Veggie, left-wing, socialist leaning, feminist hippie? Who, me? Yep – I’ll talk about it. Vegetarian is the new green! This blog is on your food and its carbon impact. The Huffington Post (one of the English-speaking world’s 50 most powerful blogs, apparently) published this article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/vegetarian-is-the-new-pri_b_39014.html) by Kathy Freston about a whole heap of UN reports and studies (one in particular by the University of Chicago) about how eating meat, and the meat industry, contributes more than we’d like to think to greenhouse gas emissions. The UN report details that “while animal agriculture accounts for 9% of our carbon dioxide emissions, it emits 37% of our methane, and a whopping 65% of our nitrous oxide”. And that ‘we’ is not just the US – it’s globally. This is a great read too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_vegetarianism (Wiki).
Speaking of global food issues – today the Royal Society published a report about food production in the face of CC and increasing global population. You can find it here: http://royalsociety.org/document.asp?tip=0&id=8825. The report discusses the need for a sustainable intensification of global agriculture where yields are increased without adverse environmental impact and without the cultivation of more land. Recommendations included: securing funding for more research, increased support for ecosystem-based approaches, and the UK specific problem of reversing a decline in interest in food-crop related subjects.
The chairman of the report, Professor David Baulcombe, says “We need to take action now to stave off food shortages. If we wait even five to 10 years, it may be too late… Science-based approaches introduced alongside social science and economic innovations are essential if we’re to have a decent chance of feeding the world’s population in 40 years’ time.”
Forty years! Goodness, that’s soon. However, there is controversy about the Royal Society’s recommendations. Tom MacMillan, director of the Food Ethics Council, says the Royal Society is getting ahead of itself by demanding more funding for science. “That’s exactly the kind of decision that should be up for wider debate. The money might be better spent tackling social and economic problems.” So even within recommendations of what appears to be a looming issue, there will still be room for controversy! I personally agree with Mr MacMillan – community and political consultation WITH scientists would be best for communities to decide what they want to spend their money on – just like every budgetary round, when everyone puts their hand up with suggestions.
And despite this article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/oct/20/arctic-tundra) asserting that many Russians do not believe in CC, the effects are being directly felt in the icy far north of the country. The arctic tundra’s nomadic peoples, the Nenets, face food issues of their own. Their reindeer, which they rely on for food, transport and warmth, are becoming oddly fatigued and give birth at random times during the year. The native Nenets have also noticed more polar bear encounters and changes in insect life as they wander the icy, wet, tundra. As well, last year they arrived at their regular summer home to find that a lake they rely on for water and fish, had half drained after a landslide. Scientists say “there is unmistakable evidence that Yamal’s ancient permafrost is melting”, and this doesn’t bode well for the Nenets, their food, their reindeer, nor their lives.
Another devastating example comes from Kenya (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/sep/03/climate-change-kenya-10-10) where food prices have doubled and water prices quadrupled in the wake of recent droughts. Mpoke, a Maasai climate change educator working with charity Concern Worldwide, says he does “not understand how people in rich countries fail to understand the scale or urgency of the problem emerging in places such as Kenya. Climate change is here. It’s a reality.” Nomadic peoples have no time to recover in between constant droughts. But in the future, it won’t just be Kenya, the Arctic Tundra, or nomads affected. It will be all of us, before we realise.