Saturday, July 21, 2018

Energy and land: bang for your buck

The last few posts have been about meat: how to get the most product at the lowest cost, where "cost" includes damage to the environment as well as producer costs. This article asks the same question: how to get the most product with the lowest costs, but this time the focus is on land. When we take a rock out of the ground and use that to drive our cars or even power our phones, that's a neat trick: hopefully it results in a small footprint environmentally while packing a wallop energy-wise. Of course, we need to be aware of the full set of costs of climate change, but one such cost is land.

This article by Joseph Kiesecker in the Nature Conservancy magazine is about the footprint of energy sources such as wind and solar. The land use costs are pretty high at the moment, though we can limit the damage by repurposing land on sites such as mines and waste pits. Still, keeping the same ideas in mind- getting the most energy at the lowest cost, while thinking of as many costs as possible- is a tried and true recipe for identifying different sides of important and difficult problems. There's always plenty to think about!

Monday, June 11, 2018

More on food

Dr. Boehm at the University of Connecticut writes that the diet of the average household creates as much greenhouse gas emissions every week as would a drive from DC to Trenton, NJ. The main culprit? Meat and dairy, as the last blog noted, but that's not all. Refrigerated trucks that transport melons and other vegetables also contribute a lot of CO2 (or CO2 equivalent) to the atmosphere.

The news article summary of the scholarly work kind of goes off the rails there, and I'm not going to follow it: something about thinking about how processed your food is, though sometimes that's important and other times not. Bottom line: minimize meats and dairy, as we've noted before, but also watch out for things transported cold!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Meat & climate change

The Guardian writes about the environmental impact of a variety of sources of protein, finding that peas are the least costly option environmentally speaking, while beef- particularly in deforested areas- is the most expensive variety. Note that poultry and fish are remarkably similar in costs, as we discussed a few weeks ago. Also, the article says that cattle eating natural pastures are the low end of the graph here, which is a heck of a lot better than the high end. Still, even the best beef is worse than any pork, poultry, fish, eggs, or plant sources....

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Antibiotics & Meat

Although the FDA banned the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in animals, growers are still allowed to administer the drugs prophylactically- before any animals are sick. This means that growers are still essentially free to use as much antibiotic as they like on their animals, which helps the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Another possible harm is that exposure to the antibiotics that remain in the meat might affect the bacteria normally resident in our bodies. While this is still somewhat speculative, it's worth looking into....

Marijuana: A Fair and Balanced Look

Yes, I know the phrase has lost its appeal (if you are old enough to remember when Fox News used it as its motto) but this is a really nice article. The author is in favor of marijuana legalization but as a doctor she is also aware of its negative effects, particularly on the teenage brain. Worth a look.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A solar panel on every roof

Have you heard about California's new law that requires homebuilders to put solar panels on every new home they build?

An economist at UC Berkeley's Energy Institute wrote a two paragraph letter to his representative in the California legislature. Basically, he's opposed to the idea: there are many more cost effective ways to fight climate change than this one, so why stick homeowners with a bill like this?

Sunday, April 29, 2018

"Sea greens"- the tasty new eco-alternative

What creates jobs, fights climate change, and helps people eat better? The new ocean farming industry raises "sugar kelp," mussels, scallops, and oysters all on the same plot of ocean. The farmer featured in the 60 Minutes short is completely sold out, with his produce going to high class institutions and eateries. And while chefs experiment with using "sea greens" instead of traditional greens like spinach, scientists continue to investigate how underwater forests can help clean the water just as forests above ground help clean the air. Coming soon to a Whole Foods near you!?