Musings, etc.

Now, as then

Traveling through Colorado mountain towns — places like Durango, Silverton, Telluride, Crested Butte — acutely aware of how man’s fascination with extracting riches from the earth, and perhaps making his own fortune in the process, has dominated and shaped this region. What are the opportunities now for sudden windfall? Tech start-up? Winning the lottery?

TellurideIn Crested Butte, workers from Slovenia and other Eastern European nations descended 8,000 feet into the mines to dig out coal and load it onto carts hauled by mule train to the surface. I reflect upon the intense suffering this operation inflicted upon man and beast, both deprived of the sun, any real rights, though the humans, at least, had a choice. Still, these immigrants went on to make the town, become the community, populate it with their offspring. It’s a level of civic participation mostly denied to those who now work the slaughterhouses, meat packing plants, orchards and fields of the West and Midwest — essential jobs that are nonetheless marginalized by the very same people who refuse to perform them.

CrestedToday these towns depend not on silver and gems painstakingly extracted from the hard rock mines, or coal, or supplying the miners, but tourism, a different way of exploiting the natural resources, one that is not as evidently ravaging as digging shafts into the earth, creating piles of tailings, releasing toxic chemicals into clear, gurgling streams, but one that is impactful nonetheless.

taillingsIn summer, the visitors are hiking, rafting, riding ATVs and dirt bikes, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, rock climbing, and in winter, they are skiing, snow-shoeing, driving snowmobiles. And always they are shopping, eating, drinking, showering, burning fuel, consuming resources that are largely imported from other places.

Scruffy miners, their hands covered with uranium and arsenic residue, have been replaced by scruffy recreators, their hands clutching cell phones or pawing through racks of expensive raingear, cheap tee-shirt souvenirs.

Now, as then, those who wend their way to these high-elevation outposts are looking for something that the Rockies, with their splendid vastness, seem able to deliver.

mtn“Find yourself in Telluride” promised one poster illustrated with a photo of two young women in yoga gear, holding hands as they performed an asana in a lush, wildflower-studded mountain meadow.

As in Hawaii, some who come to visit end up putting down roots, or at least buying property. Condos, lavish second homes — $9 million for a six-bedroom spread in trendy Telluride — vacation rentals, hunting lodges, hotels and RV parks, scourge of the west, dot the slopes, line the roads and streams. Within the throb of tourism the locals, or townies, carry on their lives, bussing tables, collecting the garbage, ringing up sales, steaming milk for lattes.

As in Hawaii, some of the locals have been priced out, or squeezed into marginal housing, or forced to double or triple up, as evidenced by the six-to-eight battered, mud-splattered old Jeeps and Subarus parked haphazardly in small yards. Some stay because it’s home, others because they want easy access to ski slopes and trout streams. Still others are passing through, spending the summer, or a year, in the Rockies. Casual work seems easy to find, with many shops and restaurants advertising immediate employment, signing bonuses. No doubt some of the tourists, the young travelers, will be tempted.

trainUnlike Hawaii, people seem glad for the tourism, grateful for the business, welcoming. Perhaps it’s because the physical space isn’t limited, like it is on an island, perhaps because concessions are made to locals, like the way Telluride gives permits to residents that allow them to park in the center median downtown. In Crested Butte, “townie” bikes are standard issue, and they help to relieve the traffic congestion.

Still, I know what it’s like to live in a place where the tourists are continually flowing in and out, irrevocably changing the character and feel of a place, even as they drive the economic engine.

churchIt’s not unlike mining, with its booms and busts, the surges of seekers who swelled a town, then deserted it for greener pastures, greater opportunities. No economic venture, no fad, lasts forever.

What will follow tourism, which has become the lifeblood of so many towns and cities, all across the globe?

Project and deflect

It’s been terribly amusing to watch the anti-GMO activists sputter over the release of a credible new documentary, “Food Evolution,” which holds that science is on the side of agricultural biotechnology.

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 10.30.23 AM

From Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan to US Right to Know and Center for Food Safety, the outcry has been the same: “unfair, unbalanced, deceptive, skewed science, industry propaganda.”

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 10.28.07 AM

Yes, those were some of the phrases delivered without a touch of irony by folks who either routinely produce and peddle an anti-GMO narrative that is itself unfair, unbalanced and deceptive, or have never said a peep about the reams of organic industry-funded propaganda and skewed science produced by the anti movement.

Which got me wondering once again why the anti-GMO movement is so utterly devoid of introspection, and so quick to engage in the psychological defense mechanism known as projection,  “in which unwanted feelings are displaced onto another person, where they then appear as a threat from the external world.”

I guess that’s their way of dealing with the cognitive dissonance described by a New York Times movie reviewer:

With a soft tone, respectful to opponents but insistent on the data, “Food Evolution” posits an inconvenient truth for organic boosters to swallow: In a world desperate for safe, sustainable food, G.M.O.s may well be a force for good.

Of course, antis quickly denounced the review as a “puff piece” because smearing and tainting is one of their favorite tactics. Nestle, after claiming she was quoted “out of context” (though not inaccurately) when she admitted GMOs are safe, engaged in it herself in her bitter denouncement of the film on her Food Politics blog:

I can’t help but think Monsanto or the Biotechnology Innovation Organization must have given IFT [Institute for Food Technologists] a grant for this purpose, but IFT takes complete responsibility for commissioning the film (if you have any information about this, please let me know). I view it as a slick piece of GMO industry propaganda.

Gosh, wouldn’t you think an esteemed professor at New York University would actually gather some facts before making such a bold accusation? Especially since she’s wrong: neither Monsanto nor BIO kicked in any dough.

This allegation led to demands by the antis that the filmmakers disclose all their funding sources. Again, this was hugely ironic and hilarious, considering the anti movement likes to keep its own funding and expenses shrounded in secrecy. Disclosure and transparency are always for others, and never for them.

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 10.28.07 AMJust as setting the record straight is always for others, and never for them. After seeing Nestle demand the removal of her 10-second clip from “Food Evolution,” Kevin Folta, chair of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida, wrote about his own experience with Nestle after she reprinted a scandalous story about him that was later retracted, but never corrected on her blog:

“…it is important to point out amazing hypocrisy. Someone that claims to have been wronged is the exact same person that celebrated the harm of others, and promoted false information to hurt someone professionally and personally, and refused to discuss it or make corrections when kindly approached about it.”

Nestle went on to block comments on her critical review of “Food Evolution” saying the “trolls had defeated her” — not that she’d erred and should rightly be chastised and corrected.

Stacy Malkin of US Right to Know (funded largely by the Organic Consumers Association) fumed that fans of Neil deGrasse Tyson “deserve better than the twisted tale dished out by Food Evolution, the new documentary film about genetically modified foods (GMOs) that is driving its promotion on the coattails of Tyson’s narration and kicking up controversy for its biased approach.”

Uh, excuse me, but aren’t the antis the ones who are kicking up controversy by claiming the film is biased? And I don’t remember Stacy crying about how fans of Pierce “OO7” Brosnan deserve far more than the outright lies of “Poisoning Paradise,” the anti-GMO fear flick produced by Brosnan’s wife and a Kauai personal injury attorney that is cruising the coattails (and coffers) of his celebrity.

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 10.49.07 AMNestle, Pollan, Malkin and others sniff that “Food Evolution” fails because it addresses only the issue of safety.

Well, safety is the issue that has driven much of the anti-GMO narrative in the West, and it’s the issue that is continuing to drive the anti messaging in Africa and Asia, where men are told GMOs will make them impotent or sterile.

It’s also an issue that has resonated with many esteemed scientists, including the National Academy of Sciences and a roster of Nobel laureates, all of whom agree that GMO crops are safe for human and animal consumption.

Still, there’s plenty more to talk about in the GMO debate, and with the Q&A discussions that have followed many screenings, those behind “Food Evolution” have shown they’re willing to engage.

What will it take for the anti forces to come to the table, rather than lodge spurious cyber attacks — especially when their complaints and accusations apply so aptly to themselves?

“Food Evolution” is powerful anti-dote


After years of watching those horridly inaccurate and inflammatory anti-GMO films, and despairing that any other side —much less a credible one — would ever make it to the big screen, along comes “Food Evolution.”

Ah! A breath of fresh air! And a powerful “anti-dote.”

Check out my review on the Cornell Alliance for Science blog. Then go it see it when it comes to a theatre near you. Here’s the trailer.

How now brown cow?

Though much has been said about the ignorance of Americans, it is a little hard to accept that 48 percent don’t know how chocolate milk is made — though the ingredients are right there on the label — and 7 percent actually believe it comes from brown cows.

Glass of chocolate milk with red straw on a wooden tableBrown_Cow

That revelation — in a survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy— prompted the Washington Post and Consumerist to dig up some other distressing info gaps. According to various studies, 20 percent believe hamburger is made from the meat of pigs, and many school children do not know that onions and lettuce are plants, or that cheese is made from milk.

The answer, of course, is more education, especially for children. But just who is providing that education, and what are they teaching? In Hawaii, as we’ve seen with school garden-promoting groups like Malama Kauai, the Kohala Center and the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, it’s all about organics.

Food Corps, which is quoted in the Washington Post article, also lists a preponderance of organic and “natural” foods partners, such as UNFI (United Natural Foods Inc.), Bob’s Red Mill, Newman’s Own, Honest Tea and Annie’s, along with Whole Kids (which is supported heavily by Whole Foods), C&S Wholesale Grocers, Rock the Lunch Box and others promoting and selling organic foods. It’s co-founder, Cecily Upton, was previously youth programs manager for Slow Food USA, which also has a school garden program.

Yes, there are other groups, like National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization and the American Farm Bureau Foundation, that are providing schools with curriculum about nutrition, farm technology and agricultural economics.


But what is the dominant message that is being conveyed in this new battle for the hearts and minds of a new generation of eaters? In Hawaii, and I daresay elsewhere, it’s that organic is great and anything else isn’t.

The Post quotes Upton as saying:

Knowledge is power. Without it, we can’t make informed decisions.

Indeed. But are school kids being given a very narrow knowledge base, one that favors organic methods? Are they being left with the false impression that growing a school garden is on par with producing food for the 98 percent of the population that does not engage in farming? Or that the same principles and practices that apply to 500 square feet can be successfully employed on 5,000 acres? Are they being brainwashed to believe that big farms and biotechnology are bad “industrial” practices that should be feared and shunned?

Yes, kids need to learn more about where food comes from. It’s essential to teach them about the importance of fresh fruits and veggies in a healthy diet. School gardens are a wonderful way to get kids outside, and engaged. And no, you can’t have little kids applying pesticides, running machinery or doing some of the things that are part and parcel of a commercial agricultural operation.

But if our primary way of teaching kids about food and agriculture is a school garden — especially an organic garden — then we’re training yet another generation of poorly educated adults. Except many of them will believe they actually do know something about farming because they once helped in a school garden.

And as we’re increasingly seeing, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, especially when it’s gleaned in the echo chamber of social media. That’s why we have so many people who are either poorly educated about agriculture and/or prone to romantic, idealized ideas about food production weighing in heavily on policies that have tremendous implications for farmers, food processors, hunger and nutrition.

It’s time to get real with kids. So while they’re out there digging in the school garden, share a few facts about how the modern food system is providing more people with more safe food than ever before. Help them understand concepts like economy of scale, the value of technology in agriculture, the tremendous challenge of meeting food safety standards. Clue them in on the complexities and costs of food storage, production and transport, the damage inflicted by weather, pests and diseases. Throw in a few tidbits about price supports, commodity trading, international competition, supply and demand.

Most importantly, teach them some appreciation for the people who devote their lives to agriculture, and deserve to profit from their labors, just like everyone else.

Then maybe we’ll have consumers who truly understand that milk begins as grass and/or feed consumed by cows in a commercial dairy and goes through a process of homogenization, processing, bottling, shipment and storage that allows it to eventually show up in a supermarket in a dazzling array of forms: chocolate, strawberry, whole, skim, 2%, 1%, organic, pasture-raised, omega-rich.

Perhaps then they’ll be grateful that they have so much abundance, and so many choices, at such a relatively low cost.

Credit where credit is due

Science educator Kevin Folta recently published a blog post about the anti-GMO trolls that dog him in every online forum.

Other distinguished academics have been harassed and publicly disparaged because their research includes the tools of biotechology (genetic engineering). Some scientists fly under the radar, keeping mum about their research in hopes of avoiding the antis’ furor.

My own sister was stunned to hear about the threats and intimidation I’ve experienced as a writer criticizing and scrutinizing the anti-GMO movement, the friendships that have been strained by my stance, the vitriol that has been spewed against me.

“All that over GMOs?” she asked in bewilderment.

Yes, it is rather astonishing for people who are not in the trenches to discover the intensity that surrounds a plant breeding method — especially one that has been in use for nearly three decades, with a solid safety record.

The general public remains largely unaware of the ugliness, the cult-like operations, the slick propaganda, the near-religious fervor of the anti-GMO movement.

Typically outrageous anti-GMO propaganda.

Why? Primarily because mainstream media outlets continue to treat anti-GMO activists like credible advocates for environmental and public health, rather than the well-funded bullies they are.

Their actions are rarely called to account; their funding sources are never scrutinized. Indeed, they’re typically not assigned any culpability at all for the contentious and largely manufactured “debate” around GMOs.

A case in point is the recent Washington Post article: “Forget GMOs. The next big battle is over genetically ‘edited’ foods.” Reporter Caitlin Dewey lays all the blame for the “unqualified public relations disaster,” the “public backlash,” the “consumer skepticism,” the global “public outcry [that] has prevented seeds from winning government approval” on industry. Or more specifically:

Since the late ’90s, when Monsanto botched the introduction of genetically modified crops in Europe, consumers have treated the term “GMO” as if it were a dirty word.

Dewey makes absolutely no mention of how Jeremy Rifkin, Greenpeace, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network and other individuals and groups have carefully, deliberately and relentlessly waged a fear-mongering campaign intended to sow public distrust of the technology.

An anti-GMO billboard produced by Center for Food Safety.

This campaign has included the production of slick propaganda in the form of videos, supposedly independent journalism produced by paid sympathizers, advertisements and a steady stream of social media memes and messages.

It has employed despicable bullying and intimidation tactics designed to silence academics, stifle research and scare prospective biotech students, college presidents and politicians.

It has used lawsuits and the threat of litigation, clandestine and undisclosed lobbying activities, and lies about health and environmental impacts to push anti-GMO legislation.

It even coined the now ubiquitous term “GMOs” as a disparaging phrase.

Source: Genetic Literacy Project

The public backlash against GMOs didn’t occur organically and spontaneously. It was fomented and fed by activists who were motivated by political ideology and/or financial gain, with wealthy philanthropists, anonymous donors and some elements of the organic food industry footing the bill.

I’ve written extensively about this, as has author Mark Lynas, a former anti who switched sides, as I did. The fear-based anti-GMO narrative has been picked up around the world not because it has any basis in reality, but because it’s been systematically pounded into the heads of people who don’t understand science.

As Mark recently noted in the new documentary Food Evolution: “It’s easier to scare people than reassure them.”

To which I would add, especially when groups and activists can make so much money and wield so much influence through fear-mongering.

I’ve documented the money flow that fueled the growth of the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii and the political power gained — at least temporarily — by the politicians who embraced its fear-based, fact-challenged mantra.

Groups like Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice and Pesticide Action Network use conflict as a business model, stirring up fears around GMOs and pesticides to attract followers and solicit donations. The organic industry also has benefitted financially from all the lies spread about crop biotech. Not to mention the Non-GMO Project, which makes money certifying that products like salt, which have never been genetically engineered, are indeed GMO-free.

As the Risk-Monger blogger noted in a Facebook post:

The global market for certified organic food is 110 billion USD; the GMO seed market is worth 40 billion USD (source: vFluence). It is indeed a David v Goliath situation, but who is the David and who is the Goliath?

Despite Caitlin Dewey’s assertion that industry’s rollout was an epic fail, agribusiness companies actually did a very good job of communicating the new technology to their customers — farmers. And farmers, especially in the US, have responded in a big way, overwhelmingly adopting genetically engineered crops that offer pest protection and/or herbicide tolerance traits.

Industry didn’t realize consumers would care — or that activists would launch a global fear-mongering campaign to derail the technology by making consumers worry about made up stuff — until it was too late.

Reporters are slowly beginning to acknowledge that public fears around GMOs are not rooted in scientific fact. But they still haven’t gotten around to telling their readers who planted and fertilized those fears.

By failing to out the activists and disclose their outsized influence on the GMO debate, they allow the fear-mongerers, demagogues and opportunists to continue their work without scrutiny or accountability.

And that’s a real shame, both in terms of honest reporting and the lost potential of agricultural biotech.

Food as a political weapon

While driving on Kauai’s Kuhio Highway in the pre-dawn hours, I came upon a large sow and four piglets, all dead alongside the road just north of Anahola, apparent victims of a vehicular collision.

I’d never encountered quite that scale of porcine carnage, but it underscored the message I’ve been getting from Kauai farmers the past few days: wild pigs are causing ever more damage to their crops.

Just the day before I’d sat with a farmer at twilight and watched several sows and as many as 20 piglets meander thorough a valley where he’s growing crops. Earlier, we’d spotted fresh scat beneath fruit trees. He wanted to trap the sows, but didn’t want their orphaned piglets running loose on his farm, frightened and slowly dying of starvation. So he’d been waiting. But pigs are fecund, and he was constantly discovering a new batch of young piglets before he could trap the sows.

He’d fenced as much as he could, as had a flower farmer down the road, who said he’d spent thousands of dollars on sturdy hog wire to keep the pigs from uprooting his tropical flowers and devouring the corms, setting production back a year or more. But they were continually busting new holes in the wire.

Wild pigs rooting in a meadow. Photo by USDA/APHIS

Kauai farmers aren’t the only ones suffering. Wild pigs are now a worldwide problem, damaging crops in Italy, Sweden, the UK, the US and elsewhere. And as AgWeb reports, they also destroy native flora and fauna and carry diseases that can spread to domestic swine. Researchers in Scotland are trying to genetically engineer resistance to one of the worst swine diseases, but given the fury of the anti-GMO movement, it’s unclear whether GE pigs could ever make it to market.

Meanwhile, Kauai farmers also tell of crop damage caused by birds, ranging from endangered nene, coots, gallinue and stilts to introduced rose-ringed parakeets. Another told of a new plant disease that was slowly destroying his tropical fruit trees.

On Maui, Upcountry farmers told of damage from deer, and baffling changes in the weather that are making it increasingly difficult to grow the crops they’ve been cultivating for years. They were uncertain whether the changes were permanent or temporary, making it hard to decide whether to switch to other crops.

And everywhere, there is evidence of the gentrification that is taking farm land out of production and driving up the cost of ag land to the place where it’s no longer feasible to use it for its zoned purpose.

Indeed, the most expensive property in Hawaii is a $70 million house on North Shore Kauai ag land that skyrocketed in value when the Kauai County Council decided transient vacation rentals were an acceptable use on farm land. In this case, the place rents for $10,000 per night.

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 1.13.17 PMNo farmer can compete with that, even when Hoku market is selling organic local carrots for $4.50 per pound.

The mainland is seeing its own problems as farmers retire or die and land is sold for gentleman estates, exclusive hunting retreats and other recreational uses.

Drought, excessive rain, insect pressure, predation, plant disease, labor shortages and a dizzying array of new food safety regulations and other laws are making farming increasingly difficult. Farmers tell me they stick it out because they have a passion for agriculture; they love the lifestyle and in some cases, want to continue a family legacy.

Meanwhile, they’re increasingly frustrated and dispirited by having to deal with the demands and unrealistic expectations of a public that is growing ever more distant from the realities of agriculture. Not to mention groups like Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network that are trying to use food prodution as a weapon for forcing political and social change.

Which is why we have food writer Mark Bittman — identified as a Center for Food Safety “friend” — making asanine proclamations like these:

Recognize racism, poverty, and inequality as underlying causes of all our food problems.

Really? And production issues — not to mention the ignorance and expectations of people like Bittman and his pals at CFS — don’t even factor into the equation?

Bittman is one of the food activists who believe that everything will be rosy if only we convert to organic, with no thought as to how that will affect production or prices. And they’re mum about how social justice will be achieved by requiring ever more people to engage in manual farm labor — work now performed predominantly by poor immigrants.

He writes of a campaign trying to pressure the “New York City Council to make free and healthy school meals available to all public school students in the city, regardless of income,” without mentioning how anti-GMO activists pressured NY schools to stop using any genetically engineered ingredients, even though a ban was estimated to increase lunch costs by 7 percent.

If Bittman,, truly believe that “farming should happen in harmony with the environment,” then why are they fighting genetic engineering, which offers tools for growing food in a more environmentally sustainable manner, with fewer pesticides, less nitrogen fertilizer, less tilling, less water and higher yields?

And if they’re so concerned about social justice, why are they trying so hard to prevent farmers in developing nations from accessing agricultural technology and innovation that can help them produce sufficient yield to escape poverty?

Bittman writes:

The food justice movement—despite its disparate constituencies—stands for the principle that people should have the right to shape their food environment.

Yeah, they should have that right — if they are willing to get out there and do the hard, dirty, perilous and uncertain business of producing food.

Otherwise, you get clean-handed elites like Bittman — and Center for Food Safety — trying to dictate the terms of a system they do not understand or participate in, other than as privileged consumers who can afford local organic carrots at $4.50 per pound while pretending they give a rat’s ass about the fate of the hungry and poor.

Just wondering

Sometimes I get to wondering about things.

chickenLike chicken breasts. And what, exactly, is the difference between these two? Besides the obvious: one is boneless, skinless and $1.99 per pound; the other has skin and ribs, and is $4.49 per pound.

Are the more expensive chickens healthier? I mean, seeing as how they were raised solely on veggies — that the chicken grower can trace back to the farm, no less — and given no antibiotics, growth stimulants, animal by-products or hormones?

Of course, hormones and growth stimulants aren’t allowed in poultry, anyway. And having raised chickens, I know they’re ruthless little carnivores, happily devouring insects, worms and whatever finds its way into their enclosure — even their own eggs. So I’m not convinced a vegetarian diet is superior, and it’s certainly not “natural.”

Were the more expensive chickens happier before they died? I mean, since they were raised in a Whole Foods Step 2 “enriched environment” that requires “good quality bedding (which promotes good health and welfare and allows birds to dustbathe), a maximum transport time of eight hours and enrichments that encourage behavior that’s natural to them, such as pecking, perching and foraging.” (Just as long as they don’t eat non-vegetarian bugs…)

Like many other people who love animals, even though we eat them, I don’t like to think the meat I’m consuming suffered while during its incaration as a chicken, lamb, cow or pig. So the marketers appeal to us with kind, humane claims like “free range, cage-free, enriched environment.”

But then I read an article about the down side of cage-free chickens. As Popular Science reported:

In mature flocks, up to 86 percent of chickens may be silently suffering from broken breast (“keel”) bones from crashing into other birds, or misjudging the distance between two perches.

The potential solutions will likely range from food additives that strengthen the chickens’ bones, to redesigning their housing systems. Breeding and genetic engineering may even be proposed as solutions.

Hmmm. Would the anti-GMO activists accept a genetically-engineered chicken if it meant a better quality of life?

How did food get so complicated? Who do I, the consumer, trust? Should I just be grateful that I have so many choices, and the money to exercise them?

My wonderings about food animals got me wondering about companion animals, and the people who shouldn’t have them. My Yahoo news feed sends me a steady stream of stories that make it clear Americans now have precious little tolerance for animal abuse. Which is a good thing, because guys who abuse animals are also likely to abuse their wife and kids.  Increasing numbers of people — typically men — are being sent to jail for harming their pets. How, I wondered, do the other prisononers treat a guy who punched a puppy in the face because it chewed his shoe, strangled a dog because it barfed in his car? Do they mete out not so divine retribution? Or welcome the creep into their fold?

Then I got to wondering about energy, and our quest for a source that’s clean and green, so we can consume it with gleeful oblivion, and no guilt. This typically leads to cries of “harness the sun and the wind!”

Mojave desert solar project

Except the huge solar projects in the Mojave desert are frying bats and birds — an estimated 6,000 birds per year. In fact, it happens so frequently along this migratory flyway that there’s a horrible name for it: “streamers.” As the Los Angeles Times reported:

A macabre fireworks show unfolds each day along I-15 west of Las Vegas, as birds fly into concentrated beams of sunlight and are instantly incinerated, leaving wisps of white smoke against the blue desert sky.

In addition, coyotes eat dozens of road runners trapped  along the outside of a perimeter fence that was designed to prevent federally threatened desert tortoises from wandering onto the property.

Then there’s wind power’s dirty little secret, as reported by Bloomberg:

Wind turbines were planted along a strip of Mexico’s southern coast to make the country’s power industry cleaner. Now they’re spilling oil. Much of the power produced by the wind turbines is sent to Mexico’s biggest companies, like Cemex SAB and Wal-Mart’s Mexico branch, known as Walmex, which get tax incentives in return for using renewable energy.

So is it worth burning up birds in mid-flight to keep the phony glitz and glitter of Vegas ablaze; to have oil spilled on Mexican ag land to provide tax breaks to Wal-Mart and a mutinational cement corporation?

How did energy get so complicated? Is it all a series of trade-offs? When will we face the fact that there is no free energy lunch, even with the so-called “renewables?”

Or should I just be grateful that I have so many energy choices, and the money to exercise them?

And then I wondered, does anyone else wonder about these things, too?