Food Supply

We can’t just geoengineer our way out of climate change …….

 
 

 

Reproduced from David Suzuki Foundation -[subscribers@davidsuzuki.org]

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Photo Credit: Paul Bica

Because nature doesn’t always behave the same in a lab, test tube or computer program as it does in the real world, scientists and engineers have come up with ideas that didn’t turn out as expected.

DDT was considered a panacea for a range of insect pest issues, from controlling disease to helping farmers. But we didn’t understand bioaccumulation back then – toxins concentrating up the food chain, risking the health and survival of animals from birds to humans.

Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, seemed so terrific we put them in everything from aerosol cans to refrigerators. Then we learned they damage the ozone layer, which protects us from harmful solar radiation.

These unintended consequences come partly from our tendency to view things in isolation, without understanding how all nature is interconnected. We’re now facing the most serious unintended consequence ever: climate change from burning fossil fuels. Some proposed solutions may also result in unforeseen outcomes.

Oil, gas and coal are miraculous substances – energy absorbed from the sun by plants and animals hundreds of millions of years ago, retained after they died and concentrated as the decaying life became buried deeper into the earth. Burning them to harness and release this energy opened up possibilities unimaginable to our ancestors. We could create machines and technologies to reduce our toil, heat and light our homes, build modern cities for growing populations and provide accessible transport for greater mobility and freedom. And because the stuff seemed so plentiful and easy to obtain, we could build vehicles and roads for everyone – big cars that used lots of gas – so that enormous profits would fuel prosperous, consumer-driven societies.

We knew fairly early that pollution affected human health, but that didn’t seem insurmountable. We just needed to improve fuel efficiency and create better pollution-control standards. That reduced rather than eliminated the problem and only partly addressed an issue that appears to have caught us off-guard: the limited availability of these fuels. But the trade-offs seemed worthwhile.

Then, for the past few decades, a catastrophic consequence of our profligate use of fossil fuels has loomed. Burning them has released excessive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, creating a thick, heat-trapping blanket. Along with our destruction of natural carbon-storing environments, such as forests and wetlands, this has steadily increased global average temperatures, causing climate change.

We’re now faced with ever-increasing extreme weather-related events and phenomena such as ocean acidification, which affects myriad marine life, from shellfish to corals to plankton. The latter produce oxygen and are at the very foundation of the food chain.

Had we addressed the problem from the outset, we could have solutions in place. We could have found ways to burn less fossil fuel without massively disrupting our economies and ways of life. But we’ve become addicted to the lavish benefits that fossil fuels have offered, and the wealth and power they’ve provided to industrialists and governments. And so there’s been a concerted effort to stall or avoid corrective action, with industry paying front groups, “experts” and governments to deny or downplay the problem.

Now that climate change has become undeniable, with consequences getting worse daily, many experts are eyeing solutions. Some are touting massive technological fixes, such as dumping large amounts of iron filings into the seas to facilitate carbon absorption, pumping nutrient-rich cold waters from the ocean depths to the surface, building giant reflectors to bounce sunlight back into space and irrigating vast deserts.

But we’re still running up against those pesky unintended consequences. Scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, studied five geoengineering schemes and concluded they’re “either relatively ineffective with limited warming reductions, or they have potentially severe side effects and cannot be stopped without causing rapid climate change.” That’s partly because we don’t fully understand climate and weather systems and their interactions.

That doesn’t mean we should rule out geoengineering.  Climate change is so serious that we’ll need to marshal everything we have to confront it, and some methods appear to be more benign than others. But geoengineering isn’t the solution. And it’s no excuse to go on wastefully burning fossil fuels. We must conserve energy and find ways to quickly shift to cleaner sources.

By David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington, Senior Editor

 
 

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Are we too late to learn and act

I am a newbie gardener so I was not surprised by the crop failures last Tuesday threw at me but it was eye opening. Resilience is the only way forward for now.

I have been absorbed on the internet lately and have come across stuff this past month or so that is amazing.

The solutions are out there and Ted talks and the internet are spreading them around. I find some pretty cool stuff. Exciting times.

My fungi guru (meaning, I love his work) even hinted at the fact that mushrooms may have given us the internet in order to alert us to the fact that they are the solutions and to stop destroying the old growth forests before the true bounty of them is known to man.

It was suggested, no stated, that mycelium are sentient forms. They respond to human movement on the earth and react for nutrient mining, or something I didn’t quite grasp the first time around, more than pain or anything.

Pain was my first amateur thought but it was infinitely more detailed than that. How cool? Another scientist. Really a scientist, not a feral hippie, informed me last week via U tube that he also truly believes mushrooms and in particular psilocybin(magic) mushrooms held the great answers.

He proposed that mankind could be truly enlightened as to how interconnected everything is simply by experiencing the wonders it opens up – the weather, the climate, the animals, the humans.

He was proposing that if enough humans had the experience then it would naturally follow that there would be more leadership and widespread programs in place to do the very things that can be done in the time frame we have left to act. Ecologists have known forever that everything on Earth is helplessly and miraculously interconnected and many humans have also known this for a long time. Yogis in particular spring to mind.

So I have learned that is too late for renewable energies to make the difference needed to maintain our lifestyles and that man will not give up the lifestyle and that is easily obvious to everyone. It is also simply too late for that to help. That was big news to me.

We all understand that our old growth forests are worth protecting and that, in so called less developed worlds, they are still being destroyed legally and illegally.

The knowledge in what is left of the world’s old growth forest is not beyond our grasp anymore. We need leadership to act as a matter of urgency to stop the destruction as soon as possible of what is left of the planets old growth forests.

So many reasons for this would make this email ten times as long. The value of them is priceless beyond the many sustainable pharmaceuticals that we will gain. Priceless beyond what most human brains currently understand. The current wealth we enjoy may not come at such a huge cost if we can reverse some of the damage and quickly.

Our future lies somewhat intact in some parts of the planet and maybe our money would better spent protecting and regenerating it as an urgent human action. That is the kicker isn’t it? When is that tipping point? They keep us focused on the carbon tipping point. What about ecology itself? When did the loss of 200 species a day become acceptable? Did it ever? This is a completely different tipping point to the one I have bought into for the better part of two decades. It has always been there, blowing in the wind as Dylan said but are we ready to really understand as a cohesive group?

Humus – the essential ingredient: Graeme Sait at TEDxNoosa

 Published on May 12, 2013

Learn all about Humus,

the layer of soil essential for healthy food production which is being gradually depleted by unsustainable farming practices.
Graeme Sait a lifelong human and soil health educator explains how 467 billion tonnes of carbon has been released from the soil into the atmosphere, and that we urgently need to return that carbon to the soil, and start replenishing the humus in order to reverse the impact.
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

To Bee or Not to Bee – a must read.

Saturday July 13 at 1 pm on CBC-TV

Related Video

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TO BEE OR NOT TO BEE

Watch this film online.
45:05 min
Bees are all around us. And while some might consider them no more than a nuisance, the role that bees play in nature simply cannot be overstated – they pollinate many of the food crops that we depend on. A world without bees would be unrecognizable since they also pollinate many of the plants and trees in our gardens, forests and meadows.
When the news broke three and a half years ago that honeybee populations around the globe were declining at an alarming rate, it was no surprise that scientists took notice. What was happening to the bees, and could they be saved?
These are but two of the questions To Bee or Not To Bee explores, taking us headlong into a world of nature, science and big business.
Our story begins in 2006, when Pennsylvania beekeeper David Hackenburg went public when over half of his honeybee hives died from a mysterious disease. That disease soon had a name – Colony Collapse Disorder, and it rapidly led to record colony losses for beekeepers across the United States. At the same time, in other parts of the world, domesticated honeybees and wild bee populations were sickening and dying as well. A number of factors seemed to be triggering those die-offs. The search for a single cause and its cure has become more and more desperate over time.
As the problem becomes more severe, scientists and beekeepers in Europe and North America work tirelessly to find the cause of these deadly declines: is it genetic, a virus or pollution, or some combination of them? Today beekeepers are hanging on by a thread, food supplies are threatened, and the biodiversity of the planet itself has been endangered.

Could bees be an early warning sign of a larger problem with our ecology? Are they the canary in the coal mine for the health of Planet Earth?
Like many scientific mysteries, the answers are rarely found in one place. To Bee or Not To Bee takes viewers to France, Germany, Canada and the U.S.A., and into laboratories, bee yards, landfills, almond orchards and breeding grounds, all in search of clues.
The picture that emerges is at once hopeful and disturbing. The stresses bees face today are numerous – from the use of chemical pesticides, to viruses, to the loss of natural bee habitats. Although, these enterprising insects are resilient and adaptable, will they be able to change fast enough? Will science find solutions to the problems they face?
To Bee or Not to Bee is directed by Mark Johnston and produced by Natalie Dubois and Christine Le Goff, for Galafilm Productions.

Toxic Water: Across Much of China, Huge Harvests Irrigated with Industrial and Agricultural Runoff

Author: Nadya IvanovaNadya Ivanova, a Bulgaria native, is a Chicago-based reporter for Circle of Blue. She co-writes The Stream, a daily digest of international water news trends. Interests: Europe, China, Environmental Policy, International Security.

FRIDAY, 18 JANUARY 2013 15:03

The dirty truth about the world’s largest grain producer.
water pollution contamination trash garbage Yellow River Lanzhou China

Photo © Aaron Jaffe / Circle of Blue

Polluted water and trash mingle on the bank of the Yellow River in Lanzhou, China. Click image to enlarge slideshow.
JINAN, Shandong — The horizon gleams with a golden hue from the wheat fields that spread in all directions here in Shandong, a prime food-growing province on the lower reaches of the Yellow River. As hundreds of farmers spread the wheat like massive carpets to dry on country roads, combine machines are busy harvesting the grain. The same afternoon that the wheat harvest is finished, farmers will already be planting corn and other crops. This is how China feeds 1.4 billion citizens and millions of livestock.
“There’s no water source except for this dirty water. We have to use it.” – Farmer in Shandong Province
The seeds of the economic miracle that have lifted China to the world’s second-largest economy are in the farm fields and tumbledown villages that each year grow the nearly 600 million metric tons of food that sustain public trust in the country’s dramatic transition.
Yet the ample harvest also comes with significant public health risks, as a farmer here explains.
Damp with sweat, dust, and chaff, he pulls a plastic hose into a water pump that is powered by a truck with a belt-drive. The moment the engines roar, the ingenious makeshift machine fills the hose with turbid water from the nearby canal where a pharmaceutical factory has just dumped its rancid effluent.
“There’s no water source except for this dirty water,” the farmer says. “We have to use it.”
POLLUTION MOVES WEST
Shigong, a 50-year-old farmer from the village of Tizi, has spent his lifetime tilling the craggy desert hills that for centuries have been the only lifeline in dry Gansu Province. In this remote area of western China, the farmer’s life is guided by the whims of the seasons, the flow of the nearby Yellow River, and the fruits of the land.
The rice paddies that feed Shigong’s home are giving an unmistakable sign of change. Salt and alkaline from a nearby chemical factory, as well as fertilizer overuse, have tainted the land and cut productivity.
Rice is now the only crop that survives here in Tizi, and even that is struggling: one mu (roughly 0.07 hectares, 0.17 acres) produces about half a metric ton of rice annually, which is only half of what the land yielded less than a decade ago.
“Water pollution affects our production very badly,” he says, looking at the nearby hills covered with salt. “The salt and alkaline are moving to the land. In two to three years, all the land will be wasted.”
Shigong’s plight is shared by other local farmers whose lands and lives are roiled by water shortages and pollution. In this arid corner of northwestern China – where rainfall measures in mere millimeters – small plots of maize and wheat squeeze between barren hills that are as dry as desert slopes. Rice paddies dot the banks of the Yellow River and its tributaries. Seen from above, the farms look like little oases surrounded by a barren wasteland.
But the landscape is steadily changing.
Since 2000, when China launched the “Go West” program to encourage industrial development and job growth in 11 of its western provinces and autonomous regions, Gansu’s industries and income levels have been rising. The development has turned Gansu and its neighboring provinces from primarily agricultural societies to ones that are putting more attention on developing heavy industry.
In an attempt to expand coal production westward, for example, China plans to open 15 large coal bases by 2015, mostly in Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Shaanxi, and Shanxi.
Despite better regulation, experts worry that, as China’s development moves west, it will transfer its pollution as well.
“Pollution is getting worse and worse here. Many heavy metal companies and plants have moved to Gansu from the east, “ Su Yongzhong, an expert at the Gansu Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told Circle of Blue. “These factories are producing dirty products. The trend is already there. We can see it happening.”
When the water turned black last month, he adds, most of the crop died after being irrigated with it — and what did not wither was sent to the market.
The farmer’s plight underlies a dirty truth about China’s fast development: the nation’s rivers, lakes, and falling water tables are enduring deficits of clean water that often force farmers to grow food using water that is tainted with heavy metals, organic pollutants, and nitrogen. Much of China’s water is so contaminated that it should not even be touched, yet tremendous amounts of the grains, vegetables, and fruits that are served in homes and restaurants, as well as textiles that are sold in markets, are irrigated with untreated industrial wastewater.
Contaminated Food
Crash programs to build highways, railways, airports, modern manufacturing bases, and other equipment have distinguished China for a generation. The country has not, however, launched any similarly comprehensive or sustained programs to clean up its filthy water, though reforms may be on the horizon.
Water and soil pollution in China are so prevalent that the nation’s farm productivity, its economy, and the people’s health are at risk as modernization, urbanization, and food demand are steadily increasing.
Furthermore, China’s Ministry of Land and Resources estimates that heavy metal pollution destroys 10 million metric tons of grain and contaminates another 12 million metric tons annually, incurring billions of dollars in direct economic losses each year as China struggles to satisfy the evermore-sophisticated diets of its growing population. With more and more Chinese moving into the middle and upper classes each year, so increases their ability to afford meat products like beef and pork, which are extremely water intensive as they must be fed substantial amounts of grains.
Meanwhile, as much as 10 percent of China’s rice, the country’s staple food, may be tainted by poisonous cadmium, a heavy metal that is discharged in mining and industrial sewage, according to scientists at Nanjing Agricultural University.
Food safety is a deep concern among Chinese citizens, a matter of national significance as old as the country itself. After years of high-profile scares — deadly melamine milk, recycled “gutter oil,” fake beef, and exploding watermelons, among others — food safety scandals are producing public ridicule and ire in a political system that has vowed to serve the people. As the public has called for the country to dramatically strengthen its environmental safeguards, authorities have begun setting nationally significant standards for water, soil, and food to curb the grimy side effects of sizzling economic growth.
“Crop security is the number one problem in the nation,” Fan Mingyuan, an expert at the Water Resources Research Institute of Shandong Province, told Circle of Blue. “It’s a national security problem.”
Agriculture is a vital industry in China, employing more than 300 million farmers and feeding a rapidly growing nation, still haunted by memories of severe famine and poverty during the 1950s and ’60s. And as China ranks among the global firsts in output of rice, wheat, potatoes, tea, cotton, meat, and other crops, the security of its food supplies could have significant global implications as well.
Soil and Water Pollution
While years of food scandals have focused public attention on factories and markets, few have looked at the source of the food chain — soil and water.
For instance, one-fifth of the Yellow River, northern China’s lifeline, should not be used for drinking, energy production, or irrigation; about 40 percent of the Hai River, which supports major food-producing areas in the northeast, is considered unusable. In fact, nearly 15 percent of China’s major rivers are not fit for any use, and more than half of the groundwater nationwide is categorized as “polluted” or “extremely polluted,” according to government statistics.
China Yellow River drinking water pollution contamination purification Liang Jia Wang groundwater

Photo © Aaron Jaffe / Circle of Blue

The Yellow River flows around a water-intake pipe to a purification building that has fallen into disrepair, forcing the residents of Liang Jia Wang, one of China’s many “cancer villages,” to drink water straight from the dirty river. Nearly 15 percent of China’s major rivers are not fit for any use, and more than half of the groundwater is labeled “polluted” or “extremely polluted.” Click image to enlarge slideshow.
Pollution is such a major driver of water scarcity in China that experts have given it a special term, shui zhi xing que shui, or literally “water-quality-driven water shortage.”
Moreover, China’s pollution hotspots are occurring in the places where economic growth is the highest and water resources are under the most stress — China’s dry northern breadbaskets and its biggest manufacturing hubs in the south and east.
“Farmers won’t eat what they produce… It’s not just about water safety; it’s about food safety as well.”  – Hu Kanping Chinese Ecological Civilization Research Promotion Association
Nearly 10 million of China’s 120 million hectares (25 million of 295 million acres) of cultivated land have been polluted, and more than 133,000 hectares (330,000 acres) have been infiltrated or destroyed by solid wastes, according to official statistics. Furthermore, half the soil in southern manufacturing cities is reportedly contaminated with cadmium, arsenic, mercury, petroleum, and organic matter.
“I have seen farmers in Hebei use contaminated water, because there’s nothing else to use. Farmers won’t eat what they produce. They have fields for themselves and fields for the market,” said Hu Kanping of the non-profit Chinese Ecological Civilization Research and Promotion Association, based in Beijing. “This is a very serious problem, not just for farmers but also for everyone else. It’s not just about water safety; it’s about food safety as well.”
Non-point Source Pollution
Spills and other pollution incidents from industrial and sewage treatment plants in recent years have drawn attention to some of China’s dirtiest rivers and lakes. Protests calling for dramatically strengthened environmental safeguards in China are now occurring with more frequency, signaling an awakening of both the public and government’s conscience about the environment.
But few realize that more than half of China’s water pollution comes from agriculture itself: fertilizers, pesticides, and livestock waste that are carried into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and underground aquifers by rainfall and snowmelt.
fertilizer agricultural runoff water contamination algae irrigation canal liaoning china

Photo © Adam Dean for Circle of Blue

High nutrient levels from fertilizer runoff produce mats of thick algae in a main-stem irrigation canal in Liaoning Province.Click image to enlarge slideshow.
This runoff is called agricultural non-point source pollution, because it cannot be traced back to one source, like pollution from a factory can be. Agricultural non-point source pollution is the dominant source of water pollution in China, and it also serves to increase soil erosion and reduce the productivity of the land. This kind of pollution has proved difficult to control globally, and most technical measures in China are focused on prevention rather than treatment.
NGO INNOVATION
While young people around the world are saving up to buy the latest laptops and tablets, recent college graduates Tang He and Dai Xiaoyan are taking on heavy metal pollution in their native Hunan Province. Zinc and indium factories – for new display technologies and other uses – are among the biggest sources of pollution in the Xiang River and have tainted miles of farmland throughout the province.
But Tang He and Dai Xiaoyan, who make up almost the entire staff of the toddling environmental NGO Green Hunan, are pushing the boundaries of open information about water pollution in Hunan’s government.
“When we started this kind of work several years ago, the local environmental protection bureaus were quite surprised that there were people monitoring their work,” Tang He told Circle of Blue. “Many of them didn’t even know that they had to make the pollution data public.”
In a country notorious for its weak local enforcement of pollution control regulations, Green Hunan innovates at the grassroots level by using water samples, fresh data, and existing laws to pressure local governments into releasing water pollution information. They have also built a volunteer network of active citizens, scientists, universities, policymakers, and environmental lawyers to monitor and publicize information about pollution in the Xiang River and its tributaries.
Activism about the environment is growing in China, as its fledgling green movement is taking root in some of the most remote regions of the country. For example, Green Hunan – advised by Liu Shuai, a progressive official at the Hunan People’s Congress Committee who promotes public and media monitoring of local governments – is currently collaborating with scores of other environmental organizations throughout China on a tool to rank Chinese municipal governments and some companies based on how compliant they are in releasing environmental information.
In China, where guanxi – the art of connections and relationships – makes everything easier, environmental NGOs are also learning to build trust with local authorities.
“We avoid being an opponent of the government. Instead, we make an objective assessment and recommendations on their performance, based on real data that we collect,” Tang He said.
Among China’s influential environmentalists is Ma Jun, a 44-year-old former journalist. Now Ma is the head of the Institute of Public and Environment Affairs, which compiled China’s first open-source online database of water and air pollution records and in 2012 prompted multinational giants like Apple to confront the pollution problems created by their Chinese suppliers.
“Environmental NGOs are the oldest NGOs in China. In the beginning, they were very idealistic and passionate; they thought that they could achieve a lot with only very limited knowledge,” Tang He said. “Before, when we talked about non-governmental organizations, people thought that they are anti-government. Now people have a better understanding of what NGOs are and the change that they can make.”
Meanwhile, in Xiangtan, a small city that is an hour-long drive from Changsha, Hunan’s provincial capital, the local environmental protection bureau has created an NGO to monitor metal smelters in a nearby factory district
“We have a very interesting agreement with the city government,” said Mao Jianwei, a Xiangtan volunteer. “If we find water pollution within the city, we will tell the local authorities about it under the table, and they will deal with it internally, without informing the provincial authorities. But if we find a problem outside the city, we will inform the provincial bureau. This helps the local authorities save face and deal with the issue themselves.”
The cruel irony is that China has become the largest producer and consumer of fertilizers and pesticides in the world, according to China’sJournal of Arid Land. Likewise, giant pig and poultry farms have also developed rapidly to satisfy the nation’s growing demand for meat: in 2002, the total livestock waste was more than four times greater than the production of industrial organic pollutants.
In fact, animals produce about 90 percent of the organic pollutants and about half of the nitrogen in China’s water, according to Wang Dong, a senior expert at the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning.
“China is developing too rapidly,” Wang told Circle of Blue. “It took Western countries 100 and more years to develop to this level — it took China 30 years. Our population is too big, and certain problems cannot be avoided when you have such big population.”
Effects on the Economy
Just how much damage China’s soil and water pollution has brought to people’s health, the land’s productivity, and the state’s economy is not completely clear, say authorities both inside and outside the country.
China’s attempt to introduce a “green GDP” in 2004 put the cost of the environment at about 3 percent of economic growth. According to the World Bank, the costs of environmental degradation and resource depletion in China approached 10 percent of GDP over the past decade — of which water pollution accounted for 2.1 percent and soil degradation for 1.1 percent — though this estimate only measured the impact on human health.
Central government authorities have acknowledged industry, agriculture, and cities as sources of pollution and have given a much bigger role to environmental regulations in China’s development plan through 2015. Recent reforms have introduced stricter targets for reducing major pollutants, and with promising results.
The central and provincial governments have invested more in cleaning up rivers and lakes and in reusing recycled water in homes, industries, and even on farm fields. They are also using award payments to persuade local authorities and businesses to take action on environmental programs and other initiatives, such as subsidizing biogas equipment in pig farms and spreading the residual on fields as a more natural alternative to synthetic fertilizers.
Eastern Chinese cities are also clamping down on where businesses can build pig farms, manufacturing factories, and power plants, in hopes of keeping nearby water bodies clean.
Meanwhile, foreign companies are rushing to cash in on cleaning up China’s pollution, as the Chinese government plans to invest $US 63 billion in the water-treatment sector during the current 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015). Though investment in urban wastewater treatment is becoming more common, there is also increasing interest from the private sector in investing in solutions to rural pollution.
As a sign of new attitudes to food, fledgling companies offer to provide an organic certification, printing up organic or “green” food labels — for a fee. Even though agriculture officials promote organic, “green” food, and “no-harm” programs to reduce the use of harmful chemicals in food, there are still many reports of cheating and violations.
Economy & Environment At Odds
Because citizens are calling more attention to the links between pollution and deteriorating public health, independent authorities note that the increased activity is elevating the environment — and water issues in particular — to a much higher political priority in China.
cancer village china water pollution contamination yellow river Liang Jia Wang hospitalization life expectancy

Photo © Aaron Jaffe / Circle of Blue

With no access to water aside from that of the contaminated Yellow River, residents of Liang Jia Wang, one of China’s many “cancer villages,” have noted the alarmingly high cancer rates in the area. The local government posts weekly updates about the hospitalized residents in the village, where the average life expectancy is around 40 to 45 years. Click image to enlarge slideshow.
But controlling agricultural pollution will prove difficult, given that China has such an eclectic mix of farmscapes — from rural households to collective units to those that are state-owned, —since the country’s economic opening in 1978 when many farmers divided up their farmland. Not to mention that, in a country notorious for its weak local enforcement of environmental regulations, central efforts are often at odds with the economic interests of local businesses, governments, and farms.
“It took Western countries 100 and more years to develop to this level — it took China 30 years.”  –Wang Dong, senior expert Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning
China’s overwhelming local protectionism of polluting industries unveils a tight alliance between officials and local industries, often triggered by the pressure on local authorities to show progress in developing the economy. In the years of state-run market economics, local governments prioritize industrial growth, often at the expense of environmental regulation.
As environmental problems persist, social frustration builds up over the lack of effective alternative channels for complaint, the weak local enforcement of environmental laws, and the lack of accountability by the private sector. Many local protests against pollution incidents have thus focused on the strong state-corporate ties that hamper real reforms on the ground.
“All the environmental problems in China are political problems,” Hu Kanping told Circle of Blue. “And water pollution is more difficult to address than air pollution. In many areas, there’s resistance from farmers and local governments to address this problem, because it will affect their irrigation; it will raise their water fees and slow local GDP growth.”
Photos by Adam Dean, as well as Circle of Blue reporters Aaron Jaffe and and Keith Schneider.
 
Choke Point: China is an on-going Circle of Blue series, produced in partnership with the Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum. Through frontline reporting, the project finds new and powerful evidence of a ruinous confrontation between water, food, and energy that is visible across China and is virtually certain to grow more dire over the next decade. Choke Point: China is part of Global Choke Point, which is uncovering new data and strategic narratives about water, food, and energy in the world’s most vulnerable regions.
water pollution contamination china xian shanxi province pesticide plastic bottle irrigation canal agriculture

Photo © Keith Schneider / Circle of Blue   Trash and other debris, including empty plastic pesticide containers, foul an irrigation canal near Xian in Shanxi Province.                            Click image to enlarge slideshow.

Food for thought …….

Half of all food wasted

By Mark Halper | January 10, 2013, 4:43 AM PST

Refer for complete article : http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/bulletin/half-of-all-food-wasted/9855?tag=nl.e662&s_cid=e662

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Dare to eat ’em. Crooked carrots are good, and good for you.

The world throws away up to half of its food according to an alarming report that blames consumers’ fussy preference for cosmetically appealing produce, supermarket promotions that encourage overbuying, and deficient storage, transportation and agricultural practices.

Out of the 4 billion produced annually, between 1.2 billion and 2 billion metric tons of food never reaches a human stomach, the UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers says in Waste Not Want Not – Global Food Waste: Feeding the 9 billion.

“The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering,” says Tim Fox, IME’s head of energy and environment. “This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.

“The reasons for this situation range from poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure through to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encouraging consumers to overbuy through buy-one-get-one-free offers.”

The annual water wastage from growing discarded crops totals about 550 billion cubic meters, IME reports.

As shocking as this situation is today, it could become much worse by 2075 when, according to United Nations estimates, the world will have to feed an extra 3 billion people as the population surges to 9.5 billion.

“As water, land and energy resources come under increasing pressure from competing human demands, engineers have a crucial role to play in preventing food loss and waste by developing more efficient ways of growing, transporting and storing foods,” Fox says.

Consider IME’s report as food for thought the next time you reject a crooked carrot or a lumpy apple.

Photo: Carleton Garden Blogspot

Do assessments of fish stock sustainability work for consumers?

Extract from : www.theconversation.edu.au

AUTHOR

Colin Hunt Honorary Fellow in Economics at University of Queensland

DISCLOSURE STATEMENT

As a consultant, Colin Hunt prepared the assessments of fisheries for the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide. The Conversation provides independent analysis and commentary from academics and researchers.

We are funded by CSIRO, Melbourne, Monash, RMIT, UTS, UWA, Canberra, CDU, Deakin, Flinders, Griffith, La Trobe, Murdoch, QUT, Swinburne, UniSA, UTAS, UWS and VU.

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Photo: Courtesy of Sea Bounty, Portarlington

The report, Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks 2012 is the first official report combining assessments of major Commonwealth and state-managed fisheries into one document. The report paints a rosy picture. Of the 150 fish stocks assessed only two are found to be overfished.

The two overfished stocks are southern bluefin tuna andschool shark.

How should consumers respond to this finding?

In the case of southern bluefin, the fattened fish are sent to Japan, so the Australian consumer is not faced with a decision. The inference is that only school shark, whose stock is fished to a very low level, is of concern. When we go to the market, they’re suggesting, we really don’t need to worry – all the other Aussie fresh fish on offer is sustainable.

Analysis reveals anomalies

A deeper reading of the report throws up some concerns. There are underlying issues with 52 of the 150 stocks assessed. The descriptions of stock status have become very sophisticated in the report. For example “transitional depleting stock” is code for a stock subject to overfishing, and this affects three stocks.

“Transitional recovery stocks” is actually an overfished stock, affecting eight stocks. There are also 25 stocks “undefined”, on which the report fails to express an informed opinion that would help the buyer.

Pink snapper (Pagrus auratus) is a rather worrying classification in point. This is a very popular fish with consumers and with recreational fishers, who take the bulk of the catch. Heavily fished virtually everywhere it occurs and vulnerable to over-exploitation, snapper stocks are generally recognised as precarious. In fact, in state assessments in Queensland, NSW and WA (Shark Bay and West Coast) the stock of pink snapper has been officially classified as overfished. In Victoria, stocks are officially in decline and in SA uncertain.

However, the report asserts that snapper in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria is “undefined”, while in WA it is in “transitional recovery”.

The treatment of the popular southern crayfish (SA, Victoria and Tasmania) is also debatable. The report’s assessment is “sustainable”. But catch rates in the fishery have been in steep decline and stocks have been depleted to a quarter of the previous levels, as acknowledged by the report itself.

The report says the cuts in catch quotas appear to have been successful in generating greater abundance of stock (author’s emphasis). However, lobster egg production as a percentage of virgin egg production suggests extreme caution (see chart).

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An objective assessment should surely conclude that the fishery will need a long recovery period before it can be confidently classified as sustainable.

Consumers’ needs for information

While the report assesses Australian fish stocks with the greatest value and volume there are some notable absences. For example, not included are popular east coast fish jackass morwong, officially overfished; gemfish, subject to overfishing, and blue warehou, officially overfished and subject to overfishing in ABARES’ Fishery Status Reports of 2011. The same applies to the popular garfish in SA and Victoria: both were overfished in state assessments.

The consumer is helped to a limited extent by the classification of major Australian wild fisheries. At a local level, retail outlets carry many fish not covered in the report. Some of these would be locally caught and some raised in ponds or pens. But most of the fish on offer is imported – we now consume more cheap imports than we do domestic fish. Moreover, sales of canned fish are high – take a look at the overwhelming choice in the supermarket. But again the report is no help.

Apart from the sustainability of fish per se, consumers are becoming more aware of the bycatch and environmental problems associated with fishing. The recent banning of the super trawler Abel Tasman, largely because of seal mortality, is an example of the importance the public attaches to bycatch issues once it is informed.

The South East Trawl Fishery, responsible for much of the nation’s “sustainable” fish – blue grenadier, flathead and silver warehou – is notorious for its bycatch. Many more seals die in the nets of the 35 small trawlers than would have been killed by the Abel Tasman.

Again, prawns are listed as “sustainable”, but the level of bycatch is an issue. In Australian prawn fisheries between 300 and 500 other species are commonly trawled along with the prawns; and most bycatch is returned to the ocean dead.

On visiting the fish and chip shop this Friday, differentiating between the overfished school shark and other “sustainable” shark sold as flake will be a challenge. I am sure consumers would be interested to know that in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area many thousands of 40 species of these top predators, which are in serious decline globally, are caught in nets every year.

The sanctioned shark catch includes some 2000 scalloped hammerhead, which is listed as endangered world-wide by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Many consumers would also have qualms about buying Atlantic salmon if appraised of its problems. Fish pens are taking up a large proportion of some formerly pristine Tasmanian estuaries. Furthermore, there are ethical considerations – that some take seriously – over confining such predators at high concentrations.

An ecological assessment of key fisheries by the report’s authors is said to be two years away. Meanwhile, consumers would do well to consult the guides available from non-government organisations before they go shopping or, while they are shopping, using the apps available for smart phones. These cover the sustainability of imports, aquaculture and canned fish, while providing information on bycatch and the environmental effects of fishing.

“Buy Bellarine” Re-Focusing the Bellarine Community on Fresh Local Produce – be a VOLUNTEER

You Are Where You Eat:

Re-Focusing the Bellarine Community on Fresh Local Produce;

Will YOU support “Buy Bellarine” as a VOLUNTEER?

Picture yourself at the supermarket, awash in fluorescent light.

You’re trying to stock up for the next couple of weeks, since it’s a busy time of year.

You’re trying to eat healthy, and you wish there was somewhere to go that you knew would have real fresh local produce that you could buy.
Now imagine that the Bellarine had a public market– the kind of place that’s easy to pop by to grab fresh food every couple of days.  Well we are putting this together right now and need your support in the way of keen volunteers to make this a reality.

Please fill out the no obligation secure form below for us to contact you. Thank you for your time and interest.

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The breathtaking central hall of Cleveland’s West Side Market, a major hub in the host city for this year’s International Public Markets Conference (Sept. 21-23) / Photo: PBS NewsHour via Flickr

Seawater greenhouse – just add solar

 Seawater greenhouse – just add solar

By Sophie Vorrath -RenewEconomy on 19 April 2012

South Australia’s Port Augusta, with its abundant solar resource, has recently been pegged as the ideal location for the development of a concentrating solar thermal power plant – and understandably so.

But what about a 2000 square metre greenhouse? It would seem an unlikely match for hot, dry Port August, yet while the region’s CSP plant proposal remains just that, an enormous solar-powered greenhouse has indeed been built – and it’s producing a fine crop of tomatoes.
Behind the project is Sundrop Farms: a group of international scientists (and an investment banker) whose goal has been to devise a system of growing crops that doesn’t require a fresh water supply. How does it work? “It all begins with a 70 metre-long stretch of solar panels,” says Pru Adam’s on ABC Radio’s Landline: a series of concave mirrors which focus the sun’s energy onto a black tube that runs through the centre of the panels. The tube is filled with thermal oil, which is superheated up to 160°C, then pumped through the tube back to a little storage shed, where its heat is transferred to a water storage system. Some of this stored heat goes towards greenhouse temperature control, some to powering the facility, but most is used for desalination of the tidal bore water. When the heat goes to the thermal desal unit it meets up with relatively cold seawater and the temperature difference creates condensation.
“It’s pretty simple to understand,” said Reinier Wolterbeek, Sundrop’s project manager and head of technology development, in a 2010 television interview with Southern Cross News. “If you have a fresh water bottle from your refrigerator, and you put it in a room, then condensation forms on the sides. That’s more or less what we try to mimic over here; the cold sea water, from the ground, we put it through plastic tubes, we blow hot, very moist air against these plastic tubes, condensation forms on the tubes, we catch the condensation, and that’s actually the irrigation for the tomato crops.” The brine ends up in ponds and the salt can be extracted as a saleable by-product.
Sundrop Farms Solar Desalination
So, while this large-ish commercial-scale greenhouse (they’ve tested a smaller version in Oman), perched, as Adams describes it, “in the remains of flogged-out farmland,” really is an incongruous sight in Port Augusta, it’s there for good reason.
“We looked on a world map, and funnily enough, Port Augusta is the ideal place,” Wolterbeek told Southern Cross News. “It’s really close to the sea, so we have a lot of seawater available, and it’s very dry, which is good for the process of the technology.”
Philipp Saumweber, Sundrop’s managing director who is a former Goldman Sachs investment banker with an economics degree from Harvard, describes the project as unique. “Nobody has done what we’re doing before and to our knowledge nobody has done something even similar,” Saumweber told Landline. “What we think is so unique about our system is we’re not just addressing either an energy issue or a water issue, we’re really addressing both of those together to produce food from abundant resources and do that in a sustainable way.”
David Travers – CEO of the University College London’s Adelaide office, who became Sundrop’s chairman after being convinced of the merit of its technology – agrees. “Well it’s unique in the sense that it’s the only example we’re aware of in the world where there’s that complete integration of the collection of solar energy, the desalination of water, the production of energy sources from electricity through to heating and storage and then the growing of plants, in this case tomatoes and capsicums, in a greenhouse environment,” he told Landline. “It’s the totality of that system that makes it quite unique.”
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http://www.sundropfarms.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/ADV06MAR12STF06.pdf

You Are Where You Eat: Re-Focusing Communities Around Markets

You Are Where You Eat: Re-Focusing Communities Around Markets; Will YOU support “Buy Bellarine”?

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The breathtaking central hall of Cleveland’s West Side Market, a major hub in the host city for this year’s International Public Markets Conference (Sept. 21-23) / Photo: PBS NewsHour via Flickr

Picture yourself at the supermarket, awash in fluorescent light. You’re trying to stock up for the next couple of weeks, since it’s a busy time of year. You grab some granola bars (and maybe even a box of pop tarts), some frozen dinners, a box of macaroni with one of those little packets of powdered cheese stuff. And oh, they’re running one of those promotions where you can get ten cans of soup for, like, a dollar each. Perfect! Dinner for the next two weeks. On the way to the register, you swing by the produce aisle to grab a bunch of bananas. Like many people these days, you’re trying to eat healthy, and breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
Now imagine that your neighborhood had a public market–the kind of place that’s easy to pop by on the way home from work to grab fresh food every couple of days. Before you reach the open-air shed, you’re surrounded by produce of every shape and color; you can smell oranges and basil from half a block away. As you follow your appetite through the maze of bins and barrels, you bump into your neighbors, and make plans to head downtown to the central market over the weekend to take a cooking class and pick up some less common ingredients. You may even make a day of it and check out the new weekly craft fair that takes place the next block over.

Up in Nova Scotia, where Davies and O’Neil have been working with the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, Operations Manager Ewen Wallace notes the importance of his market (which does have its own permanent building) in the local community. “Throughout my involvement in this project and spending so much time face-to-face with the community at large” he says, “the thing that’s really hit home is that the people of Halifax really do consider this their market.”

Buy BellarineShoppers peruse the booths at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market / Photo: Nicole Bratt via Flickr

And while the market is truly a stalwart (they’ve never missed a Saturday in 262 years!), the role that it plays in the regional economy contributes greatly to the sense of community ownership, since most residents of Atlantic Canada are just a generation away from a farmer or fisherman. “At the end of World War II,” Wallace explains, “we had around 35,000 independent farms in Nova Scotia. Now we have around 3,800. This market is intended to serve as a hub from which money in the urban core is being channeled back into rural areas around the province. This is all tied to food security.”
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