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What are we eating?. Looks like this:. Mass spectrometer analysis of a fast food meal: Soda 100% corn Milk shake 78% corn Salad dressing 65% corn Chicken nuggets 56% corn Cheeseburger 53% corn French fries 23% corn

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what are we eating
What are we eating?

Looks like this:

Mass spectrometer analysis of a fast food meal:

Soda 100% corn

Milk shake 78% corn

Salad dressing 65% corn

Chicken nuggets 56% corn

Cheeseburger 53% corn

French fries 23% corn

Pollan, M. (2006). The Omnivore’s Dilemma. New York: Penguin. 117.

But a lot of it’s this:

un report 2006
UN Report: 2006

Livestock are MAJOR contributors to global warming and other environmental problems:

According to a new report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.

Says Henning Steinfeld, Chief of FAO’s Livestock Information and Policy Branch and senior author of the report: “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.”

With increased prosperity, people are consuming more meat and dairy products every year. Global meat production is projected to more than double […] while milk output is set to climb […]

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2006, 29 November ). Livestock a major threat to environment. Retrieved 1 February 2009 from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations website: http://www.fao.org/.

the report explains livestock production makes really bad gasses and fewer trees
The report explains: Livestock production makes really bad gasses. And fewer trees.

When emissions from land use and land use change are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases. It generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.

And it accounts for respectively 37 percent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants, and 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.

Livestock now use 30 percent of the earth’s entire land surface, mostly permanent pasture but also including 33 percent of the global arable land used to producing feed for livestock, the report notes. As forests are cleared to create new pastures, it is a major driver of deforestation, especially in Latin America where, for example, some 70 percent of former forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2006, 29 November ). Livestock a major threat to environment. Retrieved 1 February 2009 from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations website: http://www.fao.org/.

the un report makes some suggestions
The UN report makes some suggestions:

Remedies

The report, which was produced with the support of the multi-institutional Livestock, Environment and Development (LEAD) Initiative, proposes explicitly to consider these environmental costs and suggests a number of ways of remedying the situation, including:

Land degradation – controlling access and removing obstacles to mobility on common pastures. Use of soil conservation methods and silvopastoralism, together with controlled livestock exclusion from sensitive areas; payment schemes for environmental services in livestock-based land use to help reduce and reverse land degradation.

Atmosphere and climate – increasing the efficiency of livestock production and feed crop agriculture. Improving animals’ diets to reduce enteric fermentation and consequent methane emissions, and setting up biogas plant initiatives to recycle manure.

Water – improving the efficiency of irrigation systems. Introducing full-cost pricing for water together with taxes to discourage large-scale livestock concentration close to cities.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2006, 29 November ). Livestock a major threat to environment. Retrieved 1 February 2009 from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations website: http://www.fao.org/.

the traditional farm would do a pretty good job
The traditional farm would do a pretty good job.

=

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Free fertilizer

(better if not spread by a petroleum-dependent machine)

Healthy cow, fed on grass

Healthy crops

we are swimming in corn and some other commodity crops like soy
We are swimming in corn. And some other commodity crops (like soy).

1972--Russian wheat harvest fails, and Russia buys a lot of US wheat

Butz links subsidy payments to

YIELD rather than to ACREAGE

“get big or get out”“plant fencerow to fencerow”

Earl Butz

Nixon’s Agriculture Secretary

in place of the integrated farm we have created two new problems a fertility problem on the land
In place of the integrated farm, we have created two new problems. A fertility problem on the land:

1942 Tennessee Valley Authority demo

A whole lot of cheap commodity grains

(corn is biggest)

& a lot of cheap

processed food—lots of nutrition wasted; lots of energy used in production and shipment; lots of oil in packaging

Chemical fertilizers, pesticides, & herbicides

Often on not-very-well-husbanded or particularly fertile land, reliant (now) on chemicals

+

=

slide8

A new pollution problem at the places where we now raise animals.

+

=

lots of cheap animal food

cheap meat

+

pollution

crowded animals

And the meat really is cheap!

slide9

US farm policy encourages this state of affairs. On the animal side: it favors CAFO’s by making livestock feed cheap—cheaper than it really is (taxpayers subsidize it).

Our new agricultural sites: the CAFO, or confined animal feeding operation, a.k.a. feed lot.

slide10

Good for industrial meat production: researchers say industrial livestock firms saved $35 billion a year from cheaper feed—and this just in increased savings after the 1996 Farm Bill—changes in the ‘70s already made feed cheap.

Starmer, E. & Wise, T.A. (2007). Feeding at the trough: Industrial livestock firms saved $35 billion from low feed prices. Global Development and Environmental Institute Policy Brief 07-03. (Tufts University). Retrieved February 1, 2009, from the GDAE website: http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/.

slide11
But this same cheap food makes livestock, well, gassier: they make more methane. Their systems aren’t made for grain.
slide12
The change in federal farm policy also encourages agricultural practices that contribute to global warming:
  • reliance on synthetic fertilizers & other chemicals (shipped, imported, often based on petroleum, often leading to soil degradation), as well as on machinery
  • curbing of crop diversity (subsidies in fact don’t allow midwestern farmers to plant vegetable crops), also leading to fields left fallow much of the year
  • elimination of trees and hedgerows (maximize output)
some systemic remedies
SOME SYSTEMIC REMEDIES

Stop feeding grain to animals designed for grass (or at least make feeding them corn as expensive as it really is)

Get animals off/out of CAFO’s (or at least make keeping them in CAFO’s as expensive as it really is)

Encourage integrated farms—polycultures:

animals diverse commodity crops vegetables

(or at least remove barriers to integrated farms)

Replace fencerow-to-fencerow planting with integration of trees and other hedgerows (or at least encourages this)

incorporate trees
Incorporate trees

Trees are effective carbon dioxide sinks.

"One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people."—U.S. Department of Agriculture

Cited by the National Arbor Day Foundation. Retrieved February 2, 2009 from its website:

http://www.arborday.org/trees/index.cfm

slide15

USDA: National Agroforestry Center. (2008). Working trees for agriculture. Retrieved 1 February 2009 from the National Agroforestry Center website: http://www.unl.edu/nac/index.htm.

hedgerows
Hedgerows

The increase in farm size and the maneuvering room required by large, modern farm machinery caused additional changes to the landscape. Early settlers planted hedges or erected fences between farms and fields. A traditional Illinois hedgerow is shown in Fig. 13. It consists of a narrow band of trees, grasses, and flowering plants. The hedgerows have provided habitat protected from plowing. Since 1950, thousands of kilometers of hedgerows have been removed as farm and field size have increased. Fence rows were also in decline during our survey.

Hedgerows of trees and shrubs were used to separate farms and fields, especially prior to the availability of wire fencing. Osage orange (Maclura pomifera(Raf.) Schneid.) was often planted in hedgerows. Hedgerows provide unplowed ground that has minimal exposure to incorporated corn insecticides, and hedgerows often provide nesting habitat and pollen sources for bees. The removal of hedgerows decreases habitat diversity.

The authors compared bee populations to records from an earlier naturalist, and found relatively stable bee diversity; they concluded that this is due to the varied terrain of this area of Illinois.

Marlin, J. C. and W. E. LaBerge. 2001. The native bee fauna of Carlinville, Illinois, revisited after 75 years: a case for persistence. Conservation Ecology 5(1): 9. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol5/iss1/art9/

slide17

USDA: National Agroforestry Center. (2008). Working trees for agriculture. Retrieved 1 February 2009 from the National Agroforestry Center website: http://www.unl.edu/nac/index.htm.

buffer strips
Buffer strips

1994

1990

Larson, A. (2007, Spring) Agroecology work fuels landscape change; current interest turns to biomass. Leopold Letter (Ames, Iowa). Retrieved January 25, 2009, from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture website.

slide19

Most importantly:

“A key consideration for rebalancing the global carbon cycle is to find ways to promote the increased grown of trees and shrubs. Trees store carbon in their wood as they grow and can contribute greatly to reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.”

USDA: National Agroforestry Center. (2008). Working trees for agriculture. Retrieved 1 February 2009 from the National Agroforestry Center website: http://www.unl.edu/nac/index.htm.

slide20

The current system isn’t good for the land, the atmosphere— or for the eaters:we get a lot of cheap calories(too many of the wrong kind:...all those highly-processed, packaged, corn- and soy-based foods—all that high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated vegetable oils—and no help getting good calories, from, say, broccoli)and a lot of antibiotics and pesticidesWHAT YOU CAN DO:

slide21

Forks Farm, Orangeville, PA

Consider becoming a farmer.

Seriously.

The world needs great minds concerned about global warming to turn their energies and attention to agriculture.

Angelic Organics, IL

The Edible Schoolyard, CA

Polyface Farm, VA

work for policy changes
Work for policy changes!

Insist on the connection between environmental concerns, farmer well being, and public health, and work toward policies that help in all three areas

Learn about the Farm Bill

Support a school lunch program that keeps kids safe, is nutritionally and environmentally sound, and supports farmers:

Argue for more stringent air and water regulations for agribusiness, including feed lots and other CAFO’s

Support better labeling and higher food safety standards for consumers

change your behavior
Change your behavior.

Get the petroleum out of your diet:

  • Cut down meat consumption (now you know why)
  • Buy local food (fewer gas-powered miles travelled, less refrigeration)
  • Buy food in season (more likely to be local; refrigerated less long; less likely to be grown in energy-dependent greenhouses)
  • Buy unprocessed food ( reason 1) it’s the end-product of an unsustainable system; reason 2) it takes lots of energy to make, package, and ship; reason 3) it’s not as good for you as real food.)
  • Cut down on the packaging you use, especially petroleum-based packaging (like water bottles)
  • Recycle the packages you absolutely must buy
  • Buy organic food, unless it’s from really far away or packaged (no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides)
  • Explain to other people why you are doing these things!