‘Diet for a Hot Planet’ Explores Links between Diet and Climate Change

diet-for-a-hot-planet_cover1Anna Lappé’s new book Diet for a Hot Planet is critical. It is critical because it helps fill a significant gap in the literature that was previously identified by the Johns Hopkins Center for Livable Future.

And thus, in an accessible and comprehensive manner, Diet for a Hot Planet is critical to understanding how inextricably linked food is with climate change. But to do so, Lappé conveys that we, as the reader, must understand: (1) the food-life-cycle, from its roots in the ground to going back to the ground as waste and (2) that “we are not bystanders.”

The food life-cycle and its connection with climate change

Diet for a Hot Planet emphasizes that the global food system is connected to climate change “within nearly every sector of our economy;” from waste and wastewater to our energy supply to transportation to industry to forestry to building structures to agriculture. Throughout the book, it becomes clear how “the entire global food chain may account for roughly one third of what’s heating our planet.”

Not all of the climate impact from food is related to livestock. Yet, with 70% of all agricultural land tied up in livestock production, red meat and dairy products may account for as much as 48% of the global warming effect. Lappé’s book underscores the importance of thinking about the journey from livestock to edible meat production, especially regarding methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions; that, she teaches us, has a much greater negative impact on global warming than carbon dioxide (CO2). Read More >

The Toughest Test

Great Kids Farm Greenhouse

Great Kids Farm Greenhouse

On Tuesday, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future honored Baltimore City Public Schools’ Great Kids Farm with an award for visionary leadership in local food procurement and food education. The school system is now able to provide local milk, fruits, and vegetables with meals it serves and is working to help its more than 200 schools and programs develop their own gardens. Throughout the month numerous articles on this trend towards local food production have been published. For example, The Baltimore Sun published an article about the first harvest of the new one-acre garden at McDonogh School in Owings Mills. This isn’t a new trend. In fact, McDonogh School began in 1873 as a school for orphan boys who grew their own foods and farming continued at the School until the early 1960s.

Coincidentally, The New York Times published an article Tuesday entitled “Schools’ Toughest Test: Cooking” about the impressive efforts that New York City’s Middle School 137 has made in redefining their lunch program. The article proves that it is possible to “entice nearly 2,000 students at the height of adolescent squirreliness to eat a good lunch,” but that it is definitely not easy: ingredients must be approved by the Department of Education, meet the food cravings of a culturally diverse student body, and then there is the need for cooking equipment—according to the article, only half of New York’s 1,385 school kitchens have enough cooking and fire-suppression equipment to actually cook. The efforts by Sharon Barlatier, the manager of the middle school cafeteria, that are described are commendable.

The article is a must read for anyway who questions the practicality of providing quality lunch programs in urban schools nationwide.

Is Smithfield Decision Not to Replace Gestation Crates Ethical?

alan-goldbergAlan Goldberg, Ph.D., is a former commissioner of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production and is a guest blogger today for Livable Future.

The largest pork producer in the world, Smithfield Foods Inc., says it can’t afford to go through with one of its much-ballyhooed animal welfare improvement plans. The company said that it must delay plans to replace its “gestation crates” for pregnant sows with more humane “group housing.” Frankly, the decision comes as no surprise to me. Back in 2007, when the company announced that its 187 Smithfield-owned pig nurseries would be converted within 10 years, the executives refused to admit that the crates were inhumane. Rather, they said their decision was based on consumer preference. If Smithfield were truly concerned about growing consumer awareness and/or preference concerning how animals are raised for food, it would have also required that all of its contract facilities convert within the same 10-year span.

These gestation crates truly are appalling, and some have used the word cruel.  A sow living in a typical industrial facility will spend the majority of her life confined in these metal and concrete stalls that are so small that she can barely lie down, let alone turn around. I won’t belabor how awful gestation crates are – they are awful. Chances are you’ve heard a great deal about them as the Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare organizations campaigned across the country in efforts to legally have them banned.  So far, six states have laws on the books that ban producers from using gestation crates. The European Union was ahead of the curve, requiring farmers to replace all gestation crates by 2013.

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