Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

Food read round-up: Connecting food, water, energy and climate

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

Food read round-up is a semi-regular post that highlights food/farming stories from around the world to add perspective on Ottawa’s sustainable local food scene.

You don’t think of institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank as big sustainability advocates. But unlikely as it seems, the heads of these two organizations recently linked future prosperity to environmental sustainability and urged swift action on climate change. In particular,

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde noted that “good ecology is good economics” and made headlines with her statement that “unless we take action…future generations will be roasted, toasted, fried and grilled.”

It’s anyone’s guess whether or what action will be taken. But it’s encouraging to see some economic bigwigs acknowledge the ecology-economy connection. Interestingly, the connection theme cropped up in several food and farming stories in the past few weeks.

 Knowing the nexus.  Two reports released in January highlight the interplay among food production, water and energy. Using – or misusing – one affects all the others, often in ways that can’t be foreseen. Add climate change and population growth to the mix and the uncertainties are magnified. The draft National Climate Assessment focuses on extreme weather events and their impact on human health, ecosystems, water supplies, energy facilities and our ability to produce a stable, adequate supply of food. Food, Water, Energy: Know the Nexus, a publication of the GRACE Communications Foundation, argues that, to create a more sustainable future, we need to understand the nexus – in other words, the point at which food, water and energy intersect. For commentary on these reports, try The Agricultural Fulcrum: Better Food, Better Climate and Climate Science Watch.

Food + fracking. Recent media stories have uncovered the links between hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” – and the food we eat. Fracking is a technique used to extract natural gas from rock by injecting it with pressurized chemicals.  Practised across Canada and in the U.S., fracking has come under fire for contaminating groundwater and drinking water and boosting carbon emissions. In The Surprising Connection between Food and Fracking, Mother Jones columnist Tom Philpott examines another aspect of the process: more natural gas from fracking will supply more of the nitrogen used in conventional farm fertilizers.  As Philpott points out:  “If Big Ag becomes hooked on cheap fracked gas to meet its fertilizer needs, then the fossil fuel industry will have gained a powerful ally in its effort to steamroll regulation and fight back opposition to fracking projects.”

Also worth reading:

 Top source of food poisoning? Leafy greens. Great – just what we wanted to hear. According to a study released by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in five foodborne illnesses are attributable to leafy greens – more than red meat, poultry, fruits or dairy. The good news is that these illnesses were not the most dangerous (that distinction went to poultry).  Also that, as long as we handle (i.e., wash or cook) our greens properly, we shouldn’t stop eating them. Figures from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) show that there are about 11 million cases of food-borne illnesses each year in this country.

Can small farms benefit from Wal-Mart’s push into local foods?  Vowing to double its local produce sales by 2015, Walmart has moved aggressively to get local farmers on board in Canada and the U.S. This story from Harvest Public Media doesn’t investigate the situation in Canada, but for the moment it looks as if the main beneficiaries of the retail giant’s local food strategy are a small number of producers who’ve changed their business model to suit Walmart, and of course, Walmart itself.

What have you been reading about food and farming?