John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Your weekly look at all the stuff our elected leaders are outlawing.
Welcome back to our weekly look at what's been outlawed in cities across the world (past editions):
INSECT-RIDDEN CHEESE, IN THE U.S.
“The Americans don't know what real cheese is.” “It's my business what I put in my body, not the government's.” “For the sake of my daughter, I will fight to the death to defend this stinky cheese.” These are some of the incensed comments on the Facebook page Save the Mimolette, where gourmands are burning their bibs over America's crackdown on a particularly nasty-sounding French cheese.
The dairy product in question is mimolette, according to Grist, a hard ball of ripened cow's milk that's popular in the northern city of Lille. From afar, the stuff looks like a spongy yellow cannonball; up close it's even less appetizing due to its rind being full of holes dug by cheese mites. I'll let Teddington Cheese explain how that happens:
Maturing the cheeses involves storing them in damp cellars and turning them every week. At the same time the surface of the cheese is brushed to remove cheese mites which feast on its surface. As the cheese ages, evidence of mites can be seen in the pitted and moon like surface which appears on the cheese.
Mouth watering yet? You might have to settle on that mental image only, because the FDA has started turning away imports of mimolette. Why? The agency seems concerned that cheeses with too many mites could trigger allergic reactions, and in an import-refusal report from May seemed put off by one particular shipment's general appearance, writing that it was a “filthy, putrid or decomposed substance” that is “unfit for food.” BAM – in your face, Francophiles!
Now the food community is sniffing around for a conspiracy. “Dollars to doughnuts the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board is behind this subterfuge!” accuses one Facebooker. Lovers of stinky, bug-infested cheese should note, however, that as of a couple years ago in New York you could still get maggot-covered Sardinian casu marzu (aka, the “walking cheese”).
COAL, IN BRITISH COLUMBIA
Vancouver's Greenest City 2020 climate plan promises that its citizenry will soon breathe the "cleanest air of any major city in the world." Such a radical statement would have to be backed up by radical actions, and indeed, Vancouver's leaders made one on Tuesday by voting to ban all coal from the city.
The measure, which the city council passed 9 to 2, outlaws the storage and shipment of coal at Vancouver's Port Metro system – the second largest exporter of coal in America, according to The Province. Council members and those giving testimony cited not just the fossil fuel's deleterious effect on the climate, but also the coal industry's reputed failure to implement health-impact assessments for a plan to expand port terminals. One councilman complained that trains that transport the fuel go past some of Vancouver's schools, sniping, “So you make all the money and my daughter gets cancer. Thank you.”
Unfortunately (or quite fortunately, if you're a titan of industry), the ban won't have much of a meaningful effect. That's because Vancouver has no control over the Port Metro, and there are no coal facilities within the city, as per The Province's report. And as one of the council members who voted against the ban noted, the city might not be ready to subsist on solar and wind energy alone: "If anyone in that (council chamber) can tell me where the replacement for carbon is, I’m sure we’d be willing to do it."
BUILDING UP A PIGEON HORDE, IN HAWAII
Throw a breadcrumb to a pigeon, get slapped on the hand by the authorities. That's the situation in Hawaii, where Governor Neil Abercrombie just signed an ordinance making the feeding of feral birds a "public health nuisance" – one that the bill appears to compare to the stinking toxic fumes pouring off of meth labs.
For years, residents of Honolulu and beyond have been terrorized by huge flocks of pigeons dive-bombing their heads, stealing musubi right out of their hands and... wait, no. Bird populations seem to be at a manageable level. This bill is aimed at one or two homeowners who've fed pigeons for so long that they've built up flapping hordes of invaders, which descend on the neighborhood to devour as much as 40 pounds of food in one sitting.
One of these animal farmers told a TV station that "[m]ost people love it," especially tourists, conjuring up the weirdest reason ever to visit a tropical paradise. But state Representative Gregg Takayama didn't evince much love for the pigeons in a recent statement, writing that the law "will help provide welcome relief to Pearl City residents who have been plagued for years by neighbors whose excessive and inconsiderate bird feeding has attracted flocks of several hundred pigeons, whose droppings and feathers create odors, property damage and aggravation of health problems.”
It's a little unclear what he meant with “health problems,” as Hawaii's own Department of Health asserts that bird poo doesn't cause illness. While the bill gives the department the power to poke into private property for nuisance birds, it's basically said it is not planning on enforcing the law. Citizens bothered by huge bird mobs beating the air like a living helicopter might want to find a different tactic – perhaps, say, by increasing the population numbers of Oahu's roughly 300,000 feral cats.