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August 18 – 22, 2014

Agriculture & Climate Change

Over the last 150 years, conventional agriculture has been one of several dominating contributors to climate change through deforestation, pollution, and erosion of vital top soil. Scientists talk about peak oil and peak water, conditions that signal a point where our consumption will outstrip the availability of remaining resources. Economic collapse is their dire prediction. They could be right, but scare tactics won’t bring about a shift in consciousness. People run from bad news, not toward it. The answer is to build consensus on a foundation of innovative ideas, find out what works, then let solutions ​like methane digesters, biochar and carbon sequestration​ spread.

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THIS WEEK’S TERMS

CLIMATE CHANGE

Since the Industrial Revolution, a range of human activities – including the use of fossil fuels – has led to the increased release of carbon dioxide, methane, and other heat trapping gases into the atmosphere. This “greenhouse effect” has raised temperatures and triggered a change in ​both ​global ​and regional climate patterns.

PEAK OIL

“The moment in time when the world rate of crude oil production reaches a maximum and begins to decline. The peak will probably be driven by a combination of geological, economic, and political factors. Since oil powers nearly all transportation, and transport is key to trade, if the peak happens soon (before substitutes are found and deployed) the result will almost certainly be sharp economic decline.” — Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon Institute

PEAK WATER

“The idea that there are ultimate limits to our ability to take and use water from natural systems. For rivers, streams, and many aquifers, humanity is reaching (or passing) those limits now.” — Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute

DEFORESTATION

Removing a forest for agricultural or other human uses. This type of change in land use releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere contributing to the rise in temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns.

CARBON SEQUESTRATION

Excessive carbon in our atmosphere is considered a major contributor to climate change, so practices that remove carbon from the air and capture it in the soil are increasingly in vogue among progressive farmers.

METHANE DIGESTER

Methane from cow waste is a greenhouse gas and one of the largest single forms of air pollution in California. It’s literally heating up the planet. A methane digester converts methane waste into a useful fuel to power machinery on a farm, which could reduce energy costs by 90 percent.
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Agriculture, Energy & Climate Change

An estimated 33% of the total global warming effect can be attributed to the food system. Sustainable Table provides a summary of the food and climate change connection and provides information consumers can use to make more climate-friendly food choices. Read More.

Grace Communications Foundation develops innovative strategies to increase public awareness of the critical environmental and public health issues created by our current food, water and energy systems, and to promote a more sustainable future.

INFORMATION ARTWORK

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Local Book CoverTitle: Mobstocking
Location: Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia
Featuring: Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm
Found on pages 178-179 of LOCAL: The New Face of Food & Farming in America

Lignin is the glue that holds plant cellulose together; as a plant matures lignification leads to a stranger cellulosic structure. Nature does not do green manuring. Nature does not let biomass drop to the soil surface until it’s brown-lignified. This happens when animal meets plant. Brown cellulose burns-its energy-and drives the soil food web.

Plants create bilateral symmetry at the soil horizon. When grazed they voluntarily prune off an equivalent amount of root biomass to maintain symmetry. This “pulsing” occurs exponentially as plants achieve their juvenile growth spurt. This root biomass leaves carbon in the soil rather than exhausting it into the atmosphere.

This routine dumping of organic matter into the soil feeds the soil biota (earthworms, for example).

The herd is an organism, a mob, rather than a group of individuals. In nature this is created by predation pressure. Here we use an electric fence, which we move every day.

Stocking means placing animals in a specific place for a specific time. These herbivores are catalyst of this solar collection/biomass system. Their eating and defecating stimulate plants to grow.

This field runs on real time sun energy, not stored carbon like petroleum. The best solar collector ever invented is still photosynthesis. It converts solar energy into vegetative, decomposable biomass (that’s what runs the earth’s ecosystem).

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Perspectives: Food and Climate Change

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What’s the connection between food and global warming? Author Michael Pollan and sustainable food advocate Anna Lappé suggest how food miles impact our carbon footprint. Read More.

 

Nourish empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment, by driving consumer choice and civic action with breakthrough research and an informed public.


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Meat Eater’s Guide

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U.S. meat consumption has held steady for the past several years, but Americans consume 60 percent more than Europeans and the global appetite for meat is exploding. From 1971 to 2010, worldwide production of meat tripled to around 600 billion pounds while global population grew by just 81 percent.

Producing all this meat and dairy requires large amounts of pesticides, chemical fertilizer, fuel, feed and water. It also generates greenhouse gases and large amounts of toxic manure and wastewater that pollute groundwater, rivers, streams and, ultimately, the ocean. In addition, eating large quantities of beef and processed meats increases your exposure to toxins and is linked to higher rates of health problems, including heart disease, cancer and obesity.

The Environmental Working Group has assessed the greenhouse gas emissions associated with 20 types of meat, fish, dairy and vegetable proteins, as well as these foods’ effects on health, and compiled The Meat Eater’s Guide full of helpful tips, information and how to decode labels. Read More.

Environmental Working Group empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment, by driving consumer choice and civic action with breakthrough research and an informed public.

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Can Cows Actually Save the Planet?

CowsSavePlanet_LRAs the concentration of C02 and other greenhouse gasses increases, the planet gets warmer and increasingly inhospitable to humans and other species. From this perspective, anything that contributes to the gases increases the problem, and the Earth’s abundant livestock are significant culprits, releasing both methane and nitrous oxide in notable levels. But are livestock being maligned a bit unfairly?

The title of Judith Schwartz’s book, Cows Save the Planet, may lead you to believe this is a book all about cows, but it’s really about turning our ideas about livestock and climate change on their head, and taking a more holistic perspective that puts the soil and its rich microbial life at the heart of our dynamic global ecosystem. Her book is a ground-up view of how we might address climate change and begin to regenerate the planet. Read More.

Sustainable Food Trust is committed to facing challenges and exploring solutions for a food production system that causes the least possible harm to both humans and the environment through principles of “good science” and in sharing the findings of high quality research with as many people as possible.

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Local Book CoverTitle: Methane Digester
Location: Marshall, CA
Featuring: Albert Straus of Straus Family Creamery
Found on page 266 of LOCAL: The New Face of Food & Farming in America

Albert’s father started the farm in 1941. The two became partners in 1977, and by ’94 it became the first certified organic dairy and creamery west of the Mississippi.

METHANE DIGESTER
1) Barn slurry, sileage runoff, and creamery waste flow into the slurry pit.
2) This mixture is pumped into a devise which separates the manure’s solids and liquids.
3) The liquid flows by gravity into the digester pond.
4) Anaerobic digestion = bacteria digests the waste and gives off methane gas
5) The methane gas fuels a generator that offsets the farm’s energy use by 90%.
6) Heat captured from the engine makes hot water used to wash equipment in the milking barn.

The digester tarp is made from polypropylene methane = a greenhouse gas produced by cow flatulence and defecation which pollutes the environment.

WHAT THE DIGESTER DOES (IN 30-40 DAYS)
1) Saves money by generating 300,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year
2) Eliminates a greenhouse gas 23 times more damaging than CO2
3) Converts nitrogen into a more usable form for plants
4) Cuts down on the odor and flies around the farm

Ten cubic yards of manure solids are produced each day. These are hauled to another location, composted, then spread on fields as fertilizer.

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Soil: An Ally Underfoot

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We know that pumping too much carbon in the atmosphere disturbs the climate cycle and too much in the ocean causes them to acidify. Sinking atmospheric carbon in the ground, however, is actually a good thing as converted into soil carbon, it helps plants to grow. One of our biggest potential climate allies is directly under our feet: soil. Healthy, living soil has an enormous capacity to store carbon. Improving the health of degraded soil holds tremendous potential to mitigate climate change. Read More.

Center for Food Safety is a national non-profit public interest and environmental advocacy organization working to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS’s successful legal cases collectively represent a landmark body of case law on food and agricultural issues.

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Can Farmers Save the Planet?

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When it comes to climate change, agriculture is often called part of the problem. But could it be part of the solution?

Whendee Silver, professor of Environmental Science at UC Berkeley California, knows that we’re on increasingly thin ice as global temperatures rise – we urgently need to reduce our emissions, but reduction alone will not solve the climate crisis. Read More.

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Local Book CoverTitle: Biochar
Location: Hawaiian Mahogany Farm at Lawai, Hawai’i
Featuring: Jeff Wallin and Josiah Hunt of The Biochar Company
Found on page 121 of LOCAL: The New Face of Food & Farming in America

BIOCHAR: a sustainably made charcoal substance that increases soil fertility (and sequesters carbon).

Black is the new green.

5 PROPERTIES THAT MAKE BIOCHAR VALUABLE IN AGRICULTURE:
1) A biochar particle is porous; its high surface area allows it to CAPTURE and RETAIN many times its weight in WATER.
2) It INCREASES NUTRIENT EFFICIENCY by attracting cations (positively charged ions, which include plant nutrients like calcium, magnesium and potassium) and anions (negatively charged ion, which include nitrates and phosphates), sharing them with the soil food web.
3) Biochar is RESISANT to biological and environmental DECAY. It can last in the soil for hundreds to thousands of years, making it an affective form of CARBON SEQUESTRATION.
4) Provides a SECURE HABITAT for fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms.
5) It ENHANCES SOIL AERATION.

HOW TO MAKE BIOCHAR:
1) Fast growing Albizia trees are cut down.
2) A chipper turns the timber into wood ships.
3) The wood chips are shoveled into a feed conveyor.
4) The conveyor maintains a constant flow of chips into the kiln.
5) A kiln converts the wood chips into biochar via the process of pyrolysis — from the Greek: PYRO (fire) + LYSIS (separatint). The combination of intense heat + limited oxygen makes it possible to convert organic carbon (wood) into stable carbon (biochar).
6) Steaming hot char travels out of the kiln and drops into a wheelbarrow.
7) The biochar is now ready for agricultural use, either by adding it directly to the soil or mixing it with additional soil amendments.

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BIOCHAR

In Brazil’s Central Amazonian Basin, scientists have studied how farmers, for thousands of years​, ​have created rich soils to support microbial life and improve their crop yields. Their secret is a principle called “Terra Preta”. It uses pyrolysis to create a charcoal-like substance that greatly increases a soil’s resilience. Today, technology ​helps create a modern form of terra preta​ ​called ​biochar​, ​which ​strengthens the soil food web and creates a more biologically dynamic system to grow your food.
FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE
Dr. Elaine Ingham of Soil Foodweb Inc.
Jeff Wallin and Josiah Hunt of The Biochar Company
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Cutting Corn Ethanol Will Lower Greenhouse Emissions

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With the release of soil carbon and the growth in nitrous oxide emissions from the conversion of uncultivated land to grow corn has made corn ethanol worse for the climate than the gasoline that corn ethanol was intended to displace. Read More.

STORY BANK INTERVIEWS

Find innovative ideas and facts from our interviews with Lexicon thought leaders.

Danielle Nierenberg of Food Tank

Danielle-NierenbergDanielle Nierenberg is an expert on sustainable agriculture and food issues. She is currently the co-founder of FoodTank: The Food Think Tank. Danielle served as a Food and Agriculture Senior Researcher at Worldwatch from 2001-2012 working on major research projects on gender and population, the global meat economy, emerging infectious diseases related to the food system, climate change and agriculture, and innovations in sustainable agriculture. From 2009-2012, Danielle was the Director of the Nourishing the Planet project housed at the Worldwatch Institute. Danielle worked with more than 60 authors from all over the world to produce State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet.

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Climate-Smart Agriculture Hits the 21st Century

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Climate-smart agriculture – agriculture that is productive, resilient, and part of the solution to the climate problem – must become the new paradigm in the 21st century. Why is climate-smart agriculture so important? Find out three good reasons. Read More.

 

Food Tank seeks to align agricultural systems with nutritionally sound and environmentally responsible food systems that will bring about sustainable growth for farmers and entrepreneurs—and healthy food for eaters through public education and events, aggregation and dissemination of current research, innovation, and the execution of new research.


Recipe of the Week By Chef Ann Cooper

Chef-Ann-Cooper-thumbnailChef Ann Cooper is the Renegade Lunch Lady. She is an internationally recognized author, chef, educator, public speaker, and advocate of healthy food for all children. She is also the founder of Food Family Farming Foundation.
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3 Ways to Combat Climate Change With Your Garden

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3 simple steps to grow a garden and combat climate change:
1. Map out plant placement for maximize growing space and adequate sun exposure. In addition to garden beds, plants can also grow upwards by vining, and in hanging pots and smaller containers throughout your yard and garden.
2. Maintain healthy soil. I make sure to rotate the location of plants from the previous year. In prepping the garden for the growing season, we mix our household compost into the soil to feed our plants throughout the summer months.
3. Bring native plants into your yard that attract and feed the bees. Our world is seeing a large reduction in bee populations due to heavy pesticide use and this is threatening our food supply. Another good reason to avoid toxics in your yard and garden.

Read more tips from a concerned mother who is reducing her family’s carbon footprint.

The Green Divas Show is a one-hour, weekly and interactive internet-based radio broadcast that inspires sustainable living from a guilt-free, low-stress perspective—making green information accessible to a broad audience using credible resources, humor and technology.

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