf-
local markets of income.”
Farming for the Future conference. “So why
fering that this system causes in other coun-
--Raj Patel
did this happen in the one of the wealthiest
tries,” said Patel, “then the place to start is
the increase in the prevalence of obesity and
“The idea behind Stuffed and Starved is
weight-related diseases such as diabetes
that overweight consumers are exploited by
that has been occurring in the last 30 years.
effect of removing local businesses is on the
the same system that starves others,” said
There is clearly a dietary component and
local economy. Patel said that it is possible
Patel. Patel’s book is a thought-provoking
the question becomes who makes the
for people to “dodge” Wal-Mart by cutting
and eye-opening look at the global food
money off these kind of changes?” The fact
out the middle-men in the food market, so
market. He explores the distribution and
that healthy food choices are often available
that the consumers and producers interact
control of the world’s food, and shows how
only to the wealthy is another side effect of
directly, a proposition many PASA mem-
control is concentrated in the hands of a few
the global food market that affects produc-
bers who will be listening to his talk would
at the expense of the majority.
ers and consumers alike.
be amenable to.
For instance, it is difficult for some
“The U.S. economy is built on low-wage
Patel was not optimistic about Barack
Americans to conceive of how buying a
workers who are forced to shop at Wal-
Obama’s pick for secretary of agriculture,
Patel. Despite the fact that he believes
pound of coffee at the supermarket affects a
Mart,” said Patel. “Think about Wal-Mart. It
Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack.
Obama is in with the pocket of agribusiness,
coffee bean grower somewhere in Africa.
drives local business out thus depriving the
“The people that Obama has in agricul-
Patel said he is very hopeful about the
But they do. In his book, Patel recounts
local market of income with the result that
ture are veterans of agribusiness that are
the story of a coffee bean farmer in Uganda
the lives of the local people are made worse
along the same lines as Bush, so there is no
who sells his coffee for 14 cents a kilo
by Wal-Mart.”
reason to think that Obama’s government
see Food , pg. 14
(roughly 2 and a half pounds). This same
In his book, Patel discusses how large the
will lead to any change in agriculture,” said
Nuclear waste the issue for this generation
such items as protective clothing, rags,
Truckloads of this waste material have
and the environment.
by the Peace and Social Action
tools, paper, etc. that although they contain
been shipped to a landfill in rural South
Currently, no nation has yet solved the
Committee of Friends Meeting
low levels of radioactivity, still pose a dan-
Carolina. As of July 2008, South Carolina
problem of what to do with radioactive
Nuclear energy is being hailed as a viable
ger to human health. This is due to the fact
stopped accepting most radioactive materi-
waste that must potentially be shielded from
alternative energy source, but where does
that all nuclear waste material includes the
al, with the effect that nuclear waste is now
the environment for thousands of years.
the waste from nuclear energy end up?
same long-lasting deadly radionuclides
piling up in labs, universities, hospitals,
The storage of this waste is perhaps the
Nuclear waste management demands
(radionuclides are the decay products of a
industries and businesses where it is used.
most controversial aspect of the nuclear
scrutiny because of its potentially harmful
nuclear reaction). If radionuclides are
State and federal authorities say the waste is
power issue. Most long-term waste manage-
effects to human and environmental health.
released into the environment through acci-
being monitored but they acknowledge
ment consists of treating the waste and then
Because all nuclear industry activities,
dent, poor disposal or other means, they can
checks are infrequent, and government doc-
isolating it from the environment. Since the
whether they be in nuclear medicine or
potentially cause adverse health effects
uments show that thousands of items have
1950s, geologic disposal sites in the United
nuclear weapons, produce nuclear waste
such as cancer and genetic deformations.
been lost and are feared stolen by terrorists
States have been elusive. This is mostly as a
radioactive waste is produced in hospitals
Essentially, radioactive waste is the lethal
who could turn the radioactive material into
result of popular and political pressure on
and research labs across the country. The
byproduct of the nuclear age.
dirty bombs.
the Department of Energy (DOE) but has
list of objects that have been exposed, and
As of Jan. 18,
2007, in Pennsylvania
The biggest problem with nuclear waste
included an abandoned salt formation at
thus have become radioactive, is long and
alone, there are nine operating commercial
is the current lack of a long-term viable
Lyons, Ks. and dozens of sites in eastern
includes items from medical procedures,
reactors at five sites (Beaver Valley-2, Three
solution to storing it safely. All nuclear
and western states
protective clothing, reactor components and
Mile Island-1, Peach Bottom-3, Limerick-1,
waste requires time to break down to reduce
Yucca Mountain was selected as a feder-
decommissioned nuclear weapons.
Susquehanna-2) and one operating research
its radioactivity. Depending on the type of
al geological disposal site because it is in a
Radioactive waste is often defined in
reactor at Penn State in State College. More
nuclear waste, it may take decades to
remote desert area on federal land. Yucca
terms of the level of radioactivity present in
than any other part of the United States, the
decompose. For instance, the half-life of
Mountain, which is near Las Vegas and not
the waste material. High-level waste is pro-
Northeast is peppered with sites storing
uranium-239 is thousands of years, and thus
far from Los Angeles, is immediately next
duced by nuclear reactors while low-level
nuclear fuel, high-level radioactive waste,
no institution or government can be guaran-
waste is generated primarily by hospitals
and/or surplus plutonium used for making
teed to last the thousands of years required
and industry. Low-level waste consists of
bombs destined for geologic disposition.
to keep nuclear waste from harming people
see Nuclear , pg. 13

February 2009
A pine siskin invasion can delight bird lovers
plumage is not decorated with streaks.
by Alice Fuller
Siskins also have touches of yellow on the
It was my husband Ted who first noticed
wings and at the base of the tail. These dec-
one morning that a portion of our patio was
orative details usually are not seen until a
literally carpeted with a host of feathered
siskin takes flight or one spreads its wings
mites. Then, with a whoosh, they all sud-
in an aggressive stance.
denly took off, leaving the patio bare. Our
given the task of counting them., but I think
Siskins like the same foods as goldfinch-
visitors were pine siskins. In a moment or
he found it to be a difficult assignment.
es, usually sunflower seeds or chips; like-
two, the flock of siskins returned to feed on
While he was checking the feeders and
wise, both are extremely fond of nyjer seed.
the seed Ted had scattered under the hang-
yard, my daughter Roana and I were with a
They are as capable as goldfinches of using
ing bird feeders.
friend, busy totaling up all the birds we
the upside-down nyjer seed feeder. Roana
Every day since, the siskins have returned
could possibly find in Pine Grove Mills and
and I were watching the siskins one morn-
to follow the same procedure: here one
ing as a continuous battle went on over
minute and up and away the next. One
While I have had pine siskins come to our
perches on the upside-down feeder. Ro
morning I counted at least 50 siskins; I sus-
feeders other winters, never have I seen so
wondered if any of them ever got to eat any
pect, however, that this was a conservative
many at one time. Although they are the
of the seeds.
figure, for the birds keep moving from bird
same size and belong to the same genus as
For such a tiny bird, the pine siskin is a
feeders back to the patio.
goldfinches, the two species are easy to tell
feisty mite. John V. Dennis in his book A
After a week or so, the siskins were still
apart. Pine siskins have streaks all over their
Complete Guide to Bird Feeding described
arriving consistently; fortunately, they were
tiny bodies as demonstrated in Bordners’s
the siskin as having a bellicose nature. The
even around on the day of the State College
drawing of a siskin. Goldfinches in their
author of the siskin life history in the A. C.
Bird Club’s annual Audubon Christmas
winter plumage are brownish or grayish
Bent series described the bird as being pug-
see Pine siskin , pg. 14
Bird Count. Ted, who stayed at home, was
with prominent white wingbars, and their
nacious. Siskins usually manage to hold
waste. Because seismic activity has frac-
ation containment. As a result of its poor
strophic amounts of radioactivity in major
from Nuclear , pg. 12
tured and fissured Yucca Mountain’s rock
geology the Yucca Mountain waste facility
population centers along the transportation
creating fast flow pathways for water infil-
has not lived up to previously established
door to Nellis Air Force Base that houses
tration, it is possible that water will eventu-
federal safety regulations. These regulations
What is the solution to the U.S. radioac-
the Nevada nuclear weapons test site and
ally corrode waste burial containers which
have simply been re-written or done away
tive waste problem? There is no easy, sim-
mining operations. Not only is this location
will release deadly radioactivity into the
with altogether. In other words, “politics
ple answer. One obvious solution is to sim-
vulnerable to crashes or detonations, but
underground drinking water supply used by
have trumped science.”
ply stop producing it. Or we could at least
Yucca Mountain is also on Western
farming communities downstream.
Another problem with the Yucca
begin to allocate resources to researching
Shoshone Native American land, which
Volcanism also threatens to flood the pro-
Mountain disposal site is that the use of this
alternative uses for nuclear waste. There are
raises environmental justice objections to
posed waste dump with superheated water,
area as a nuclear waste disposal site would
at present a few isotopes such as caesium-
dumping radioactive waste there.
and perhaps even lava, that would release
necessitate an unprecedented program of
137 and strontium-90 that are currently
Yucca Mountain is also a major earth-
massive amounts of deadly radioactivity
high-level waste transportation, a “mobile
being used in industrial applications. It is a
quake zone. Dozens of fault lines criss-
into the surrounding environment. Because
Chernobyl”! Many tens of thousands of
conundrum to say the least! Can our dem-
cross this area with two that intersect direct-
Yucca Mountain’s geology is so unsuitable,
truck, train and barge shipments on high-
ocratic process handle this delicate situation
ly with the proposed dumpsite. Several hun-
building a dump there would require total
ways, rail lines and waterways would cross
and somehow come up with a solution to
dred quakes have struck near Yucca
abandonment of the original concept of
45 states. Not only are the shipping con-
keep the radioactive wastes from leaking
Mountain in recent decades, damaging
deep geologic disposal which means that
tainers not adequately tested for safety, but
into our nation’s water, soil or air at pro-
DOE facilities and derailing trains that
engineered barriers (which may not even be
they are vulnerable to severe accidents and
posed geologic repositories? Only time
would one day be used to haul nuclear
possible to build) will have to provide radi-
terrorist attacks, risking the release of cata-
will tell.
Watershed Cleanup Day
Saturday, April 25, 2009
It’s not too early to think spring! We will be
cleaning our roadways, waterways, and greenways
in central Pennsylvania’s watersheds, and we need your help! Cleanup sites
will be available throughout Centre County’s watersheds. To register a
volunteer team, please contact Brianna at (814) 237-
0400 or [email protected]
2555 North Atherton Street, State College, PA 16803

February 2009
During winters when we have an invasion
should be constrained, but I think that we
of pine siskins, some of them may remain to
need to move beyond the free market.”
from Pine siskin , pg. 13
from Food , pg. 12
nest in Pennsylvania, mainly in the northern
“The current research agenda is driven by
their own at feeders, even against larger
or mountainous parts of the state.
future and believes that there is a current
what companies want,” said Patel.
birds. Dennis noted that the siskin can be
According to The Birds of Pennsylvania ,
“trend towards community engagement.”
“Universities are bought and paid for by
discreet when around such bigger birds as
“Siskins are not known to nest regularly
Patel believes that a lot of the problems that
businesses, which is not an intelligent use
evening grosbeaks: “Instead of making war,
anywhere in the state, but suitable habitat
exist with the global food system are due to
of public money.”
the pine siskin darts in among feeding gros-
exists in Warren and McKean counties, and
the distance that exists between the produc-
PASA’s executive director said the group
beaks and seizes whatever particles of food
south in the Laurel Highlands, where many
ers of food, and that control can be regained
invited Patel to speak to its annual confer-
it can.” Caution many be the better part of
breeding records have been reported.”
if local farmers can organize and deal
ence because he can bring the big picture to
valor when dealing with such large birds as
As its name suggests, the pine siskin
directly with their local municipalities.
everyday working farmers.
purple finches, house finches, or evening
most often selects such trees as hemlock,
“We need profound political change as
“He has a global perspective on how food
grosbeaks, but Dorothy related once how a
pine, spruce and other conifers for nesting
well as structural change,” said Patel.
politics affect different people and commu-
pine siskin shoved a grosbeak off her win-
sites. According to the Bent life history
“Social change is community-based so the
nities in different foodsheds around the
dow feeding tray.
account, this species may nest as isolated
idea is that people can do more to change
world,” explained PASA’s Brian Snyder.
Pine siskins also are noted for being tame
pairs, but more often than not this gregari-
the world than just change their shopping
“And his keynote address will lend an inter-
little birds. A fascinating account from
ous species prefers a colonial affair with
habits. Individuals can start organizing as
national lens through which to think about
Dennis’ book bears repeating: a gentleman
nests only yards apart.
communities; they can build community
issues of food security, agency and control
from Massachusetts
“had been offering
In addition to the large numbers of the
gardens, support local farmers and support
of food options, and health and diet.” Patel
food to a flock of siskins and soon found
pine siskins this year, white-winged cross-
sustainable agriculture.” Patel believes that
is scheduled to do a question and answer
himself besieged by the tiny birds every
bills have been reported around the area. I
the current global food system is man-made
period and book signing at the conference
morning. They got in the habit of entering
have yet to hear reports in our area of some
and that as a result it can be undone.
after his keynote address.
his bedroom early in the morning through
of the other finch clan including red cross-
“I have been interested in global far
18th annual PASA conference,
an open window and then to gain his atten-
bills, pine grosbeaks and evening gros-
longer than in food, and I became interest-
which is being held at the Penn Stater
tion would begin tugging his hair and even
beaks. Perhaps some of these other species
ed in the food element during the World
Conference Center from Feb. 5 to 7, is
tweaking his nose with their sharp bills.
may turn up in our area as winter progress-
Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in
themed “The worldwide search for food
Needless to say, this was usually enough of
es, but with or without them the representa-
1999,” said Patel. “What we know as glob-
Sovereignty: Finding Your Foodshed.” For
a hint to arouse the host into supplying
tives of these colorful and erratic birds of
alization was once called imperialism.
more information or to register go to
food....” Dennis added that such tameness is
the northern forests have already brightened
People often disagree that the free market
the landscape of an otherwise long winter.
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February 2009
Easy ways to save money through energy efficiency
by Heather Simmons
your home and install double (or triple)
baking; they transfer heat more efficiently.
pane windows. These measures although
—Use your microwave whenever possi-
initially expensive will reduce your heating
ble; it uses about half the energy of a con-
Faced with the rising cost of energy and
costs substantially. There are also other less
ventional oven.
the fact that electricity prices will be dereg-
expensive ways to reduce your heating bill.
—Only run your dishwasher when it’s
ulated in our region in 2010 the ability to
—Clean or replace your furnace filters
reduce household energy costs becomes
ways in which you can reduce the amount
—Let your dishes air dry to reduce the
increasingly important. Reducing usage
of energy in lieu of replacing your heater.
—Caulk and/or weather-strip leaky win-
amount of energy used by 20 to 30 percent.
will not only decrease monthly bills but is
—Set the water heater to 120 degrees.
dows and doors. Alternatively you can use
—If your stove or dishwasher is next to
also environmentally friendly. Burning fos-
—Insulate the heater and water pipes.
plastic sheets to cover leaky windows.
the refridgerator then the heat generated
sils fuels directly contributes to global
—Install aerated, low flow faucets and
—Keep the fireplace flue tightly closed
from these appliances will warm the air
warming gases, and according to the
when not in use.
next to the fridge. If you are unable to move
Environmental Protection Agency
—Drain water (about a quart) from your
—Insulate outlets on exterior walls. Stiff
your appliances slide a piece of insulating
more than 75 percent of the human-generat-
water tank every few months to remove the
foam insulating that fits inside the outlet is
material between the two.
ed greenhouse gas emissions are carbon
available at home improvement stores.
—Defrost frozen foods in the refrigerator
dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels,
—If you are planning on being gone from
—Keep curtains on south-facing walls
rather than on the counter to cut down on
and of this amount 41 percent is due to elec-
your house for more than a couple of days
open on sunny days to capture sunlight.
the amount of electricity used to keep your
tricity generation.
turn the setting down to low.
Another way that you can reduce your
refrigerator cold.
Here are a few ways we can save money
—Typically 45 percent of the average
electricity bill is by using florescent light
—Defrost your freezer whenever the ice
as well as combat the greenhouse effect by
utility bill is due to either heating or cooling
bulbs. Although florescent bulbs are more
is more than ¼ inch thick.
conserving energy.
your home. So, when setting your heater
expensive than regular incandescent bulbs
When washing clothes you can reduce the
According to Allegheny Power it costs on
during the winter months bear in mind that
they will save you money in the long run
amount of energy you use by only washing
average $28.35 per person per month to run
every degree above 68 degrees can add 3
because not only do they last 10 times as
clothes when you have a full load, and using
a 40 to 50 gallon water heater. Obviously
percent to the amount of energy used for
long (about 10,000 hours) but they use a
the gentle/light cycle with cold water. Make
the easiest way to save energy on your hot
quarter of the energy. This is due to the fact
sure that you clean the lint out of the dryer
water heater is to buy the most efficient
The best ways to reduce the amount of
that 90 percent of the electricity used by
filter after every load.
model available, however, water heaters can
energy used to heat your house is to pur-
regular bulbs is lost as heat. You can also
According to the government’s Energy
be exorbitantly expensive, so there are a few
chase an energy efficient heater, insulate
recycle them locally. If you choose not to
Star program the average household spends
use florescent lights you can extend the life
approximately $100 a year on electricity
of regular bulbs as well as saving energy by
used by devices while they are turned off.
installing dimmer switches. Contrary to
The worst culprits are appliances that have
popular belief it does not take more energy
a stand by mode such as Tivo, cable boxes,
to turn lights on and off rather than leaving
TVs, DVD players, and computers. A study
them on, so if you are going to be gone from
at the University of Berkley estimated that
a room for more than a few minutes turn the
turning off these devices could save the
light off.
average household between 6 to 20 percent
There are a couple of commons sense
on their electricity bils. So when not in use
ways to reduce the amount of energy that
unplug them, or you can use a power strip
you use in the kitchen:
so that it is easier to turn off several at a
—To reduce the amount of energy used
while cooking make sure that the pot is the
If you have any other tips/suggestions to
same size as the burner and use a lid to
help reduce the amount of energy used in
lower the cooking temperature.
the home share them with other Voices read-
—Use glass dishes instead of metal for
ers at www.voicesweb.org.
Mexican Fundraising Feast!
Sunday, March 1, 2009
6 p.m. 110 Henderson Bldg.
Penn State Campus
$30 adults/$18 students & children
ll proceeds benefit
e Volunteers in Medicine and
Health (Haiti/Rwanda)
Contact Dorothy Blair at [email protected]edu