Monthly Archives: July 2015

Making hay in a drought

In response to the ongoing drought in California, our esteemed politicians have closed down beach showers.  This is a classic PR Stunt, as beach showers aren’t even a drop in the bucket of our water usage.  Nay, it effectively INCREASES water use, since everyone will just have to take (much more wasteful) showers at home.

PR stunts abound in our current water crisis, whether from Democrats using cheap stunts to pretend we’re saving water, or visiting Republicans telling us we need to relax environmental regulations and destroy even more of our natural rivers to feed our thirst.

Ironic that such PR stunts are making political hay out of this crisis.  When making literal hay is a big part of it.  I’ve been saying this for years.  Alfalfa – i.e. hay – is one of California’s main crops, and to my knowledge it requires about three YARDS of water a year.

It barely gets any mention in the press, but occasionally it does leak out, like in last week’s TED Radio Hour.

And yet, even the title “Will Our Demand For Food Threaten Our Supply of Water?” is misleading.  Here, let me quote them: “…the biggest consumer of water in California is alfalfa. Alfalfa alone uses more water than all of the humans in California combined, and most of it is shipped overseas.”  So this isn’t about us needing food, it’s about allowing completely wasteful crops to be grown, and not even for domestic consumption.

The more you delve into the statistics, the worse it gets.  Unfortunately I’m not a paid researcher, so you can look this up yourself, but I read it costs about $500 worth of water to grow about $100 worth of hay.  So we’re even SUBSIDIZING this wasteful crop.

And I’m not even gonna bother talking about rice.

When it comes to water usage, only 20% is urban, and about 80% is agricultural.  And when you subdivide urban use further – set up some kind of ladder of necessity – you’ll find we need even less.  Drinking, bathing, washing – these take nothing.  Irrigation of lawns starts taking more water.  Heck, even growing decent crops doesn’t take much water if you do it properly.  Eating meat takes water to grow the hay, but hey, let’s make some hay here and stop subsidizing hay production!

The answers are plenty.  Israel has much more of a water shortage than California, they even thought they could only support 2 million people with their water resources.  They now are a population of 9 million, and you know what?  Their public beach showers are AMAZING.  They don’t even have flow restrictors on their faucets, you know why?  Because it’s BULLSHIT.

It’s been the implicit thrust of this blog for a long time now.  The main issue in America is people are more interested in feel-good solutions than asking hard questions and looking at the big picture.  Maybe that’s the doom of America, that clinging such a philosophy as a symptom of our well-being will send us right out the other end of an apocalypse.

But I’d like to think there’s an alternative.

What you need to know about carbs

Paleo. Glycemic Index. Low-Carb diets. Gluten-free diets.  We’ve been hearing a lot about these for the past few years.  What’s up with all that?  Is it worth it?  Is there any merit?

Traditional nutritionalists have frowned upon most of these diets as fads, and to be frank I’m inclined to agree.  But before I throw my hat in with these guys, I do want to say there’s a grain of truth in all of these new diets.  And I say this from personal experience.

When I was 35, I went to a company called Phase IV which did a full analysis and overhaul of my lifestyle – both diet and exercise.  Among other things, they put me on a calorie restricted diet.  I could eat what I wanted so long as I met the daily calorie goal.  I had to document what I ate, and honestly, I recommend everybody do a 3-7 day diet journal and give it to someone who could give them some advice.

Well that kind of diet makes you really appreciate what you’re eating.  First of all, with only a limited amount of calories to work with, you quickly realize what satisfies you and what doesn’t.  And I quickly found that all the classic carbs in my diet – bread, pasta, cookies, etc – had a ton of calories in them that didn’t satisfy me at all.  So long as I kept my diet focused on meat, fruits and veggies, tubers, and just pepper it with reasonable portions of carbs, I could meet my calorie goals without hunger or cravings.

And that’s the grain of truth behind the Paleo / low carb diet.  Say you have what I would call a classic diet – 800 calories of meat and veggies and 2200 calories of carbs.  That’s a 3000 calorie diet – the classic diet of someone overweight.  But if you keep the meat/veggie intake the same and just cut the carbs to 1200 calories – all of a sudden you’re in a nice, healthy 2000 calorie zone.  You probably won’t feel any more hungry.  And if you feel ashamed about “going Paleo”, then rest assured I and any worthwhile nutritionist would give you a thumbs up.

This is where the gluten-free diet comes in.  The whole gluten craze, in itself, is just a fad, sure.  Especially if you’re eating all the same foods you’ve been eating and just replacing them with “gluten-free” packaging.  The problem with gluten isn’t the gluten itself but all those high-glycemic carbs it’s attached to.  So if you take it to heart and cut down the amount of bread and pasta in your diet, and replace it with salads and such, or with nothing at all (also a healthy choice), then more power to you.

Oh, and what is high-glycemic?  It means carbs that absorb really quickly into your system.  Sugar is higher glycemic than fruit juice (not by much) which is higher than bread which is higher than fruit.  Something like that.