What’s for dinner? (Part 1)

I fear we’re still doing it wrong.  Well, it’s kind of obvious that we’re doing it wrong, but I think we’re trying to get it right in ways that don’t seem close to what we need to do to get it right.  As a society, we collectively shrug our shoulders at the specter of things like the ecological impacts of climate change.  The slow-moving, amorphous nature of which has us treating the issue as if it were equal to a day at the spa, when in truth we’re already actively engaged as boiling frogs.

August 19 was this year’s Earth Overshoot Day, the day in which the Global Footprint Network estimates that we’d used up the annual replenishable bounty the earth provides for us.  With 134 days left in the year, the cupboard which the planet’s ecosystems had filled with this year’s “crops,” was already bare.  That means we’re going into our ecological savings account for over a third of the year’s needs.  Increasing demand from the existing population base, paired with a growing population, leads to a compounding of an issue that’s already highly problematic.  In fact, the original Earth Overshoot Day occurred in early October of 2000.  So, in the space of just fourteen years, we’ve moved this date forward over forty days.  I have to wonder how much longer we can press in this direction.


Humanity at the 4th Agricultural Crossroads: A Choice of Cleverness or Wisdom

Humanity at the 4th Agricultural Crossroads: A Choice of Cleverness or Wisdom
Humanity finds itself at a Malthusian crossroads. The United Nations (UN) estimates that there are now seven billion [1] co-pilots on this Spaceship Earth (Fuller, 1968), each operating a unique set of controls as we journey through space together. (Appendix A) This presents a challenge, the enormity of which we’ve not dealt with before. The scientific and technical challenges we face are dwarfed by the level of maturation we as a species must quickly arrive at.

L.A. Eats: The Battle for Los Angeles

In reflecting on the causes of rising levels of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), we instinctively focus on direct sources of pollution. Power plants, vehicles and factories are images which typically come to mind. What we tend to overlook is the need fulfilled by these sources and the opportunities to modify the ways in which the needs are met. We don’t need power plants; we need electricity to power our homes and devices. We don’t need cars; we need safe and efficient methods of transport. We don’t need factories; we need products which provide utility. It is in this line of thinking which this paper intends to examine the current food systems of Los Angeles County, and to suggest a model which would reduce GHGs within the region and far beyond it.

Combined with deforestation, agriculture has recently been blamed for “36% of all anthropogenic emissions.” (DeFries and Rosenzweig 2010) Alternately, the World Resources Institute attributes 15.2% of all agriculture related GHGs, not including transportation, to agriculture. (Appendix A) Given its incredible impact, the global food system’s products and practices appear ripe for scrutiny.

Upon initiating research for this paper, my working hypothesis was that food miles were the cause of, and locavores the solution to, food-related GHGs. As often happens, research shined a light on unexpected data. Distance alone turned out to be far less important than method of transport. Additionally, food waste (Relaxnews 2011) and methods of production entered the picture as major contributors. Overconsumption and dietary choices further muddied the waters. As I waded through the available literature, the picture of a re-imagined food system began to emerge which centered on three guiding principles: properly aligned incentives, informed choices and overall efficiency. This paper attempts to detail the key factors contributing to GHGs in today’s food systems while hazarding a path forward.

Can You Eat Your Way to Carbon Neutrality?

Image by: epSos.de

If you know me, you know I love food, so when I had the chance to write a term paper recommending actions which would counteract the climate changing effects of greenhouse gases it was an easy choice.  Many of you (Are there many of you?) are probably rolling your eyes now.  I know, I know, it’s an energy thing, right?  Fair enough, but an awful lot of energy goes into the production and transportation of food, so maybe the idea isn’t so far-fetched.