Shortly before our 34th wedding anniversary, I was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer that had spread to my liver and lungs. I was told that a cure was not an "option" and that further surgery would be a "waste of time." We moved from rural Maine to Tucson, Ariz., for a more aggressive treatment approach. After multiple surgeries and radiation, I am currently free of symptoms or clinical evidence of malignancy. My original prognosis was six months to two years. Wednesday, my wife and I will celebrate our 48th anniversary in our new home in Cary, 14 years later.
I have survived because, as a retired federal employee, I have affordable and transportable health insurance. I have the same single-payer government health insurance carried by the members of Congress who are dedicated to repealing the newly passed health care they deride as "Obamacare." Of course, none of them will lose any of their insurance benefits, which are far more generous than anything provided in the new law. Even Sharron Angle, the Darling of the New Right, has the same insurance through her husband, a retired fed.
Rather than denying their constituents the same basic insurance they enjoy and will continue to enjoy, they want to repeal the more modest insurance gains now available to all. Nobody should have to die because they lack access to decent care. All that Congress has to do is offer the voter/ taxpayer the same affordable, portable coverage that they enjoy. Why is that not fair?
Your recent EarthTalk column on the environmental benefits of hydroponics (Nov. 3) was riddled with falsehoods, non sequiturs, outright contradiction and obfuscation. First, you state that "plants are grown in nutrient-fortified water-based solutions," but then you say that hydroponics doesn't need "chemical fertilizers." Which is it? You go on to say that "not every speck of soil is ideal as a growth medium, so we have come up with ways to kill off unwanted pests (pesticides) and pump up the ground's productivity (fertilizers)." What? Since when did the presence of soil lead unavoidably to pesticide and fertilizer use? Finally, I laughed out loud when I read "nutrient solutions include inorganic salt fertilizers" followed immediately by "growing hydroponically does not require chemical fertilizers [so it] is inherently 'organic'." Surely no competent editor read this column before it went to press, but I wonder if the writer even read it!
The column also omits obvious questions about the sources and environmental impacts of the inputs to a hydroponic system. Vermiculite mining, production of "nutrient solutions" (aka fertilizer), guano mining, wastewater disposal, and electricity needs for water and air pumping (and often, HID lighting) go without even the barest mention.
With any form of agriculture, the problems with agriculture (whether "conventional," "organic" or hydroponic) are a matter of scale, inputs and proper management of waste streams. Agriculture has environmental benefit—or at least environmental balance—when it works with (rather than against) the natural systems and cycles of hydrology, energy, soil and nutrient cycling and decay. Hydroponic may have its place, but it's not magically better simply because it removes soil from a system that has been fine-tuned by 300 million years of evolution. You do a disservice to readers seeking reliable guidance to complex environmental problems with such poor reasoning, writing and editing.