USDA Retracts its Support for Meatless Mondays

Some advocates are lobbying for the country to embrace meatless Mondays. This is an initiative for people to eliminate meat from their diets one day out of the week. With this policy, participating schools and restaurants will remove all meat from its lunches and menus on Mondays. Advocates say this will help the environment tremendously, as the production of meat, especially cattle, creates waste water, fossil fuel and fertilizer, all of which can ultimately have an effect on climate change.

The policy initially received support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but the USDA quickly did a 180 and retracted the support after receiving harsh criticism from cattle farmers who say that such a policy could hurt their livelihood. The USDA has now tweeted that it no longer supports meatless Mondays.

Peggy Nue, who runs Monday Campaigns, an organization that supports Meatless Mondays, says that giving up meat just one day a week can greatly reduce one’s overall intake of saturated fats, which can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. She added that this would also cut down on the production of meat, which can be beneficial for the environment. Cattle and other livestock produce manure that contains methane gas, which emits greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

Cattle ranchers and republican lawmakers are intervening to put a halt to Meatless Mondays, citing that the production of cattle is vital for most businesses that are involved in meat export and trade. The American Meat Institute has also stepped in and said that the daily consumption of meat by the average American is within recommended dietary guidelines.

Meatless Mondays is turning out to be a complex issue; while people want to help out the environment and improve their health while at it, they also need to be careful about the businesses that could be hurt by their decisions.

Durban Climate Conference

Later on in 2011, international climate change negotiators will meet in Africa to look back on the famine which is now sweeping the eastern parts of that continent, and make predictions that climate change will be largely injurious to Africa’s future food production.

The World Bank’s special envoy on climate change, Andrew Steer, told The Associated Press:

“The challenges are overwhelming… Africa needs to triple food production by 2050…At the same time, you’ve got climate change lowering average yields …. So, of course, we need something different.”

He hopes for a refocused look at agriculture to take place at the talks that are to be held in South Africa’s eastern city of Durban, the first talks in Africa since Nairobi hosted a round in 2006. South Africa says that as chair of the Durban conference, it will alert the industrializing nations to deliver money and technology to help developing countries in Africa to create clean industries and cope with the droughts and floods.

Africa is hard hit by the effects of climate change and needs more money for managing water and creating seeds for food crops which can withstand droughts and floods.

Researchers with the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that global agriculture accounts for 14 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than transportation’s 13 percent and almost at the industry’s 19 percent. Farming’s contribution to global warming possibly might offset techniques to store and sequester more and more carbon in soil and trees.

Sequestering carbon is good for the environment and has even yielded increases.

“You invest in things that are good for yields, good for resilience and also sequester more carbon…You can have it both ways if you get carbon back in soils.”

Steer says it is hard to determine exactly how much money is needed, and cautioned that while agreements on helping poor countries and a focus on agriculture could emerge at Durban.

Durban isn’t “a pledging session”, mind you, said Mr. Steer on the sidelines of a climate change conference on farming which attracted agriculture ministers from across Africa to Johannesburg.

In a speech which opened the Johannesburg conference, South African agriculture minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said that “Food security, poverty and climate are closely linked and should not be considered separately.”

The New England Butchers

There are not many slaughterhouses in New England that are equipped to process large quantities of beef, however, Paul Miller ships cattle from his dairy farm in eastern Connecticut some 300 miles to a Pennsylvanian meatpacker.

Miller prefers to send the cattle to a slaughterhouse in the area so he can sell locally produced beef, save on the costs of transportation and avoid long rides for calves that lose weight during shipping. New England officials of agriculture would also prefer that because their purpose is to increase food production to make the region more self-sufficient in case disasters such as huge snow storms and terrorist attacks make it hard to deliver food.

The real stumbling blocks, however, for meat processors and farmers are many: building a slaughterhouse is a huge investment, and local zoning rules bar such businesses. Meatpackers in New England say that it is hard to compete price-wise with slaughterhouses in other states, and it is difficult for them to keep skilled meat cutters and other workers. Because New England only has 28 slaughterhouses, said Chelsea Lewis, agriculture development coordinator for the Vermont Agency for Agriculture. Wisconsin, on the other hand has some 285 small meat processors.

STING: City Farmer Movie Maker

Sting is famous for his involvement with the Rainforest Foundation, which he co-founded in 1989 with his wife Trudie Styler. The foundation seeks to protect the Amazon rainforest from deforestation. Well, last month the music legend played a benefit concert for the organization.

But Sting’s eco-friendly activism does not stop there. He is also involved in other environmental causes such as supporting sustainable food – which is the inspiration for the artist’s next production: Sting is producing a film about Vertical Farming.

Sting and manager Kathryn Shenker, the project’s partner, purchased the film rights to:
The Vertical Farm: Feeding Ourselves and the World in the 21st Century. The book written by the concept’s proponent Dr. Dickson Despommier, a professor at Manhattan’s Columbia University, is set to be released in October by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press.

Vertical farming is a system of farming in which food is grown within tall city buildings as quite an effectual means of using land and a way to get fresh food to the local residents.

The book describes the system as such:

“Imagine a world where every town has its own local food source, grown in the safest way possible, where no drop of water or particle of light is wasted, and where a simple elevator ride can transport you to nature’s grocery store—imagine the world of the vertical farm.”

Sting says that the film will document the first vertical farm to be constructed in a major U.S. city. The movie will be shot in Newark, New Jersey.

Last week, Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago made the announcement that he is also supporting plans to establish a vertical farm in Chicago. In a building near Milwaukee’s former historic stockyards, at a conference last week, Daley spoke of his vision of organic foods grown the year-round.

Actually, the Chicago Sustainable Manufacturing Center is working with the Illinois Institute of Technology on a vertical farm called The Plant. The plan, located in an old meatpacking plant, will develop a vertical farm including farming Tilapia and then recycling the wastewater from the fish tanks for the plants in the building.

Vertical farming proposals have actually been much talked about throughout the last decade, as an agricultural solution for world hunger in the 21st century created in high-rises as a sustainable form of urban agriculture.

The Green Light is on Beer

We are on the heels of the hot sunny summer season – and what with global warming, things are only going to be getting hotter. Let’s face it, you’re going to want something cold to drink – and if you’re anything like me, you’ll go for a beer.

Since environmentalists love The Ancient Brew of Hops, in our environmentally aware time we’ve witnessed a boom in green, organic spirits, sustainable and renewable energy-powered breweries.

There’s a lot that you can do to be a green drinker: you can support sustainable and even solar powered breweries, you can drink strictly organic, pesticide-free beers. And by God steer clear of excessive packaging in cans and bottles.

Luckily, organic beer is a growing force in the booze industry. If a beer bears an organic label, that means that it has been certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It adheres to strict, legally binding farming regulations. It means that you can expect the barley and hops to be organically grown: no toxic pesticides, no chemical preservatives and no artificial fertilizers. Drinking and buying organic is also a nice way to support more sustainable agriculture, and even to contest global warming.

Look out for beer companies that are going the distance to achieve environmental responsibility. For instance, Sierra Nevada, powers its brewery with solar power, while Anderson Brewery in Chico, could well be the first truly 100% sustainable brewery. Or check out Cascade Green, an Antipodean beer company that offsets its emissions by 100%. Plus they’re delicious beers.

Bottoms up.

Organic “Vegitecture” Architecture

Ken Yeang concept buildingWe have business districts, and we have agriculture. Agriculture takes up a lot of land and resources, and agriculture is, in fact, the most damaging industry worldwide when it comes to environmental impact. So imagine combining the business district with agriculture. What you have, as a result, is “vegitecture.” Big skyscrapers covered with leaves and vegitation.

Architect Ken Yeang is the world’s leading vegitect, and his designs use walls of plants, solar panels, and the structure and of the building itself to collect water and catch cooling air currents. It enables the building to catch its own energy and rely less on outside sources, like power lines. He even talks of “vertical farms.” That is, your food grows on your wall. You go out, scale it, and pick out a nice tomato.

Green BuildingThis is a Ken Yeang concept building, and in Paris he’s already engineered green walls that provide natural cooling to the city, and suck up a lot of the carbon output while they’re at it. Even now, NASA uses plants to clean the air on space shuttle missions, and you know how you can feed plants garbage water and they don’t seem to mind at all? I mean, provided there aren’t any heavy metals or chemicals in it, just good old smelly organic garbage water. So yes, they can also be used to recycle used water by buildings.

Concrete is a material that bounces heat off and makes the outside that much more sweltering than it already is. Plants soak up heat and cool things down, so people can turn down their air conditioners. There just doesn’t seem to be any downs to this idea. If you grow food on buildings, then people stop starving, you save land, you save energy, and you live in an urban jungle. Wave of the future? Just one of them. Surf’s coming in…