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Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

While the U.N. climate talks in Cancún are reaching a critical stage, many delegates have begun looking toward the 2011 U.N. climate summit scheduled to take place in Durban, South Africa. Democracy Now!’s Mike Burke speaks with one of the leading South African climate change activists, Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International.

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The world’s family farmers and farm workers are ready to take action on climate change and they can do it quickly without new or expensive technologies.

The earth’s atmosphere is polluted with 390 ppm of CO2, well past the dangerous tipping point of 350 ppm.

If the world’s 12 billion acres of farms and rangelands were transitioned to organic, we could pull 50 ppm of that carbon down from the atmosphere and store it safely in the soil.

The Earth’s living soils hold three times as much carbon as the atmosphere. Before industrial agriculture and deforestation, these same soils stored twice as much carbon organic matter – six times the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere today.

Using organic farming and ranching to put CO2 back where it belongs in the soil could mitigate greenhouse gas emissions at a rate of 6 billion tons of carbon per year.

Here’s how it’s done.

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It’s win-win-win: A new report finds that an organic dairy is better for 1) you, 2) the planet, 3) the cows.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—In 2006, a United Nations report raised some eyebrows when it found that cow flatulence accounts for more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the tailpipe emissions from the transportation sector combined. A 2009 study out of the University of California–Davis put the number closer to 3 percent, but no matter which way you look at it, your cup of milk could be a significant source of pollution. To figure out which farming systems are more sustainable than others, a new report looking at four scenarios finds that grass-based, organic dairy farmers operate much more lightly on the planet, while often producing milk that’s healthier for people. It’s better for cows, too: They live significantly longer and under better conditions than chemical-based dairy operations.

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Amy Goodman on Democracy Now interviews Claudia Salerno,Venezuela’s lead climate change negotiator, comments on the media’s lack of coverage of the talks, interviews small farmers at the alternative Global Forum for LIfe and Environmental and Social Justice, and talks to Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Pablo Solon about the secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks that reveal new details about how the United States manipulated last year’s climate talks in Copenhagen.  Former Irish President Mary Robinson talks about the need for a global climate fund that will help poor people protect themselves from the growing threats of global warming.

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THE world is planting a vigorous new crop: “agro-pessimism”, or fear that mankind will not be able to feed itself except by wrecking the environment. The current harvest of this variety of whine will be a bumper one. Natural disasters—fire in Russia and flood in Pakistan, which are the world’s fifth- and eighth-largest wheat producers respectively—have added a Biblical colouring to an unfolding fear of famine. By 2050 world grain output will have to rise by half and meat production must double to meet demand. And that cannot easily happen because growth in grain yields is flattening out, there is little extra farmland and renewable water is running short.

The world has been here before. In 1967 Paul Ehrlich, a Malthusian, wrote that “the battle to feed all of humanity is over… In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death.” Five years later, in “The Limits to Growth”, the Club of Rome (a group of business people and academics) argued that the world was running out of raw materials and that societies would probably collapse in the 21st century.

A year after “The Limits to Growth” appeared, however, and at a time when soaring oil prices seemed to confirm the Club of Rome’s worst fears, a country which was then a large net food importer decided to change the way it farmed. Driven partly by fear that it would not be able to import enough food, it decided to expand domestic production through scientific research, not subsidies. Instead of trying to protect farmers from international competition—as much of the world still does—it opened up to trade and let inefficient farms go to the wall. This was all the more remarkable because most of the country was then regarded as unfit for agricultural production. The country was Brazil.

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Dozens of civil society organizations have sent a statement of concern to the organizers of theGlobal Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change on Sunday, 31 October—the first day of the conference. The six day conference in The Hague was organized by the Government of the Netherlands in cooperation with the Governments of Ethiopia, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, and Vietnam, as well as the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Civil Society groups demand that the voices of the world’s poor and vulnerable be heard at the Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack)

The conference aims to produce concrete measures for linking agricultural policies and investments to low-carbon, climate resilient agricultural approaches. The organizers are attempting to make agriculture more central in climate negotiations at the upcoming Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Cancun, Mexico later this month. The civil society statement of concern supports that effort, but expresses serious doubts about the process—saying “top down solutions are not legitimate solutions.”

The civil society statement outlined what its signatories considered essential if the process at the conference was going to support “fair and effective solutions to the agriculture and climate crises.” The statement demanded:

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Mark Muller, director of the Food and Society Fellows program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), talks with Nourishing the Planet’s research intern, Abby Massey, about the global food system and the impact it has on farmers, hunger and the environment.

How do agricultural policies affect the local and global market?

Mark Muller discusses the challenges farmers face today and suggests policies to improve their future. (Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack)

Over the past 10 to 12 years, I’ve spent a majority of my time peripherally involved with the U.S. Farm Bill. And we at the IATP have been leaders in pointing out some of the dumping issues of U.S. farm prices.

In the 1980s, both in the United States and elsewhere, farmers were suffering from low prices that were well below what the market should bear in terms of the cost of producing corn, soybeans, cotton, and rice—the basic commodities. U.S. agricultural policies have helped drive down the price of commodities so low that it has created a lot of problems for U.S. farmers, and the way we make up for that problem is with the government payment program. So it costs taxpayers quite a bit to support such low prices.

And what has largely gone unforeseen is how the dumping—that is, selling agricultural commodities well below the cost of production—on international markets has had a tremendous impact on farmers around the world, because there is no way they can compete with these dumped commodities priced so low. There has been pretty good documentation in the past three years of the depopulation of the Mexican countryside and the impact of the U.S. dumping of corn on Mexico, which NAFTA has contributed significantly to. This dumping has driven a lot of Mexican campesinos into Mexico City or across the border because there is no viable economy anymore for agricultural production in much of Mexico.

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Geoengineering Moratorium at UN Ministerial in Japan
Risky Climate Techno-fixes Blocked

NAGOYA, JapanIn a landmark consensus decision, the 193-member UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will close its tenth biennial meeting with a de facto moratorium on geoengineering projects and experiments.   “Any private or public experimentation or adventurism intended to manipulate the planetary thermostat will be in violation of this carefully crafted UN consensus,” stated Silvia Ribeiro, Latin American Director of ETC Group.
The agreement, reached during the ministerial portion of the two-week meeting which included 110 environment ministers, asks governments to ensure  that no geoengineering activities take place until risks to the environmental and biodiversity and associated social, cultural and economic impacts risks have been appropriately considered as well as the socio-economic impacts. The CBD secretariat was also instructed to report back on various geoengineering proposals and potential intergovernmental regulatory measures.
The unusually strong consensus decision builds on the 2008 moratorium on ocean fertilization.  That agreement, negotiated at COP 9 in Bonn, put the brakes on a litany of failed “experiments” – both public and private – to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide in the oceans’ depths by spreading nutrients on the sea surface.  Since then, attention has turned to a range of futuristic proposals to block a percentage of solar radiation via large-scale interventions in the atmosphere, stratosphere and outer space that would alter global temperatures and precipitation patterns.
“This decision clearly places the governance of geoengineering in the United Nations where it belongs,” said ETC Group Executive Director Pat Mooney.  “This decision is a victory for common sense, and for precaution.  It will not inhibit legitimate scientific research.

 

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The Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association recently held its 2010 national conference in Chestnut Ridge, New York. Hosted on the grounds of Threefold Education Foundation, home to many early initiatives inspired by Rudolf Steiner, the theme of the conference was Growing the Food Revolution. This theme was sounded in many ways through numerous voices and activities focused on deepening and broadening the biodynamic agriculture movement in North America. It was clear that biodynamic agriculture has a responsibility and potential for transforming our collective understanding of agriculture’s central role in our society and for healing the challenges we collectively face—to herald a return to agri-culture from the destructive practices of agri-business.

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The 2008 world food price crisis, and more recent price hikes this year, have focused attention on the ability of the world food system to “feed the world.”  In La Via Campesina, the global alliance of peasant and family farm organizations, we believe that agroecological food production by small farmers is the agricultural model best suited to meeting future food needs.

The contemporary food crisis is not really a crisis of our ability to produce.  It is more due to factors like the food speculation and hoarding that transnational food corporations and investment funds engage in, the global injustices that mean some eat too much while many others don’t have money to buy adequate food, and / or lack land on which to grow it, and misguided policies like the promotion of agrofuels that devote farm land to feeding cars instead of feeding people.  However, we cannot deny that our collective ability to grow enough food — including, crucially, how we grow it — is an important piece in the jigsaw puzzle of ending hunger.  It is here where the corporate agribusiness model of large-scale industrial monocultures is failing us, and where peansant-based sustainable farming systems based on agroecology and Food Sovereignty offer so much hope.

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