Food & agriculture - Mar 19
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Australian of the Year 2007, Tim Flannery talks bio char and why we need to move into the renewable age (podcast and transcript)
Beyond Zero Emissions
Beyond Zero talks with Tim Flannery about Terra Preta (bio char), his experience as 'Australian of the Year' and the current political climate.
Scott Bilby: This morning on Beyond Zero we will be interviewing Dr Tim Flannery. Flannery has made contributions of international significance to the fields of palaeontology, homology and nature conservation and to the understanding of science in the broader community. His work has received international acclaim.
... so we'd like to hear from you what you can tell the audience about and how you can describe Terra Preta and the advantage.
Tim Flannery: ... Look I think we should start with the knowledge that there is 200 gigatonnes of excess carbon floating around in our atmosphere. Now that is a very large amount of carbon. I won't explain what a gigatonne is but it's a lot, and that started to accumulate at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution as we burnt the coal and put the carbon into the atmosphere.
Now, it has become very clear that we have to find a way of drawing down that carbon stock in the atmospher. So we've got to not only reduce our emissions, so get rid of the burning of coal and so on and so forth, we've have to draw down the existing gas and people have been searching for ways of doing this. Some of your listeners may have heard about proposals to re-grow tropical forests for example or forestry's "I'll plant a tree and off set your emissions" and this sort of thing.
Well these Terra Preta solutions are in some ways or certainly for some purposes are a better solution, a superior solution to anything that's been brought up so far. What the process basically involves is taking any biological material, that could be crop waste or corn stalks or whatever, forestry waste, even human sewage, and partially burning it in the absence of oxygen so that you get a synthetic gas at one end of the process that you can then burn which is hydrogen rich, not so much carbon in it, but hydrogen rich, you can burn that for transport purposes or to generate electricity and at the other end of the process you get charcoal. And the great thing about charcoal is that it is a very stable form of carbon.
(19 March 2008)
Folke Günther has also been writing in the last few months about bio-char and global warming.
Articles suggested by Bill Henderson.
Russia sets new fertiliser export tariffs
Aleksandras Budrys, Reuters
Russia will set export tariffs on certain mineral fertilisers and raise existing duties on others in a move that could raise at least $300 million to buy fertilisers for local farmers, the government said on Tuesday.
... Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev has said 90 percent of mineral fertilisers produced in Russia are exported and only 10 percent used domestically. Twenty years ago, 80 percent were used domestically and only 20 percent exported.
... Shrinking world grain stocks, which have pushed world prices to record highs, are giving farmers the incentive to use more fertiliser. Prices have soared accordingly ...
(18 March 2008)
Will there be an international competition for fertilizers, as there is for oil? Will fertilizer-producing countries avoid exporting them, giving preference to local farmers? -BA
All About: Food and fossil fuels
Rachel Oliver, CNN
Eating ethically is no easy task these days. One problem is deciding which ethic is more important. Keeping third-world farmers in fair trade jobs by purchasing their produce? Or assuaging your concerns over the environmental impact of getting that produce to your kitchen by shopping locally instead?
Up until recently it has been the latter concern -- how food is transported -- that has hogged the limelight when it comes to looking at the role the food chain plays in climate change. Statistics such as the fact that the average American meal travels on average 1,500 miles before it gets to the diner's plate, have led to stronger backing for "grow locally" movements.
But the local food movement has been greeted with dismay by the developing world -- and for good reason.
According to the UK-based Food Climate Research Network (FCRN), as many as 1.5 million people in the developing world, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa, depend on the export horticulture market. Agricultural exports, meanwhile, have been partly to thank for Africa's economic growth rates of around 5 per cent a year, according to the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
British shoppers alone spend more than $2 million every single day on fruit and vegetables imported from Africa. Encouraging them to shop locally instead of buying imported produce from the developing world could obviously have disastrous consequences for third-world farmers.
(17 March 2008)
Rachel Oliver has been writing good analytical pieces on the environment for CNN, but this is not one of her best. The "food miles" concept has been attacked by a number of agricultural interests; unfortunately some of their talking points and framing have found their way into this article. A better summary is given in the video that accompanies the article, featuring Tim Lang of City University London. Another good source of information is Food Climate Research Network mentioned in the article. For example, a slideshow on Food and Climate Change by Tara Garnett. A general problem with discussions such as these is that they only deal with climate change, leaving out peak oil, local resiliency and politics.
To be fair, food systems are complicated and "food miles" is a first-approximation of reality. However, eating ethically is not as complicated as the article makes out:
- Eat lower on the food chain (plants versus animals)
- Avoid processed and junk foods.
- Eat in-season produce (vs strawberries in winter).
- Favor local agriculture.
- Don't waste food.
The Local Grain Revolution I / Deconstructing Dinner in Our Schools (audio)
For most Canadians wishing to adopt a more local diet, the overwhelming rise in demand in just the past year has left a large question mark hovering over the heads of many: where is all this local food so many are demanding?
The state of farming and food production in North America has clearly evolved into such a poor state of affairs, little infrastructure and incentive remain to respond to this current demand for local product. While fruits and vegetables may be the most easily accessible local foods at farmers' markets and select grocery stores, grains are not often referred to when speaking of local food. When we start to envision what plant-based foods we're still missing out on in sufficient local quantities, we can list off wheat, oats, barley, rye, spelt, flax, hemp, corn and leguminous plants such as beans and lentils.
On this exciting broadcast, we explore the creation of a project launched by two conservation groups wishing to experiment with the creation of a local grain market in the middle of the mountains of British Columbia. Matt Lowe of Nelson's West Kootenay EcoSociety and Brenda Bruns of the Creston branch of Wildsight have teamed up with a number of farmers, processors, bakers and eaters, to see if such an idea is indeed possible. ...
Deconstructing Dinner in Our Schools II
How do food and agricultural issues make their way into educational settings? On this episode of Deconstructing Dinner in Our Schools, we hear from 10-year-old Kodiak Morasky, who chose a very unique topic to present to his Grade 4 classmates in Nelson, B.C. Kodiak was introduced to the world of factory animal farms through the online animated series of short films known as The Meatrix. The film had a profound impact on Kodiak, and we listen in on his in-class presentation. Upon learning of the horrific stories coming out of North America's factory farms, we hear one child ask, "Can I sue the government?" ...
(13 March 2008)