Fertilize Me: Dead zones of the Gulf

Green cloudy, dead water

Fertilizer runoff from the Mississippi River basin creates a tremendous environmental and economic externality as it washes downstream to the Gulf of Mexico each spring and summer. The water becomes so depleted of oxygen that life nearly ceases to exist a vast swatch of the sea.

Here’s the short explanation: Farmers, being risk averse, apply excessive amounts of fertilizers (namely nitrates and phosphorous) to their land. This invariably washes to the nearest stream or creek which feeds the watershed of the Mississippi River system. This basin covers more than 40 percent of the contiguous U.S.

Once in the Gulf of Mexico, the fertilizers fuel massive algae growth. When the algae die (or are eaten and excreted by zooplankton), their decomposition by bacteria robs the water of dissolved oxygen, which other life needs to survive.

The result: The creeping dead zone visible above in the cloudy, green water.

The problem is rooted in agricultural policy, lack of science and inappropriate property rights/controls. There are economic and social answers, but they won’t be easy. The primary one involves ag subsidy reform and taxes, which would almost certainly anger the farm lobby.

If you want to read more, click here for an economic analysis in PDF form.

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Elemental dinner

Simple

I get immense satisfaction from cooking basic foodstuffs that are healthy and turn out incredibly tasty. I realize that many people know how to cook far better, but this is a new leaf for me.

Above, left to right: Red lentils, diced tomatoes mixed with diced green peppers, a to-be-diced white onion, chopped green onions. Mostly organic.

Boil the lentils until they’re about half-way to tender in a stainless steel pot, throw in everything else, spice with black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic, lots of thyme and a tiny bit of sugar.

Salt to taste. Boil the rest of the way until the lentils are finished.

Finished product below.

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Hello giant Bag of Kale…

Healthy never tasted so good...

…meet my good friend, Carbon Steel Wok. Also, say hi to his buddies, garlic, onions, tomatoes, canola, cayenne and black beans.

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Pickle man

Pickle jar

A fun Lincoln Square organic and/or vegan restaurant provided me with an afternoon of wifi, photos and tasty food and condiments. Welcome to Drew’s Eatery. (That’s Drew in the background.)

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