Tenderly: Patricia Highsmith’s Uncommon Empathy for Animals

Patricia Highsmith, the novelist best known for creating the diabolically charming character Tom Ripley, was a notorious misanthrope. An editor once characterized her as “a horrible human being” and a fellow writer described her as “an excellent hater.” But, at the very least, she loved animals. When she came across spiders inside the house, she would carefully carry them to the garden outside. She had a particular affection for snails, and kept some 300 of them as pets when she lived in a cottage in Suffolk, as well as for cats, with whom she was often photographed. Her feline relationships, a biographer wrote, were “often counted as her longest and most successful emotional connection.”

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New Food Economy: What happens if we eliminate crop insurance altogether?

Imagine for a moment, a possible future, some years ahead: Across the plains, acres that were once plowed up and planted to corn or wheat go back to native grass. Marginal, flood-prone land is left to return to wetlands, improving water quality downstream. Farmers diversify their operations in order to effectively manage risk in a changing climate. Monocropping is a thing of the past.

Or this scenario, not so long from now: Growers adopt practices like no-till and cover cropping, which helps lower their inputs—the money spent on fertilizer, pesticides, seed, and anything else they need to get a crop in the ground. They turn a profit with ease. They may even switch to cheaper, non-GMO seeds and see profit margins swell.

In this future tableau, cattle are turned out to pasture on land that was once intensively farmed. Land managers plant low-cost grasses and other silage, and graze livestock on a portion of the land while the remaining acres are allowed to rest and regenerate. There’s always something growing in the soil, anchoring nitrogen, helping retain rainwater, and sequestering carbon.

This is what American agriculture could one day look like, according to farmers, environmentalists, and economists. But first we’d have to get rid of federally subsidized crop insurance.

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New Food Economy: Are plant-based milks causing harmful nutritional deficiencies in children?

While researching the debate over labeling plant-based milks “milk” I came across an interesting tidbit: a letter to the FDA from the American Academy of Pediatrics claiming that children were suffering from “harmful nutritional deficiencies” because their parents were giving them plant-based milk thinking it was nutritionally equivalent to cow. So I looked into those claims for The New Food Economy.

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