Some links: 30

Jonathon D. Colman in his column Everyday Environmentalist posts a richly-linked article on shopping for sustainable coffee (unfortunately, a couple of the links are broken already). He makes the connection—noteworthy if perhaps obvious on a moment’s reflection—between climate change and the deforestation associated with sun coffee.

One incremental change

Bobolinks and other migratory songbirds are getting clobbered by pesticide use outside of the United States, beyond the protections offered (such as they are) by federal regulations, as Bridget Stutchbury notes in an op-ed piece for the Times.

Since the 1980s, pesticide use has increased fivefold in Latin America as countries have expanded their production of nontraditional crops to fuel the demand for fresh produce during winter in North America and Europe. Rice farmers in the region use monocrotophos, methamidophos and carbofuran, all agricultural chemicals that are rated Class I toxins by the World Health Organization, are highly toxic to birds, and are either restricted or banned in the United States.

Stutchbury cites research by Rosalind Renfrew of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.

What’s a consumer to do? Look for shade-grown, organic coffee, and organic bananas. Conventionally-grown bananas are typically produced “with one of the highest pesticide levels of any tropical crop.”

I found organic bananas at my local Giant Food next to to the conventionally-cropped fruit, shrouded in plastic bags to discourage price tag switching.

More than a cappucino

Starbucks is making strides in areas beyond finding creative, entertaining ways to separate you from your cash in its stores. Continuing to deepen its involvement with the agricultural sources of its drinks, the company is in the middle of a three-year partnership with the Earthwatch Institute supporting research into aspects of sustainable coffee production. The current project sends volunteers to member fincas of Coope Tarrazú, a co-op in Costa Rica. Using GIS technology, field workers are establishing baseline maps of resources (soil condition, water quality, etc.).

The volunteer effort supports the research of Karen Holl of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Holl’s research interests in Costa Rica include strategies for re-establishing forests in land that has been cleared for pasture.

…we have established 16, 1-ha sites in southern Costa Rica. We are testing questions about “applied nucleation” by planting islands of native tree seedlings to facilitate recovery and studying the effect of the amount of surrounding forest cover on ecosystem recovery. We are collecting extensive data on seed dispersal, seed fate, vegetation establishment, and seedling dynamics.

Also involved in the Costa Rica projects is Catherine Lindell of Michigan State University, who has published studies of habitat use by various bird species in Costa Rica.

Dispersing the blue smoke

Timothy L. Keiningham et al. publish peer-reviewed research that questions whether the Net Promoter Score metric (promulgated by Fred Reichheld, Bain & Company, and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.) does a better job than other metrics of explaining business performance. Keiningham’s paper, “A Longitudinal Examination of Net Promoter and Firm Revenue Growth” says, from the abstract:

Using industries Reichheld cites as exemplars of Net Promoter, the research fails to replicate his assertions regarding the “clear superiority” of Net Promoter compared with other measures in those industries.

Stefan Kolle’s post includes an extended e-mail exchange with Keiningham, in which he is even more pointed in its criticism of Reichheld.

Excellence vs. competence

Via scribble, scribble, scribble…, Steve Gimbel deflates the proponents of a certain Objectivist:

If you take the writings of Nietzsche and remove everything insightful, interesting, and funny, what’s left are the writings of Ayn Rand. These works are a narcotic to the upper-middle class white male of above average means and intelligence because it simultaneously meets two needs…

Crooked CA watch: 2

Wang is wrong: a blistering report by Computer Associates’ board of directors implicates former head Charles Wang as the leader of a pervasive culture of fraud.

Mr. Wang created a “culture of fear” at Computer Associates — now called CA — and deliberately put inexperienced executives in senior positions so that he would have more control, according to the report. He discouraged executives from meeting with each other and arbitrarily fired managers or employees who disagreed with him.

“Fraud pervaded the entire CA organization at every level, and was embedded in CA’s culture, as instilled by Mr. Wang, almost from the company’s inception,” the report said.

How convenient for Wang, who stepped down as chairman in 2002, that the statute of limitations is only five years.


A recent rule change by USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) is likely to reduce the number of small farms overseas that seek organic certification (and hence, at least attempt to follow organic practices), as Samuel Fromartz reports. An inspection system that relies on self-policing, applicable only to imports, has been the norm.

The new USDA certification ruling arose out of a case involving an unnamed Mexican grower group that failed to detect a farmer using a prohibited insecticide and prevent empty fertilizer bags being used for crop storage—both of which violate USDA organic regulations. NOP blamed the problem on inadequate internal controls of the self-policing system and decided to ban the practice everywhere.

Unfortunately, the only beneficiaries of the new enforcement are likely to be large plantations, who can afford the more costly inspection and certification process. If smallholdings are taken out of organic production, prices to consumers here in the States will rise.

Crooked CA watch

The former chief of what was known as Computer Associates International, Inc., Sanjay Kumar, has been sentenced to twelve years in prison for his role in a massive accounting fraud. Charges were made that

Kumar and other executives instructed salespeople to complete deals after the quarter had closed — a practice known within the company as the ”35-day month”…

At the Park: 1

We went out for a short morning to work on the nest boxes at the Park. Since we forgot to bring a drill so that we could mount new boxes, all we accomplished was tearing down box 60. This wasn’t too hard to do, even without tools, because 60 was pretty ramshackle.

Paul spotted a couple of tail-bobbing Palm Warblers (Dedroica palmarum) and there were some lingering phoebes and swallows over the wetland. Or should we say, soon-not-to-be-wetland: lots of grassy vegetation and small willows and maples are springing up along the boardwalk.

slime moldI found several silvery masses of a slime mold in a rotting tree down along Barnyard Run. The lowest such mass (in the image) was a few feet over my head, about the size of my fist.

A new coffee connection

Via, a new site dedicated to Coffee & Conservation. Recent posts include a precis of research by Armbrecht, Perfecto, and Silverman on ant communities in coffee plantations (with the interesting speculation that the caffeine in coffee-based mulch depresses ant populations), and the obligatory (alas) story of kopi luwak.