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Dysfunction - June 19

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletinhomepage


Globesity: How climate change and obesity draw from the same roots

Jonathan Hiskes, Grist
You’ve heard all the reasons before: We drive too much. We eat too much meat and processed food. We spend too much time with plugged-in devices—computers, TVs, air conditioners.

But what problem are we talking about—climate change, or the worldwide rise in obesity?

Both, according to Globesity: A Planet Out of Control?, a book by four public-health researchers who show how climate change and obesity draw from a shared web of roots. Both problems worsen as car culture spreads, desk jobs replace manual jobs, and carbon-intensive foods (including meat) become available to more and more eaters, according to the book, published first in French and this spring in English.

The two issues spread across the planet in similar ways. Those paying attention to climate change know the planet can’t afford for the developing world to emit carbon dioxide at the same levels as the industrialized world. Public-health workers, too, foresee enormous trouble if developing countries adopt the worst dietary and lifestyle habits of rich countries. That shift is well underway, according to Michelle Holdsworth, Globesity’s lead author and a nutritionist with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Montpellier, France.

“A lot of people think of [obesity] as something that’s only in the United States, which we now know is a complete myth,” she said in an interview. “It may have started there, but we now know that one in six people in the whole world are overweight, one in 12 is obese, and there are more obese people in developing, poor countries than there are in developed westernized countries.”

“That’s obviously a matter of concern, because those countries can’t afford to deal with the health consequences of obesity.”
(12 June 2009)



Marijuana and Cocaine Should Be Legalized, Says Latin American Drugs Commission

Duncan Campbell, Guardian/UK
Marijuana and cocaine for personal use should be decriminalised because the "war on drugs" has been a disaster, according to some of Latin America's most powerful politicians and writers.

The current international policy on drugs encourages corruption and violence that is threatening democracy throughout the continent, according to the former president of Brazil, Fernando Enrique Cardoso, who is a co-president of the Latin American commission on drugs and democracy. As well as politicians, the commission includes the writers Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru, and Paulo Coelho of Brazil.

The election of Barack Obama has opened up the best opportunity for decades to address the failure of the "so-called drugs war", Cardoso told the Guardian today on a visit to London. He said he was hopeful that the international community would acknowledge that the time had come for a "paradigm shift" in the debate on drugs. "The war on drugs has failed in spite of enormous efforts in places like Colombia - the area of coca crops is not reducing," he said.
(28 May 2009)
Maybe there's a better way to use resources than fighting drugs and building prisons? The war on drugs may be one we can't afford. -BA




Stand up for rural America while you still can

Dave Murphy, grist
The assault on rural America continues unabated. For the past six months dairy farmers across the country have suffered a historic drop in milk prices while operating costs remain high. Since December 2008, the price that farmers are paid for the milk they produce has plunged over 50 percent, the largest single drop since the Great Depression.

While organic dairy farmers have faced a decrease in overall sales due to the recent world financial meltdown and tight budgets on the home front as a result, the current drop in milk prices is impacting mainly conventional and small to mid-size family dairy farmers—the worst crisis most dairy farmers have faced in their entire careers.

Without immediate action from President Obama, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and members of Congress, this current crisis could be the launching point for the final liquidation of the independent family farmer.
...What we are witnessing today with dairy farmers has happened before and is part of a historic trend that must not be allowed to continue. As Chris Petersen, President of Iowa Farmers Union and an Iowa family hog farmer, said recently, “First they consolidated the turkeys and chickens, then the hogs and now they’re coming after dairy.”

Petersen spoke at a rally for dairy farmers held on May 30th in Manchester, Iowa, where some 150 family dairy farmers from across the country gathered at a small town livestock exchange, some traveling from as far away as New York and Pennsylvania, in an effort to draw attention to the ongoing crisis.

As a hog farmer who survived the 1980’s farm crisis, Peterson is painfully familiar with the impacts that industrialized agriculture and consolidation have had on family farmers and rural America.
...In 1997, the year before the crash, there were over 122,000 hog farmers across the U.S. Today less than 65,000 remain. In Iowa, the nation’s leading hog producer, there were over 18,000 hog farmers in 1997, while less than 8,300 exist today, with most animals in this sector now raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) or factory farms.

For those who missed the consolidation of livestock in the 1950’s and 1960’s when it happened to the chicken growers, and then the 1980’s and 1990’s when they came for the hogs, this year will be the final sell-off of the family dairy farmer. The final sector reliant on livestock will at last be captured.

In addition, the industry trend towards animal confinement that has taken off in the past decade in dairy will increase significantly if these small and mid-sized farmers are allowed to fail.
...A recent post from John Bunting, a New York dairy farmer who writes for Milkweed and runs his own blog, tallied the imports of milk protein concentrates or MPCs and found a record increase in imports in the first quarter of 2009. Between January and March of this year imports of MPCs, not including casein and other dairy products, increased a whopping 24.59% according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Services.

MPCs are broken-down proteins and fats created by milk being processed at high temperatures and contain tasty things like bacteria and somatic cells. More problematic are the fact that MPCs are considered a glue additive and while not actually approved as a food additive by the FDA, Bunting calls them “technically an illegal ingredient,” can be found in such things as baby formulas, sports drinks, yogurt, pizza and ice cream.

If that doesn’t sound too bad then remember that these foreign milk-like substances are coming from China, India and a host of other countries that don’t have very stringent food safety regulations. Think milk from China, melamine in baby formula, etc – not a good strategy for food safety.
...So if we have record imports of milk products that compete against our own farmers on their sales in the U.S. and then they have a net loss approaching a billion dollars in trade that takes away from further potential sales, plus a massive increase in imports over the past 10 years, then what we really don’t have is a “surplus” of milk – but a serious trade deficit when it comes to milk products that is pushing American’s dairy farmers to the brink this year.
Related: Not milk: The ingredient behind the dairy crisis - KS.
(16 June 2009)

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