Fracking and Food Systems in the Time of Peak Oil

Philadelphia, September 2011Last Wednesday while executives from the Marcellus Shale Coalition met inside the Philadelphia Convention Center, I joined several hundred activists outside to rally against high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, aka “fracking.”  This relatively new natural-gas extraction process is at the center of a growing tension: the urgency to discover new, “unconventional” fuel sources to replace diminishing conventional fossil fuel supplies, and the process required to adequately assess potential environmental and human health risks before embracing new energy sources.

In some communities where fracking is underway, alarm has been raised because fracking has been implicated in public health risks, tainting drinking water supplies and more recently even poisoning animals raised for food.  (This chart explains fracking’s potential impacts on agriculture.) Read More >

Study: Eating Less Meat Could Save $20 Trillion in Climate Change Costs

An article published in today’s NewScientist Magazine says cutting back on meet intake could save $20 trillion in the fight against climate change. According to the article, researchers involved say that reducing intake of beef and pork would lead to the creation of a huge new carbon sink, as vegetation would thrive on unused farmland. “The model takes into account farmland that is used to grow extra food to make up for the lost meat, but that requires less area, so some will be abandoned. Millions of tonnes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, would also be saved every year due to reduced emissions from farms,” say the authors of the study. 

If the global population shifted to a low-meat diet – defined as 70 grams of beef and 325 grams of chicken and eggs per week – around 15 million square kilometres of farmland would be freed up. Vegetation growing on this land would mop up carbon dioxide. It could alternatively be used to grow bioenergy crops, which would displace fossil fuels.