I know. This is election day and we’ve got enough to worry about. But, I can’t help myself. You need to know we have a seaweed problem. We’re losing this natural habitat to harvesters who can’t keep up with international demand. You and I may see seaweed as gunk we have to swim around in the ocean, but alginates from these floating weeds are necessary ingredients for making ice cream, medicines, cosmetics, salad dressing and agricultural mulch. (“The Rockweed Rush,” by Rowan Jacobsen, Mother Jones, Nov/Dec 2016 pgs. 8-10)
The plant has so many uses world demand is on the upswing. Before 2000, the annual harvest was about 4 million pounds. Since then, given its growing versatility, the harvest has jumped to 16 million pounds. (Ibid pg. 10) A swimmer might say, good Get rid of the stuff. It lands on the beach, attracts sand flies and stinks. But life is never simple. The weed provides an ecosystem for marine life. Eliminate the weed and there go your lobsters, clams, cod and herring, to name a few.
Old time harvesters had some sense of the ecology, but there’s a “gold rush” mentality afoot, says writer, Rowan Jacobsen. New harvesters are coming in with powerful machinery and leaving behind a damaged environment. Well, who’s surprised. As a species, we don’t even take care of our own.
When Bill Clinton signed the Welfare Reform Act in 1996, he objected to a “mean spirited amendment” that allowed states to cut off food stamp eligibility to those on welfare longer than 3 months. (“Snap Judgment,” by Delphine d’Amora, Mother Jones, Nov/Dec 2016 pg. 14) States could apply for federal waivers, however, especially if they pledged to provide job training for individuals bumping against the limit. A few states exercised the waiver option but few provided job training because it was too costly. (Ibid pg. 15.) Eventually, some states, most recently, Mississippi with the “highest rates of food insecurity and poverty and …the fifth highest unemployment rate,” dropped the waiver. Applying for it was too much trouble. (Ibid pg. 15). Ohio has been equally callous. Not long ago, It hauled recipients who were approaching the 90 day limit into their offices — 200 to 400 of them at a time — and told them to get a job. One woman described it as “worse than a cattle call.” (Ibid pg. 15.)
If the poor can’t get food stamps, they once had an option of feasting on kelp. But that option is about to disappear.