Reinert Interview: Farming and Monarchs

Today is the sixth post in this Monday series of subjects covered during my summer 2014 interview of Bill Reinert, recently retired energy engineer for Toyota who played a key role in the development of the Prius and then assumed the role of future transportation planning of alternative-fueled vehicles at Toyota. See his full bio here.
–Kay M.

K.M.: What is your impression of our farming system and what does it have to do with monarchs?

Reinert: The monarchs are in great decline. There is pressure from habitat loss due to illegal logging in Mexico where they go for the winter, but the bigger issue is the genetically modified crops and the loss of milkweed in the United States as marginal lands are put into production. Milkweed has become almost nonexistent, which is the plant needed by the monarchs to reproduce.

Although our food capacity is growing greatly, when we start looking at the effects, the Dead Zone, the pollution of the Mississippi River, the monarch, and the songbirds, then, it seems to me that we’ve made a deal with the Devil. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything in the overall scheme of things if the monarch goes away, but I happened to have a bunch of them in my yard yesterday and I thought to myself, “Oh, God, how beautiful.” So, it’s sad because they’re just another pointer.

There are really no more than 15 or 20 senators that are key to this farm policy, maybe less, and it’s a lot of money to advantage a small number of people at such a large cost. And it is ridiculous to think that the money is going to Mom and Pop farmer. It goes to big agribusiness. If you just moved the Iowa caucus elsewhere, things might change.

To see last week’s very popular interview subject of “Overfishing” click here.

Coming next week will be Reinert’s comments on the subject of climate change.

Photo credit: FlickrCC by Martin LaBar. Monarch butterfly caterpillar.

Ten Basic Rules for Following the Mediterranean Diet

Still Life with Mackerels, Lemons and Tomatoes – Vincent van Gogh, 1886

Obesity is one of the world’s top health problems and the problem is growing worse each year. We, believe it or not, are in control of what we eat. No one is force-feeding us. Because the Mediterranean diet is both healthy and flavorful, it is possible to lose weight and control our weight without being deprived of delicious comfort foods.

As we northern hemisphere populations are entering our short, dark, winter days of the year during which people often put on some extra pounds, let’s take a look at the simple guidelines for following the Mediterranean Diet. Following this diet is not expensive, and the cooking required by it is simple. It allows for a great amount of flexibility and customization, too.

This diet also fits the smart adage “everything in moderation”. And don’t forget that the bottom line for the success of any diet is the portion size.

Keep yourself moving, too, and Bon appétit!


1. Meals should be primarily vegetarian and include whole grains, legumes such as cooked dry beans, peas, or lentils, and vegetables. Use lots of herbs and seasonings for flavor.

2. Eat fruits and vegetables every day, several times a day. Good choices are tomatoes, grapes, broccoli, olives, spinach, eggplant, beans, peppers, and berries. Try to eat fresh, local, in season, or from your own garden. Include fermented olives and capers.

3. For dietary fat, use olive oil. Use it on breads, vegetables, and for cooking. Nuts are also good, especially walnuts.

4. Eat whole grains daily such as whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, oats, brown rice, and couscous.

5. Fish should be eaten a few times a week, especially oily fish like mackerel, tuna, salmon, trout, herring and sardines.

6. Dairy should only be eaten about once a week. Eat cheese and yogurt occasionally. Eggs should be limited to four per week.

7. Red Meat should be eaten only once every week or two, in a small portion size about equal to a deck of playing cards. Small portions of poultry, lamb or pork can also be eaten once a week, or so.

8. Dessert should be eaten only once a week. Ideas for fruit as dessert include broiled grapefruit with brown sugar, pears with honey, or baked apples with brown sugar and raisins.

9. A glass of red wine with one meal each day is fine. Drink plenty of water.

10. One of the healthy lifestyle secrets of the Mediterranean is to do moderate movement throughout the day such as noble work like sweeping the floor, gardening, or hanging out laundry, and walking or biking instead of driving to do errands and visit friends and family. Frequent social interactions and connections are also important, including dining with friends, family, and neighbors.


This diet is a heart healthy diet and its environmental impacts are gentler on the land.