Boy Scouts and food policy - yikes!

They're not related in any way that I know except that both subjects are on my mind today, and neither, as discussed here, will bring you cheer. Growing up, so many boys I knew were Boy Scouts, earnestly earning badges and working towards Eagle rank. It always seemed such a wholesome, practical organization. Cue the dread music...

The release of the Boy Scout's "perversion files" -formally known as the Ineligible Volunteer Files- last October shed light on twenty years of grotesque sexual abuse of scouts by their scoutmasters and other adult volunteers. As the formerly secret papers show, predatory adults were rarely exposed or punished but were instead relocated or quietly pushed out of the organization. How eerily, horribly similar is this to the seemingly endless number of sexual abuse cases spewing from the Catholic church's secret stash?

If that weren't awful enough, which it is, the Boy Scouts (BSA), who've long banned openly gay boys from joining its ranks finally appeared willing to get with the times and overturn their homophobic policy. Yet, just before announcing a decision, BSA leadership retreated yesterday, saying it needed more time to decide. It is hard to see how the Scouts can reconcile the refusal to accept one aspect of an individual's being with their professed goal of providing American youth "character development and values-based leadership training." What character are you building if you teach kids that their peers who have a different sexual orientation are lesser people who just can't be welcomed into your group? Values of inequity and disdain? Or worse, hate? Disgust?

How can you tell a young boy that he can't join your organization simply because he's gay? What injury to his psyche must such discrimination cause!

I'll be damned if those seem like good values to me, and you can bet I wouldn't consider letting my sons participate in Boy Scouts right now.

````````` And now to food policy. Week 3 of my U.S. Food Systems class has begun and just today I managed to complete everything from Week 1; yes, I'm a little behind. I've been familiar with much of the information presented so far but was stunned anew by many of the sobering statistics and wanted to share a few with you here.


As of October, 2011, the world's population was roughly 7 billion; of those, nearly 2 B were overweight or obese and about 1 B were undernourished. Since 1980, obesity rates have more than doubled. In 1985, there were roughly 30 million cases of diabetes globally; in 2010, that number had jumped to 285 million!

75% of the global population live in countries where resource extraction and depletion has exceeded resource capital. Put another way, consumption of earth's resources exceeds its ability to regenerate by 30%.

It takes 1,000 kg of water to produce 1 kg of grain, and 700 kg of grain to produce 100 kg of beef. Meanwhile, from 1961 -2000, meat consumption per capita increased 82%.       Do the math on the water we're using just to feed the animals we'll then eat. Scary!

Globally, agriculture accounts for 70% of total water use and 93% of water depletion (extraction from deep aquifers). Some countries are literally running out of water.

Between 1995 -2005, the U.S. meat and dairy industries received 73.8% of all federal agricultural subsidies while just 0.37% went to fruit and vegetable growers. This breakdown does not map at all with USDA nutrition guidelines.

In 1960, the U.S. applied 27 million metric tons (mmt) of chemical fertilizers; the estimate for 2020 is ~220 mmt. Crops absorb just ⅓ - ½ of the nitrogen applied via these fertilizers; the rest washes into the water cycle, contaminating and polluting it and doing the same or worse to the animals and plants reliant on it.

~1600 chemicals are used in the pesticides we apply, and only a handful have been tested for safety. It is a wildly unregulated industry.