Ecologic Meeting March 26, 2009

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Ecologic Meeting Minutes 3/26/09

Announcements

Parade

  • This Saturday, March 28th at 4pm, wear green
  • Meet by the field house
  • Ends in front of Commons with a barbeque

Tie-dye event for EcoHall Challenge

  • Sunday, March 29th, 2009
  • In front of Commons

Kilo-watt event

  • Tell people how much energy they are using

Guest Speaker

Abby Kinchy(kincha@rpi.edu) - professor in science and technology department, teaches Food farms and famine

Became a vegetarian around age 16

Started eating meat from local sources

Recent research – relationship between livestock and global warming

Food production surpasses fossil fuels in source of greenhouse gasses.

Food produces twice as many fossil fuels as driving

8.1 tons of CO2 emissions created from household food

80% of greenhouse gases from food come from livestock production

Globally, livestock cause 18% of greenhouse gases

FAO – analyzed each stage of livestock production

  • Sources of emission – burning fossil fuels to produce corn
    • Producing fertilizers, from natural gas
    • Land-use changes
    • Land degradation
    • Ruminants; cattle, goats
    • Manure produces methane and nitrous oxide
    • Fossil fuel use for transportation

Alternatives

  • Eating locally to reduce food miles
    • This is only a small portion of green house gases from live stock production
  • Stop eating so much meat – for a person to switch from animal to vegetable based diet would be equivalent to cutting 8,100 miles you drive out of the year
  • Drop 1.5 tons of greenhouse gas emissions/person
  • Not necessary to go completely vegetarian – if you shift one day away from beef and dairy, you can reduce by 760 fewer miles per year
    • Cows – produce methane, most potent greenhouse gas: suggests having fewer cows
    • Feed given to cows(mostly corn)
      • Corn requires fossil fuels, other animals use corn more efficiently
        • Requires fertilizers
    • Pesticides, water degradation from runoff, ammonia emissions from hog farming, reduction of biodiversity

Discussion

Soy has some problems too, grown on rainforest land, genetically modified, etc. Opinion on genetically modified foods – a lot of uncertainties, could be ecosystem consequences we aren’t aware of; could be food safety issues; concerned about patenting, could have significant effects on farmers; once you have a gmf crop, it can spread

Benefits of GM – Golden rice – has been modified to have high beta carotene??

  • Critics have said it’s a publicity stunt to show biotech can be used for good
  • Vitamin a deficiencies, bc cant afford vegetables or produce crops for sale only such as rice
  • Some critics – you would need many bowls of golden rice
  • Incorporate genes to make plants resistant to pests, produce natural pesticide, so far pretty good
    • Eventually pets will grow resisitant
    • Effects will wear out
  • Herbicide resistance – ploy to cell more herbicides
    • Allow you to spray many herbicides

A lot of seemingly small organic labels are owned by large food companies

Resources and Recommendations

‘’’Books’’’ ‘’Stuffed and Starved’’ by Raj Patel

  • chapter about soy

‘’Laurel’s Kitchen’’

‘’’Projects’’’ Try to get the public mind to make the connection between food choices and global warming

‘’’Websites’’’ Water Consumption chart courtesy of Good Magazine

A summary of the findings of a major 2006 FAO study on the environmental impacts of livestock production: http://www.fao.org/ag/magazine/0612sp1.htm

“Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler” in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/weekinreview/27bittman.html?_r=1

A 2008 study on the relative climate impacts of food choices: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es702969f

An article in New Scientist discussing those findings: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19926731.700-what-is-your-dinner-doing-to-the-climate.html?full=true&print=true

“Diet, Energy, and Global Warming”, a study comparing the energy consumption of plant- and animal- based diets: http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~gidon/papers/nutri/nutri.html

Numerous well-researched reports on livestock and sustainability from Compassion in World Farming: http://www.ciwf.org.uk/resources/publications/environment_sustainability/default.aspx

The “Food, Farms, and Famine” blog, with student posts, food and ag-related news, links to online resources, and book selections: http://rpi-fff.blogspot.com/