We discuss and comment on the role agriculture will play in the containment of the CO2 problem and address protocols for terraforming the planet Earth.
A model farm template is imagined as the central methodology. A broad range of timely science news and other topics of interest are commented on.
Friday, August 5, 2011
How to Eat Well and Save the Planet Too
Over the long term, and I mean
long term, it is possible to feed a human population of around 100 billion
people.However our ability to support a
ten fold increase in animal husbandry appears way more unlikely and difficult.It is also an unwelcome burden.
Yet there is ample land area that
requires an active animal husbandry in conjunction with cropping.It is just that the sector will quickly max
I have pointed out that the
boreal forest can produce moose, deer, bison on a silage fodder base drawn from
a cattail culture.Yet this might double
current meat production.
Certainly we can double meat and
perhaps triple it.Yet human population
can just as easily be increased ten fold on a reasonable increase in plant
Thus we can expect that human
consumption of all animal proteins to decline relative to plants.
My estimate is that we are
looking at a two thirds reduction and a general averaging of overall availability.Thus in the long term even useful animal
husbandry iks going to be a lesser part of the human diet.
Eating used to be so simple. If you liked it and could afford it, down
the hatch it went. Yum-yum, end of story.
But the days of carefree consumption of food,
alas, are a thing of the past, especially for meat lovers.
If nonstop -- and contradictory -- pronouncements by doctors in white
smocks as to what you should or shouldn't ingest don't spoil your appetite,
dire warnings about the ruinous impact of your favourite dish on the
environment or the climate probably will.
The fact that a billion people in the world live in or close to the
edge of hunger is also a sobering reminder that even basic needs should never
be taken for granted.
So what's a gourmand to do?
For those who enjoy the luxury of choice, help has come in the form of
what may be the most wide-ranging overview so far on how different foodstuffs
-- from lentils to lamb chops -- impact the environment, the fight against
global warming, and the human body.
"A Meat Eater's Guide to Climate Change and Health" is just
that, a 90-page no-nonsense manual to help define a personal comfort zone
between what your taste buds crave and what your conscience will allow them to
Start with the rising threat of climate change, fuelled not just by gas
combustion but methane-belching animals and the long chain of production that
brings their selected body parts to middle-class dinner tables the world over.
"Our assessment calculates the 'cradle-to-grave' carbon footprint
of each food item based on greenhouse gas emissions generated before and after
the food leaves the farm," said Kari Hamerschlag, a senior analyst at the
non-profit Environmental Working Group in WashingtonD.C.
The analysis, jointly conducted with the Portland, Oregon-based
CleanMetrics Corporation, also includes the pesticides and fertilisers used to
grow animal feed, the raising of livestock, as well as the processing,
transportation and cooking that follows.
Even disposal of leftovers -- a major source of emissions and
pollution, as it turns out -- are taken into account.
The same criteria are applied to various farmed fish, grains, dairy
products and vegetables too.
'Skip steak once a week' –
No surprise, meat is the prime offender across almost all categories
But as is true of George Orwell's bestiary in "Animal Farm",
not all edible critters are equal, at least not when it comes to their harmful
Pound-for-pound, lamb is the worst carbon polluter,
generating nearly 40 kilos (86 pounds) of CO2-equivalent for every kilo (2.2
pounds) eaten. The next most carbon-intensive animal -- also a cud-chewing
ruminant -- on the list is beef, with emissions of 27 kilos (60 pounds) per
Looked at another way, eating a modest 110-gramme (four-ounce) slice of
braised lamb shank is the equivalent of driving a mid-sized car for 21
kilometres (13 miles). The same amount of beef works out to just over half that
"If your family of four skips steak once a week, it's like taking
your car off the road for nearly three months," Hamerschlag said.
Americans eat more meat -- exceeding Europeans by 60 percent -- than
most other developed nations, with 100 kilos (220 pounds) produced each year
for every man, woman and child.
But burgeoning middle-class appetites in rapidly emerging economies,
led by China,
are closing the gap with frightening speed, recent studies have shown.
In terms of health, the study reviews the well-known hazards of excess
meat consumption, including heart disease, diabetes and obesity. It also
highlights the widespread and controversial use of antibiotics for livestock
and, in the United States,
-- 'Veggies are virtuous' --
The next culprit on the scale of climate and environmental impacts is
cheese, mainly because of the large quantities of milk needed to produce it.
Pork, farm-raised salmon, chicken and turkey are all on a par when it
comes to greenhouse gas emissions,
but pigs -- the most widely-eaten meat in the world, with China accounting for half of global
consumption -- are in a category of their own when it comes to environmental
impact. Runoff from waste into fresh water sources and even the ocean are
As is the fact that global consumption of all meats combined has
soared, from about 70 million tonnes in 1960 to about 300 million tonnes today.
Wasted food, the study found, accounts for fully a fifth of the carbonemissions linked
to meat and dairy products in the US, with other rich countries not
"Reducing waste and buying only as much as you can eat is the
easiest way to reduce greenhouse gases and other environmental impacts,"
Inescapably, inevitably, ineluctably, the report arrives at this
conclusion: vegetables are virtuous. Especially lentils.
That's a hard truth for meat lovers. But there is advice here even for
hardcore carnivores who cannot, or will not, kick the habit.
"Meat, eggs and dairy products that are certified organic, humane
or grass-fed are generally the least environmentally damaging,"
Hamerschlag said, with some studies pointing to health benefits too.
In the end, American nutritionist Michael Pollan's seven-word mantra
may be all the advice one needs: "Eat [real] food. Not too much. Mostly