Food, agriculture & phosphorus - Oct 11
Click on the headline (link) for the full text.
Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage.
Phosphorus cycle: A broken biogeochemical cycle
James Elser & Elena Bennett, Nature
Excess phosphorus is polluting our environment while, ironically, mineable resources of this essential nutrient are limited. James Elser and Elena Bennett argue that recycling programmes are urgently needed.
Nature 478, 29–31 (06 October 2011) doi:10.1038/478029a
(5 October 2011)
Unfortunately the article is behind a paywall. According to Nick Brooks, the article "addresses the phosphorus problem, tackling issues of demand, supply, pollution resulting from our profligate use of phosphorus, and waste of this valuable resource."
Author Bennet is author of an academic paper Human Impact on Erodable Phosphorus and Eutrophication: A Global Perspectiv (PDF). Worldwatch has a short article based on this paper: Short-circuiting the Global Phosphorus Cycle.
Energy Bulletin was one of the first sites to cover peak phosphorus. See Peak Phosphorus by Déry and Anderson (2007).
Food for thought – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Melissa C. Lott, Plugged In (blog), Scientific American
The word ‘energy’ usually brings to mind barrels of oil, an electrical outlet, or perhaps a wind turbine. But take a look in your fridge, it is full of energy sources! Although our energy source (plant derived biological molecules) has not changed much since… we started eating, there have been revolutionary changes in how we procure food. While human energy was initially what drove the procurement of food (hunting and gathering, early agriculture and husbandry), we are now increasingly dependent on fossil energy sources to do the grueling labor of growing, harvesting, and distributing our food. This shift to more energy intensive agriculture implies a series of tradeoffs which are best characterized as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The Good is the many benefits we as a society have reaped from the modern food system including cheaper food in terms of time, economic, and resource inputs. The negative environmental effects of resource intensive food production are represented by The Bad. And The Ugly is the paradox resulting from the good and bad tradeoffs in the food system exemplified here in food waste, which is only one example of the ambiguous outcomes of the modern food system. Through this narrative I hope to show that the food system is a complex web of tradeoffs that must be taken into consideration when proposing sustainable changes to food and agriculture.
(3 October 2011)
Walmart and the Good Food Movement
Eric Holt-Giménez and Annie Shattuck, Huffington Post
Walmart recently created a firestorm of controversy within the 'Good Food Movement' when it donated $1.2 million to Milwaukee-based Growing Power, a national leader in the struggle to get good healthy food to low-income communities. Some food activists have criticized Growing Power for taking the money, saying the donation is a thinly veiled attempt to buy goodwill. Others assert Growing Power deserves the money -- and indeed should have received even more from Walmart.
Food polemics aside, a look at the numbers reveals an important motivational scenario for the planet's largest food retailer:
Walmart is under pressure to expand after eight quarters in a row of falling sales.
... Having saturated rural and suburban markets, the company plans to open hundreds of small-format stores in urban areas, (including 15 new stores in Southern Wisconsin). With post-recession real estate prices low, Walmart and other retail chains are swiftly moving in to capture the urban market. Success would mean an extra $80 billion dollars a year for Walmart's bottom line.
... Community groups and labor unions have long opposed Walmart's urban ambitions. With growing strength on the national scene, the community food movement is poised to become a player by expanding new local stores. If Walmart can sail through local city council votes for the conditional use permits and zoning adjustments they often need, the company may be able to avoid the infamous site fights that have accompanied new stores nationwide -- and it will undoubtedly crowd out any and all local retail alternatives. Rather than having their food dollar spirited off to the retail monopoly's corporate coffers, these alternatives could potential keep in the community where it can recirculate as much as five times.
(7 October 2011)