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Getting at the Roots of Climate Change: Food

Around one third of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the way we produce, process, distribute and consume the food we eat according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Meanwhile, farmers the world over will be the most affected by climate change, as higher carbon in the atmosphere and higher temperatures increase erratic weather patterns, pests, and disease occurrence, while decreasing water availability, disrupting relationships with pollinators and lowering yield and the efficacy of herbicides like glyphosate (aka Roundup) — all detailed in a revealing new report from the USDA called The Effects of Climate Change on U.S. Ecosystems [pdf].

We should all give the USDA credit for keeping the ties between agriculture, food and climate change at the forefront of the discussion. Even in Copenhagen, where agriculture is getting less attention than it arguably should be considering its impact and potential for mitigating climate change, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke about the need for research, and seeing agriculture as an opportunity for climate change mitigation. He even said to the delegates in Copenhagen, “We need to develop cropping and livestock systems that are resilient to climate change.” While I agree on the surface with these statements, taking a deeper look reveals potentially problematic ideas for just how to do this. Read more

(VIDEO) A Perspective on Agricultural Sustainability: A Farm for the Future

Oil is history, and food as it is currently produced and eaten is going the way of the dinosaurs, too. So what are our real options for producing food to feed our population? A great one hour film called A Farm for the Future from the BBC seeks to answer this very question by investigating some of the methods for making real sustainable changes to a livestock farm in Devon, England belonging to the narrator of the film, Rebecca Hosking. There are no easy answers, but she discovers one root of unsustainability on farms is the energy we put into working against nature. While speaking to permaculture expert Patrick Whitefield, she asks if what he is proposing is “to design the energy out, or design the labor out” of the system. To which he replies yes, on both counts. Read more

Big Ag Goes Green

Sadly, the green I’m referring to is the color of money. As Tom Philpott reports, Big Ag is trying to get an agricultural technique known as “chemical no-till” established as a legitimate carbon offset in the Waxman/Markey legislation. There’s only one problem, all the research out there says that chemical no-till doesn’t actually sequester carbon: Read more