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A selection of interesting things you may have missed over the Summer
I don’t know about you but September is turning out to be one heck of a busy month for me. Where did the summer go? And am I the only one who feels like the summer break was a long, long time ago?
And if you’re wondering why the newsletter is late this week, well, I had a total of 15 calls over the past two days alone and it took a while to recover from all that to write this.
Lastly, if anyone is gonna be in Gothenburg next week or if you just have tips on good places to eat and drink, please give me a shout. I’ll be there to attend the Global Investigative Journalism Conference.
The Great Land Squeeze
Did you know that “around 85% of the world’s usable land has already been heavily harvested for wood or converted to agriculture”, accounting for about 25% the carbon that humanity has added to the atmosphere?
Well, you do now, thanks to the foreword of a report from the World Resources Institute (WRI) that was published in late June.
Despite the fact that the world’s lands are already heavily used, demand for land-based products like food and wood continues to grow and if nothing changes, land twice the size of India will need to be converted for agriculture and land the size of the continental United States will be needed to meet the increasing demand for wood, it added.
This means emissions from agricultural expansion, wood harvests, and urban expansion are likely to hit 10 billion tons of CO₂ equivalent per year by 2050 unless significant efforts are made to curb our appetite for them.
Cutting down trees to grow food will be responsible for more than half of these emissions: 6 billion tons of CO₂ equivalent or 240 billion tons over a 40-year period.
This amounts to 25% - 40% of the maximum cumulative CO₂ emissions “budget” we have between 2010 and 2050 if we want to limit warming to manageable levels. In other words, the goal of keeping temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be out of reach.
So what needs to be done? WRI says we need “strategies that produce, protect, reduce, and restore: produce more food and wood on already managed land, protect native habitats, reduce demand for land-intensive products, and, if successful, restore forests and other habitats”.
If you would rather watch a webinar marking the report’s launch instead of reading it, here it is.
Big Meat Blocks Alternatives
Intense lobbying by the livestock industry in the U.S. and European Union have stymied the development of alternative proteins that are less destructive on the environment, said a Stanford University study published in One Earth in August.
“Powerful vested interests exerted their political influence to maintain the system unchanged and to obstruct competition created by technological innovations,” said the paper, which analysed subsidies and government policies on livestock and plant-based alternatives over the past few years.
In the U.S., about 800 times more public funding and 190 times more lobbying money goes to meat and dairy than alternatives. The EU is not much better, with 1,200 times more public funding and three times more lobbying money going to animal-source food products.
The study also found that in the EU, these subsidies constitute at least 50% of the income for cattle producers.
“Despite the climate and biodiversity crises and the urgency to implement effective mitigation measures, both the EU and US governments are slow to act decisively to mitigate the environmentally damaging role played by the dominant animal production systems,” the authors said.
Al Gore Does It Again
A new TED Talk from Al Gore dropped in July and whatever you may think of the format and style of these talks, please have a listen to this one. It deserves your full attention.
The man who gave us “An Inconvenient Truth” did not pull his punches when it comes to criticising fossil fuel companies for their wilful ignorance of science and disregard for the environment and humanity’s future.
Ultra-processed Foods’ Foray Into Africa
This two-page commentary published in Nature Food touches on the partnership between Nestlé, the world’s largest ultra-processed food manufacturer which has repeatedly been criticised for its marketing of formula milk, with AGRA, an African non-profit backed by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on last November’s Africa Food Prize.
The topic of ultra-processed foods is big these days because of fears that these foods in general are low in nutrients, rich in empty calories, and contribute to the global epidemic of micronutrient deficiencies.
But this letter, from a group of mainly African researchers, raises concerns about how this partnership could further entrench corporate power at the expense of human and planetary health.
A Visual Story on El Niño’s Impact on Food Security
If you’ve ever wondered how El Niño, a weather phenomenon associated with higher temperatures and drier than normal conditions, could affect food production, this visual story from Devex does a fine job of explaining what it is, what it means for the world, where its impacts will be felt the most, and what can be done to better prepare ourselves.
The current El Niño is raising more alarm bells than usual because it is coming on the back of record-breaking temperatures and the presence of El Nino is likely to worsen the situation.
Global Food Crisis Is a Human Rights Crisis
Three food systems specialists who also happen to be human rights experts wrote this call to arms at the end of June, saying that reducing global hunger must be done hand-in-hand with a recognition of the right to food and nutrition.
“Food systems’ profound inequality, structural discrimination, and systemic violence have persisted for too long, and ordinary citizens around the world are demanding change,” they wrote.
“Respect for human rights must form the basis of any effort to reduce acute hunger.”
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