Small Streams


Another Pittsburgh Diaspora
September 7, 2009, 9:05 am
Filed under: business, community, education, eutechnics, railbelt, walking | Tags: , ,

We are wealthy in direct proportion to the ability we have to act on our dreams, to make what we only imagine.

Recently, our city has lost the capacity to make a million barrels of beer — not that the Iron City Brewery has made that much beer in a while. Sales have been below 200,000 barrels for years. Much of that capacity was used to make crappy beer, malt liquor and light beers. I for one found myself a lone defender of Iron City beer, though it could give you both a headache and a stomach ache after two beers (which probably had to do with how much adjunct grains they used).

The big loss is not the beer. There is no lack of beer. The loss of the skills, talents, and connections that were part of the workforce of the brewery, the nearly hundred workers who knew how to run a boiler, create a valve, maintain the flow of thousands of gallons of water, or fill thousand of cans a minute will be lost. A shop full of artisans is a hard thing to create, but in deciding to close shop, the owners of the brewery have undone what had taken years to do.

The oldest parts of the brewery buildings will remain, maintained perhaps by the mechanisms of preservation law. What mechanisms do we have to preserve the artisanal and craft abilities of a hundred workers?



Food Miles Myths
November 15, 2008, 1:53 pm
Filed under: ecology, eutechnics, food, gardening, technology | Tags: , , ,

Via Andrew Sullivan:

An article in ReasonOnline by Ronald Bailey about food miles.

As one who rec’d a free “Eat fresh. Eat Western Pennsylvanian” t-shirt and wears it proudly, I look skeptically at Bailey’s attempt to debunk the beliefs of some foodies’ fondest myths that eating locally saves energy and is food for the planet.

Transporting food, Bailey reports, accounts for little of the energy use and for fewer greenhouse emissions. In some ways the article is an unblinkered look at food economics: Reality doesn’t favor us stocking the corner market with local goods; hothouse plants emit five times the amount of greenhouse gases than transported tropical plants do.

On the other hand, I have a feeling that a society conscious of the origins of its foods, that devoted more time and attention to the cultivation and preparation of its food, is a society that will be paid off.

Bailey says that such time is better spent in leisure or in doing something more productive (I’m guessing he means something more productive for the GDP.). But in the Amish/Wendell Berry sense, such work, agricultural work, is good for the soul, and for the community, and is an asset that trumps the others.

Sorry to be short on specifics. Perhaps I should just plant something.



Thank you, Michael Pollan
December 18, 2007, 8:58 am
Filed under: eutechnics, health, language | Tags: , ,

Michael Pollan’s article about the deflation of the word “sustainability” appeared in this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.

When pesticide makers and genetic engineers cloak themselves in the term, you have to wonder if we haven’t succeeded in defining sustainability down, to paraphrase the late Senator Moynihan, and if it will soon possess all the conceptual force of a word like “natural” or “green” or “nice.”

Pollan follows this with a paragraph about Confucius and how if we’re to repair the world we need first to repair our words. The passage is pretty much lifted whole from Wendell Berry’s “Standing by Words.” I say this as a tribute to both Pollan and Berry. Berry can sound like an oracle at times, so it’s wonderful that Pollan can translate. Soon you’ll find the sentiments expressed in Parade magazine. If it takes 2,500 years to pay attention to Confucius, so be it.