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Solutions and Sustainability Headlines - 14 October, 2005

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage



Beneficial effects of no-till farming depend upon future climate change

James E. Kloeppel, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign via EurekAlert
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- By storing carbon in their fields through no-till farming practice, farmers can help countries meet targeted reductions in atmospheric carbon dioxide and reduce the harmful effects of global warming.

Growing plants take carbon dioxide from the air and store it as carbon in their tissues. Most of this carbon is returned to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide when crops are harvested and consumed. Some carbon, however, can be permanently stored, or sequestered, in the soil as organic matter. Changes in land management can potentially increase the accumulation of organic carbon in soil.

The amount of carbon stored in soils also depends on how the climate changes and how much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere, say researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

"Our research focuses on the feasibility of different sequestration schemes for reducing natural emissions of carbon dioxide or enhancing the natural uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide," said Atul Jain, a U. of I. professor of atmospheric sciences and lead author of a paper published in the Oct. 12 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. "Converting from conventional plow tillage to no-till practice is among the most cost-effective ways to reduce the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."
(13 October 2005)
Commercial no-till farming may involve sophisticated air-seeders and/or herbicide treatments, not nearly as sustainable as seed balls & crash grazing; the devil is as usual in the detail.-LJ


Ask Umbra: Soy You Want to Be a Vegetarian?
On soy vs. meat

Umbra Fisk, Grist Magazine
Dear Umbra,
I finally went vegetarian several months ago, and one of my main reasons was the environmental impact of meat production. The other day, however, a friend pointed out that soy foods take a great deal of energy to produce too. So is there really that big of an environmental difference between TVP [textured vegetable protein] and free-range beef? And how does dairy compare? Should I just try to stick to nuts and beans?
Sarah Amandes, Brooklyn, N.Y.

A Dearest Sarah,
Have you ever wondered whether TVP might be the hot dog of soy products? All the soy boogers and intestines, mushed up into a bland-seeming "food"? Just a thought.

Yes, there is a big environmental difference between eating meat and not eating meat. We are concerned with land use, water use, water pollution, air pollution, habitat, and packaging, and animals have a larger impact than plants in most of these categories. I'll go over some numbers from the Union of Concerned Scientists' Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices (mwah!) and an article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which surveyed European life-cycle studies of food production.

The journal picked soy studies for a comparison, lucky for you. Meat production took more land (6 to 17 times as much), water (4.4 to 26 times), fossil fuels (6 to 20 times), and biocides (a lumped-together category of pesticides and chemicals used in processing -- 6 times as much). In fact, meat lost in every category.

...It makes sense. In our current system, we grow plants and feed them to animals, which we then eat. Land and other resources are used during both phases of production. The animals are densely raised, which intensifies their ecological impacts.
(12 October 2005)


Edible Forest Gardens
The ecology and design of home scale food forests

Dave Jacke with Eric Toensmeier
Edible Forest Gardens.com is dedicated to offering inspiring and practical information on the vision, ecology, design, and stewardship of perennial polycultures of multipurpose plants in small-scale settings. We intend this website to grow into an information and networking resource for newcomers, amateurs, students, and serious practitioners and researchers alike.

Forest gardening is an idea whose time has come. We can consciously apply the principles of ecology to the design of home scale gardens that mimic forest ecosystem structure and function, but grow food, fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer, "farmaceuticals," and fun. Indeed, we must begin learning to apply ecological principles to the design of our food production systems now—we are rapidly approaching or are already at the peak of world oil production, and the world of energy descent is upon us. This sea change in our culture will require that we learn to live within our energetic means and learn to rebuild ecosystems that support human and humane lives without diminishing the ability of the ecosystem to support our children and grandchildren.
(October 2005)
This is the website to accompany a new two-volume work on Food Forests. Excerpts from the book are available on the website. A longer excerpt is available on The Natural Farmer. The two volumes are not cheap, but they have gotten good preliminary reviews. I've got my order in! -BA


CIA Director Moonlights As Farmer in Va.

Katherine Shrader, Associated Press via The Guardian
ORANGE, Va. - Just like his spies, the CIA director lives a double life. Porter Goss, the head of the nation's leading intelligence agency, moonlights as a farmer at his 575-acre property in the rolling hills of central Virginia, where he raises cattle, sheep and chickens.

He and his wife, Mariel, practice sustainable agriculture: humane farming techniques, no pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

Locals can stop by the Gosses' nearby boutique general store for organically grown tomatoes, raspberries and pears. They can pick up a bag of ``Bare Naked'' banana nut granola, a woolly lambskin or, if they're lucky, some of Mrs. Goss's famous blackberry preserves.

...A congressman at the time, Goss told Virginia Living that the farm brings uncertainty, but has its little rewards: ``Like sitting on the porch after a day of work with a glass of ice cold water, watching as the evening settles in, or having breakfast with two fresh eggs you just got from the henhouse.

``You just have a sense that you're doing something that matters, in a small way, but in a significant way,'' he said. ``I think that's good for the human psyche.''
(12 October 2005)

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