Monthly archives "September 2010"

Spring full moon

It’s both full moon and the spring solstice today, a time when the sun’s energy is evenly-shared over both the northern and southern hemispheres. Spring planting is in full swing, and our seeds are working hard to get themselves out of a warehouse shelf and into the grounds around the country. Why not plant something yourself, and get the most nutritious, freshest food you can imagine right from your garden?

If you think you don’t have enough space, take heart from the fact that the most profitable “farms” in the world are those in pots in New York apartment balconies. You never have too little space!

Great Green Wall
In China, planting has been happening on a whole new scale. In the last decade, 56 billion trees have been planted in China. 56 billion sounds a ridiculously high number until you consider that China is a country with a population of over 1.3 billion people, and there’s a government resolution making it the duty of each citizen over the age of 11 to plant at least three trees every year. Each year, China plants two and a half times more trees than the rest of the world combined, creating a “Great Green Wall” it hopes will protect it from encroaching desertification.

Lucuma Smoothies
When I make smoothies, I throw in whatever’s lying around, chocolate, spirulina, nuts, seeds, maca, without any careful planning or recipes to follow. The results tend to be a bit hit and miss. This week however I had perhaps my all-time best. The main ingredient was lucuma powder, a Peruvian fruit particularly high in carotene and niacin. It’s got a pleasant caramel custard-like taste, and apparently in Peru lucuma ice cream surpasses chocolate and vanilla as the most popular flavour.

Have a great spring solstice, and a blissful long weekend.

Ian and the Ethical Co-op team.

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World Ozone Day

Montreal Protocol
On the 16th of September 1987, the Montreal Protocol was signed. The treaty stands as one of the most successful examples of nations putting aside their differences and agreeing to do the right thing. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were ubiquitous at the time, used in almost all aerosol cans and refrigeration. Essentially, CFC’s converted ozone high in the atmosphere into oxygen. Ozone, a pollutant at the surface, is vital in the upper atmosphere as it protects the surface of the earth from excessive UV radiation.

Industry went into overdrive to deny the problem. “Ozone depletion theory is a science fiction tale…a load of rubbish…utter nonsense”, claimed the head of Du Pont chemical company. Industry-funded lobby groups, with names such as “the Alliance for Responsible CFC Policy” were formed, and as late as 1987, well past widespread acceptance of the most concrete of evidence, Du Pont testified before the US Congress that they believed “there is no immediate crisis that demands unilateral regulation.”

Familiar words today, where a far more powerful industry continues to play the science fiction card and is still successfully lobbying against action to prevent climate change.

It seems ancient history now. In reality, the ozone layer has only just started to recover. It reached it’s lowest point in 2006, and has since started to show signs of recovery. However, there’s still much to do. The production and consumption of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which were permitted as an interim, less harmful, replacement for CFC’s, will be capped in 2013, and will start to reduce in 2015. Just in time too, as HCFC’s (as with CFC’s) are actually potent greenhouse gasses, contributing significantly to global warming.

Better in bulk
We have quite a few new products this week, as well as some price changes. There are now more Enchantrix products available in bulk, and some of their other bulk lines see a significant reduction in prices. I’ll leave you to discover the new products for now while I quickly go add a few latecomers, and will mention a few of them in the weeks to come.

Have a great week, enjoying the spring sunshine, buffered, thanks to a far-sighted decision 24 years ago, by an ozone layer in the early stages of recovery.

Ian and the Ethical Co-op team

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Nature, red in tooth and claw

I was at a workshop on food security earlier this week. The workshop brought together a diverse group of people; NGO’s, large retailers, government and small social businesses such as ourselves. During one of the group sessions, a discussion on collaborating around packaging came grinding to a halt over large retailer’s fears of it being seen as collusion, attracting the attention of the Competition Commission.

It got me considering the nature of competition. Many of us unquestioningly compete rather than co-operate. One of our customers was in another organic store recently, and, asked where she normally bought, replied “the Ethical Co-op”. “Ah, Ethical’s rubbish, you should shop with us” the shop assistant responded.

The positive side of competition is that when we see another excelling we focus on new possibilities, and are inspired to excel as well. The shadow side is fed by fear, inflames the ego and leads us to want to undermine the other.

Last night a Facebook friend posted: “If you want to be incrementally better: Be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better: Be cooperative.”

Our society is shifting from one of competition and fear, where nations, businesses and individuals all stomp over each other as they look out for what they see as their best interests, to one we are learning to co-operate. Starting in the Victorian era, nature and evolution were seen as “survival of the fittest” and “nature, red in tooth and claw“. It was an understanding coming from the times, mirroring what nations were doing, what individuals were doing. More recently, we are starting to understand how species and natural systems co-operate, how various parts need each other to thrive.

Co-operation is tricky. It involves new ways of talking, and new ways of listening. At times it seems slow. But building together, so much more is possible.

Have a wonderful, co-operative week,
Ian and the Ethical Co-op team.

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Spring cleaning

It’s spring, and the day was enjoyed with some winter rain in Cape Town. Not everyone agrees that the 1st of September heralds the first day of Spring. Some measure spring from the equinox, or September 22/23 in the southern hemisphere. Still others, such as those following the Asian solar calendar, see the equinox as mid-spring, with spring itself beginning on August 4.

Still, let’s not argue. My garden doesn’t care about our units of measurement and, taking its cue from the warmest year since recordings began, it’s been resplendent in full spring regalia a while now, and is not going to be told it’s wrong by anyone! With the sun rising before 7am from this week and setting after 6.30pm, the winter hibernation is well and truly over.

Out with the old…
Last Sunday saw the implosion of the Athlone towers. I remember growing up under their gaze, as well as the black soot that occasionally covered our windowsills and washing when the wind blew in our direction. The coal power station had not been used for a few years, but it was still highly symbolic for much of Cape Town to see them collapsing to the ground. It wasn’t long before a hoax rumour began that it’s being replaced by a wind power station, but sadly there is no Eskom spokesperson “Mark Schoon”.

While at least one coal power station is no more, solar power is seeing a huge increase in investment. Currently, Germany has the greatest capacity – almost 10 GigaWatts, followed by Spain (4GW) and Japan (2GW). It’s the country in 4th place where it’s all happening though. The US has just over 1GW currently installed, but 23GW in active development, enough to electrify about four and a half million US households, and investment is going through the roof. Almost half a billion dollars was invested in the last quarter, almost three times the amount invested in the same period in 2009. It’s good to see that the tide is turning from the huge amounts of money supporting the oil, coal and nuclear industries.

And South Africa? Eskom currently pays a “green levy” of 2c per kWH – a tidy R3.7 billion for the year. Unlike other countries, which ringfence their green taxes, the money may not actually go towards any green projects, but it does provide a R3.7 billion incentive to move to cleaner energy!

What’s new?
We’re continuing to add to our coffee range, all of course organic and African. This week you can try the Ethiopian Harrar, which claims a rich cherry aroma with winy to fruitlike acidity and thick body, and spicy chocolate and cinnamon flavours. Decide for yourself, and let us and others know what you think, here on our blog, or on our Facebook page.

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Have a wonderful week,
Ian and the Ethical Co-op team