Technology

Brother, Can You Spare a Cup of Water?

Humanity depends on three critical threes: Without oxygen, most humans will die within three minutes; without water, life expectancy is three days; without food, we’ve got three weeks.
Few Americans give three seconds of thought to any of these life-ensuring elements because, here, food is safe and plentiful, air quality laws are in place and enforced, […]

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Wisdom Should Come with Age

In May 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus, a Pole living in Prussia, published On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, a book that used mathematics and astronomy to postulate how the earth and the then-known planets rotated on their own axes as they orbited a stationary sun. Within days of its printing, however, Copernicus died.
His theory of […]

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The Long, Sustainable View

Who knew that the best view of 21st century agriculture would be from Darrin Qualman’s farm office near Dundurn, Saskatchewan? And yet, there it is, charted by Qualman, a data bloodhound who thinks graphically but writes plainly.
The long-time researcher for Canada’s National Farmers Union appeared on my radar in Feb. 2017 with a blog post […]

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The Anti-Science of “Sound Science”

For more than 20 years, farm and ranch groups, Congress, and Big Agbiz have used the phrase “sound science” like a sharp shovel to undermine agricultural policy they want to alter or bury.
Ask them to define “sound science,” however, and you’ll get no clear explanation. That’s because “sound science” is a political weapon, not a […]

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Commodity Agriculture’s Dark “Green” Future

A generation ago, GMO sounded like the name of an American muscle car, a text was what the preacher based his Sunday sermon on, and Facebook was two words that meant face and book.
Now, 25 short years later, genetically modified seeds dominate American agriculture, texting has replaced baseball as our national pastime, and Facebook’s market […]

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The Stupidly Expensive Non-Broadband Blues

Twelve years ago this month, the lovely Catherine and I moved from a three-story, oak-lined Victorian house in town to a modern, all-brick home in an unincorporated, rural community six miles north.
The mid-life migration delivered a quieter, safer life of no ladders, no roofing, and no painting.
The move also traded our faultless, $50 per month […]

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Grocery Getter

When Jeff Bezos, the founder, chairman, and CEO of giant online retailer Amazon.com, Inc., paid $250 million for the money-losing Washington Post in 2013, market analysts downplayed the purchase as little more than a bored techie billionaire using pocket change to buy a hobby.
They were wrong. Bezos buys businesses, not hobbies.
By 2015, the Post had […]

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Ag’s Greatest Innovation

In my youth, May brought two noticeable changes to the big Lutheran church my family faithfully attended. The first was heat. No building on earth better held daytime heat from Mother’s Day through Reformation Day than that century-old house of worship.
The second was the season’s short-sleeved parade of lost limbs, a brutal testament to the […]

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Burning Down the Barn

If the prospect of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as president scares you, put down the television remote and pick up “Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity,” a new report from the United Nations Environmental Program. It makes the dour debaters look positively sunny.
OK, sure, the report’s title suggests it will be as dull […]

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We Should Talk

With little fanfare and barely a nod of public acknowledgement, the world of food turned upside down April 13 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture informed a Penn State University plant pathologist that the “white button mushroom” he developed by removing some of its genetic material is not a genetically modified organism (GMO).
As such, USDA […]

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