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Nature and Environment
News about the health and beauty of the natural world that sustains us.


How Can We Use Less Fossil Fuels?

 

Photo by Dan Meyers, Upsplash

In a previous post on this site, I discussed current fossil fuel usage and future trends. One of the ongoing trends on the horizon seeks to reduce society's dependence on fossil fuels. Here are some ways to start achieving that aim:

Fuel Efficiency Reduces Oil Usage

Analysts say fuel-efficient cars have a substantial effect on reducing the demand for oil. Demographics and driving patterns play a role as well, but automakers continually make vehicles with better fuel efficiency, which results in less reliance on fossil fuels.

Also, an analysis published in 2018 by Morgan Stanley analysts forecast a decline in oil demand due to several things, such as increased ride-sharing and electric vehicles, along with fuel economy requirements.

If people are serious about using less oil, one practical thing they can do is invest in cars that use different fuel sources, such as electricity. In the United Kingdom, the government plans to introduce a green license plate scheme whereby people who have electric cars can avail of perks, including free parking.

What if a car got its power from the sun? A Californian company recently released a prototype for a solar-powered car that can go up to 40 miles per day and never needs charging.

It's too soon to say how much people will embrace ultra-fuel-efficient cars or ones that don't need traditional types of power at all. But, engineers are working hard to give the option to individuals who are ready and eager to use fewer fossil fuels.

Plastic Alternatives Could Reduce Oil Requirements

Statistics estimate that 8-10% of the total oil supply goes towards making plastics, which totals approximately 12 million barrels to make the plastic bags used in the United States alone. But, for more than a decade, scientists have made progress in creating plastics without oil. They use a variety of creative approaches, such as making it from a chemical found in pine needles to relying on sugar and carbon dioxide instead of crude oil.

These possibilities are fascinating and give a glimpse into how some of the most familiar materials people use today may get more eco-friendly. We need to be realistic about the scalability of innovations, too. Most won't come into widespread use right away, and the demand for oil is still strong.

Data from the International Energy Agency expects global oil demand to increase by 1.4 million barrels per day throughout 2019. It's not feasible to expect any new material to immediately replace plastics that need crude oil. So, when people wonder, "How can we use less fossil fuels?" they should keep in mind that the practical way forward is to be open and supportive of sustainable replacements while continuing to use conventional plastics.

Goat-Grazing Services Offer an Unconventional Way to Reduce Fossil Fuels

People don't think of changing their lawn-care habits as a way to make a dent in fossil fuel usage. However, whether from mowing or the excessive use of fertilizer, lawn care has a larger carbon footprint than many expect. It's understandable why households want beautiful-looking lawns. They increase the curb appeal of homes and help families take pride in where they live.

Mowing the lawn is time-consuming, noisy and uses fossil fuels. Some companies offer an alternative by providing goat-for-hire services. The grazing animals munch away in a customer's yard for a day, then leave.

Estimates say that 38 goats could tackle 50,000 square feet of grass in a day. Plus, they typically prefer types of grass that people consider weeds. That means even in a short time, they can make noticeable differences.

Refusing to Support Fossil Fuel Projects or Companies Could Have an Impact

Another ongoing trend among sustainably-minded individuals is the divestment of fossil fuel companies. That means ceasing their investments to no longer associate with those enterprises. In 2014, the number of institutional investors that committed to removing fossil fuel stocks from their portfolios was less than 200. The figure now totals more than 1,100, statistics indicate.

One of the main goals for divestment is to make fossil fuel companies realize that times are changing, and they need to increase their investments in renewables.

Similarly, about 1,000 engineers and 90 organizations in Australia signed a pledge to weigh all future projects against the need to mitigate climate change. Some parties there fear a revolt against coal-based initiatives or think it'll become more difficult to find engineers to do required work.

The engineering professionals who decided to become choosier about which projects they take on believe that the engineering sector at large can play a defining role in stimulating future change. Otherwise, they'll continue to promote the use of fossil fuels.

Being Mindful of Vampire Energy Makes a Difference

Vampire energy is the power consumed by an appliance when it's off, such as while in standby mode. Statistics say that more than 100 billion kilowatt-hours of vampire energy gets wasted in the U.S. alone. This translates to nearly 80 million tons of carbon dioxide or the equivalent of the emissions from 15 million cars annually.

Considering that a significant segment of electricity used in the U.S. still comes from fossil fuels, keeping tabs on vampire energy and the appliances that use it makes a difference for people who want to cut down on their fossil fuel dependence. The easiest thing to do is to unplug gadgets when they're not needed. Relying on power strips for multiple appliances in the same area also helps because it regulates the power flow.

Intentional Actions Are Valuable

Here, we've covered some practical responses to the "How can we use less fossil fuels" question. They aren't the only things people can do to reduce their fossil fuel usage, but they're practical ways to get started on that goal.

People should remember that when enacting positive changes, it's best to pick a few meaningful things to do and stick with them. Encouraging friends to follow suit is beneficial too.


Kayla Matthews has been writing about healthy living for several years and is proud to be a featured writer on a number of inspiring health sites, including MOTHER EARTH NEWS. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+, Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on ProductivityTheory.com. You can read all of Kayla's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

green-is-good

GREEN IS GOOD

Renewable energy is good for your wallet. Those who see that opportunity are already seizing it … all the way to the bank. Green Is Good is a no-nonsense guide to how you, the average American, can easily incorporate clean energy and energy efficiency into your daily life … and in the process save money, make money, and help wean your community off fossil fuels. Renewable energy guru Brian F. Keane walks you through the cost-benefit trade-offs that come with the exciting new technologies and introduces you to the revolutionary clean-energy products on the horizon, making the ins and outs of renewable energy easily accessible. He shows what you can do on every level to seize the opportunity and profit from it. A renewable energy future isn't just good for the environment; it's good for the economy, and Green Is Good will show you how-before it's too late.

Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Strange Wild Animal Behavior

 

Living remotely and at high altitude (9,800’) we have seen some pretty strange things in our 23 years living full time in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of southern Colorado. We had a herd of deer that would come to visit for several months each year and they would follow me around while I would work outside. Then there was a hen turkey that did the same. Wherever I go she would be just a few feet away. Or the sage hen that would walk along with me. Then one time there was a black bear that came down the mountain while we were cutting firewood and sat down 20 yards away and watched us cut firewood for the longest time, and when we finished it got back up and went on its way.

Animal behavior often is puzzling. Animal behavior can be puzzling at times and not being an animal behaviorist, I am never really sure what their true intentions are or if they are just curious or possibly they sense we mean no harm and just want to share our company. There once was a mother black bear that stayed around our cabin for several weeks with her two tiny cubs and used us to train them. When the cubs would get close she would signal them and they would run and scamper up a tree. We would be within 15-20’ of her and her cubs and apparently she considered us good subjects to use to train the cubs. 

Do animals sense fear? We can only assume the obvious and that is they are not alarmed by our presence and have a certain degree of trust when we are around. That might be because we are not fearful of them and respect them and their space. I believe animals can sense fear or danger and usually respond to it defensively or aggressively by biting or fleeing. One time we encountered  a mountain lion that was about 20’ from us. It coiled up on the ground, hissed, snarled with ears and lips laid back and showing us some very nice yellow teeth. We stood in place and when the lion sensed we meant no harm it finally got up and bounded away in the opposite direction. I even talk to the birds and often they will let me know when they are out of food and will sit within a few feet of me as I refill their feeder. 

Animal communication. I talk to all our animals and birds, and how much, if anything, they understand I don’t know. In the deer's case, I have found they are much more intelligent than I would have thought. I would give them a request and sometimes they would actually do it. One example was when I asked one buck deer that we were familiar with to let me use his antlers when they were ready to come off. He shook his head right then and one fell off at my feet and then he walked over a few feet and shook the other one off. They are now mounted on the back of our front door and used as a hat rack. No one was more surprised than I was when he did that. 

Elk herds hold a convention. Nothing really puzzled us as much as last month. We looked outside early in the morning and there was a small herd of elk with one mature bull with a nice set of antlers. Then another herd joined them and another and another until there were nine very large and mature bulls and more cows and young elk than we could count. It was during the rut season and usually the bulls don’t intermingle when there are so many eligible cows around.

If elk can gather and get along, why can’t people do the same? We watched the combined herd and many of the bulls were standing side by side as peaceful as could be for a full hour. The elk herd was all around our house. The photos attached were taken from inside the house so the deck railing is in the photos. To go outside would have spooked the elk away so we were left to taking photos from inside. Out of the nine bulls we counted only two actually had a half hearted pushing contest and it was only symbolic as they were really not interested in dominance. In the past we have seen them when they were serious about dominance and these two were not.

Nine herds gather for friendly meeting. The herds assembled and formed one very large herd where they intermingled with each other and then just as suddenly as they had combined divided back into smaller herds and all went off in different directions. It all appeared very friendly and organized and for whatever reason they all congregated at our house for a short while. I have talked to others who are more familiar with elk and their behavior and they advised this year was a very different year for elk. After the rut they often combine into one large herd but this was right during the peak of the rut. 

Environmental causes to blame? It may have had something to do with the wildfire last year; we do not know. We are surrounded by burn scar and our 11 acres are like an oasis of green in a very scarred area. However within a mile of us which was not part of the burn area there is a large lake and forest which would seem far more attractive to elk. We do not know why the elk held a convention at our home but it was extremely interesting to observe. Whatever their intent or behavior we fully enjoyed observing them close up and enjoyed having such a large herd of elk make themselves right at home around our house.


Bruce McElmurray homesteads at high elevation in the Southern Rockies with his wife, Carol. For more on their mountain lifestyle and their observances of animals coupled with their strange behavior, visit Bruce’s personal blog site at Bruce Carol Cabin. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

attracting-wildlife

ATTRACTING WILDLIFE TO YOUR BACKYARD

Many people think of wildlife as something distant, creatures living in natural forests and remote public preserves. But most wildlife in the United States isn’t found in the distant wild. It lives on our private lands, in our very backyards. Because of this, the nation’s 10 million woodland owners are, in fact, at the forefront in protecting our wildlife for generations to come.

While most landowners want to help preserve the beauty of the natural environment, however, most are unsure where to begin. In Attracting Wildlife to Your Backyard, author and landowner Josh VanBrakle provides readers with 101 easy-to-follow activities and practical approaches to help do just that.

Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How Much Fossil Fuel Do We Use Today?

 
Unsplash/Mehluli Hikwa

In the United States and around the globe, people depend on fossil fuels for much of our energy production. This is changing — better knowledge of the health risks caused by pollution and the amount of greenhouse gases fossil fuels release into the atmosphere have made it a less popular option for energy production. Now, both governments and the citizens they represent are wary of depending on it indefinitely.

However, humans still rely on fossil fuels for much of our energy production. So, how much is used today?

What Current Fossil Fuel Use Looks Like

Fossil fuels are energy-dense deposits of natural fuel that are the results of millennia of decomposing organic matter. Oil, coal and natural gas supply the vast majority of the world's energy.

Today, around 80 percent of all energy produced in the United States comes from these nonrenewable resources. Of this 80 percent, the largest share (37 percent) came from petroleum, the next largest (31 percent) from natural gas and the smallest (13 percent) from coal.

The remaining 20 percent of energy is produced by a combination of renewable resources — like wind and solar — hydro and nuclear power.

In terms of physical resources, Americans consume about 7.3 billion barrels of crude oil, 29.96 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 623 million tons of coal each year. About 46 percent of that oil, or 3.4 billion barrels, is turned into gasoline. Another 20 percent — 1.46 billion barrels — is made into diesel. The rest is used to produce electricity, as well as consumer and industrial goods — like mineral oil, plastic and steel.

Over the past few years, the amount of total energy consumed has increased, and so has the use of all fossil fuels. The percentage of petroleum and coal, however, has trended down, while natural gas use has gone up. This shift is likely due to the high supply of natural gas in the United States and advancements in fracking technology that make it easier to extract. It also emits less carbon dioxide than petroleum and coal when used to generate power.

Globally, the numbers look a little different — natural gas is used less often abroad, while coal is used slightly more. For the most part, global fossil fuel usage is the same as in the United States — primarily oil, but with significant contributions from natural gas and coal.

Future Trends in Fossil Fuel Usage

Because of the negative impact fossil fuels can have — both in causing pollution and emitting greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide — some countries are looking at other sources.

The long-term trend is moving in the direction of green energy — except nuclear, which has started to decline slowly. In the future, renewable energy will likely take up a much larger share of production than it does today.

Looking at the current trends, however, fossil fuels will continue to supply a large amount of our energy. While renewable energy has trended up somewhat in the past few decades, the gains haven't been substantial — around 1 percentage point more of the total energy production every year. Barring major changes — like a nationwide or global push for 100 percent renewable energy — the future will be greener, but not fully powered by renewables.

At the same time, increasing oil prices may change our consumption habits and possibly push us away from dependence on oil. The cleaner fossil fuels — like natural gas and coal plants outfitted with devices that pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere — may continue to eat away at the usage rate of petroleum.

How People Will Use Fossil Fuels

Both globally and in the United States, fossil fuels provide the vast majority of the energy consumed annually. Our consumption of power — and use of fossil fuels — trends up slightly every year.

Our high use of fossil fuels may decrease somewhat in the future, as governments turn toward more sustainable solutions to energy production. However, it's not likely that renewables will make up the majority of energy production any time soon.


Kayla Matthews has been writing about healthy living for several years and is proud to be a featured writer on a number of inspiring health sites, including Mother Earth News. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+, Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on Productivity Theory

green-transportation-basics

Green Transportation Basics is a guide to greening your personal driving habits by dramatically improving the efficiency of an existing vehicle using simple measures such as trip planning and regular maintenance to improve fuel economy. This handy guide also explores the most promising new green cars and trucks, including electric vehicles, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and natural-gas cars. And it critically examines sustainable fuels including ethanol, biodiesel, straight vegetable oil, hydrogen and biomethane, evaluating each according to a set of established criteria.

Don't let your dream of greening your transportation idle – Green Transportation Basics will guide you through the myths and misconceptions and provide clear options for the road to a more sustainable future.

Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Climate Change: A Symptom of a Deepening, Spiritual Wound

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Dragging my knees through the colloidal soil complex that holds so much of the magic that keeps my farm abundant and growing can often times feel less than magical.  I find myself curled up in a ball after a days work—smartphone in my hand—scrolling through the endless possibilities of the infinite internet. I see faraway places and people, cultures and passions, great hair styles and bad makeup tutorials and my mind swirls, satiated with the uncontained binge of media.  Something about this magic carpet ride through the world from the comfort of my bed tugs at my deeply rooted life and I feel the urge to flee.

A voice in my heart coaxes me to take flight from this landscape and experience new things. My toils in the fields seem to weigh me down like a ball and chain and my dedication waivers with the fever pitch of harvest season. All of this hard work for such bite sized, incremental gains can be overwhelming and I find myself questioning what sort of path we have set up for ourselves on this land.  No 401K or retirement, no possibility of moving up the corporate ladder, and every season is blighted with the unexpected twists and turns of a living system that pays no mind to tenure when it dishes out disease, inclement weather, pest pressures, and all other unpredictable, biological and meteorological evolutions; intensified byproducts of our changing climate.

We Face Daily Obstacles to Present, Physical Engagement

Plane tickets seem easy enough to score while I attempt to internally process my wanderlust--stalking friends, acquaintances, and total strangers from the safety of my anonymous online persona.  I see the very best of sunlit beaches, perfect relationships, and the open road. My heart bounces from one picturesque setting to the next and I compare my seemingly battle hardened life to what appear to be blemish free realities where happiness is waiting inside every brunch mimosa. Just like a bag of chips, I put my phone down not when I feel full, but when I feel slightly nauseated; almost dirtied by my uncontrollable desire to keep consuming other people’s experiences.

It’s usually only after some shame-filled adventure into the abyss of the web that I am able to see just how pervasive screens have become in our day to day dealings. Social media has made it ever more difficult to count our own blessings when the fear of missing out is a “real” hashtag-worthy phenomenon. The choice to love yours, to be here now, and most importantly, to intentionally engage with the world in your immediate physical vicinity has become harder and harder to make. These obstacles are beefed up by industries and advertisers hoping to skim the cream off the top and play to the peccadillo of our wandering eyes.

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The internet is only one facet of the party we’ve been having on our planet since our thumbs opened doors.  Our world is progressing at lightning speed and it is this constant, obsessive sprint into the future that robs us of our intimate connection to possibilities of today.

We often talk about climate change as if it exists outside of us; as is if it is an environmental problem. We see the world on fire, freezing, flooding, desertifying, and going extinct and it all feels a bit like a timeline that was predestined, necessary, or inevitable. We think about the new “needs” we each have and they feel justified and important. Our collection of poorly made goods, derived from the stolen raw materials of distant lands, carefully constructed by the exploited hands of a modern slave labor force, become a part of who we are. To us, it feels like it has always been this way and when the department store shelves are full every day, we aren’t able to imagine anything else.

Climate Change as a Symptom of Inner Grief

It’s recognizing the internal picture of things that brings me back to the porch, dusting off my boots for a morning in the fields. Climate change may feel like something far outside of us, but it is a symptom of our deepest, inward grieving. Our insatiable desire to consume, to feed our racing thoughts an onslaught of validating content, is a compulsion that traps us in an isolated state.  It is this separation from nature, from our communities, and even from the physicality of our own bodies that feeds our industries and not ourselves.

People don’t farm, establish community, or build all of the tools and comforts they need to survive because it’s hard.  It’s hard to grow food. It’s hard to love each other--our real, unfiltered, off-Facebook selves It takes time and effort, and practice to learn a craft.  For the most part, the objects that keep our daily routine in line can be purchased anywhere at anytime by the click of a mouse with no thought or knod made to the true cost of “cheap” goods.  We aren’t motivated to learn new things or to seek deeper truths through experience when a simple google search can make us an instant expert.

We’ve been taught that the Earth is a material rich medium that generates objects that bring us happiness and we’ve believed it.  We’ve severed all of our ties to natural rhythms, worked for “profit” all of our lives, and have watched the withering detachment grow from our hearts and spread into the soils, waters, and foundational natural communities that keep this world alive.  We’ve collectively contributed to the mining of our planet to fill voids opened by our raging emotions simply longing for presence, acceptance, love, and the quiet medicine of nature. We’ve allowed others to be marginalized, brutalized, and underserved so long as it didn’t affect the flow of resources to our own outstretched arms and open mouths.

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Land-based Work Can Heal

The corporations and financial institutions that rely on this extractive culture to maintain power want to keep us sick, scared, and spiritually starving; judging and comparing ourselves to others.  These invisible hands will never be satisfied with a healing Earth knowing that it will essentially ensure the healing needed within ourselves. Healing means wholeness, self responsibility, reparations, justice, and equity.  Healing is understanding how the natural world maintains harmony, allowing energy to be transferred from the atmosphere to the depths of the soil through the communal efforts of a diversified, living sphere. Healing cannot be metered, commodified, or taxed and is only truly possible for one when it is possible for all.

When I’m able to put my phone down and come back into communion with the land, the hardships remain but a freedom grows steadily from my deepening responsibilities.  My work on the land is not for material gain, nor even an activism against our seemingly unstoppable and irreparable “progress”. It is a placeholder, a fire that needs constant tending; a living, breathing organism wherein the difficult and satisfying crafts of surviving through the stewardship of a diversified, syntropic community are practiced and honed. 

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Change is slow and while the pendulum continues to swing towards devastation, I plant apple trees, nuts, and berries in preparation for when it swings back towards transformation.  As the media spins tails of hopelessness and further feeds our inability to cope, I listen to the infinite life exchanging wellness in the pasture grasses, vetch, and clovers and feel the momentum that built this world.

I sense myself becoming fortified by the diversified nutrition being made available through the developing, ecological complexity. As the great friction of these challenging times births our future wisdom, the opportunity to create something better has never been greater. I log on and throw a few follows and likes to kindred others heeding the call.


Darby Weaver has spent the last decade growing Biodynamic produce in the Southeast and teaching holistic and ecological methods to learners of all ages and backgrounds through articles, agriculture intensives, workshops, and lectures.  She has recently moved to the Northeast with her husband to begin a new venture on 20 acres in Wolcott, Vermont. You can read all of Darby's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

gardener's-guide-to-weather-climate

THE GARDENER'S GUIDE TO WEATHER & CLIMATE

The Gardener’s Guide to Weather and Climate gives home gardeners an accessible yet comprehensive overview of how the weather works, and offers tips on how to use the information to create better gardens. The book begins with a primer on climate and moves on to cover climate change, weather, microclimates, and how plants are affected by the climate and their environment. Throughout, the reader will find hundreds of helpful color photographs and illustrations that bring the concepts to life.

Though climate change is a serious threat, this useful book remains positive and upbeat in its approach. It shows that instead of gardening at the mercy of the weather, knowledgeable gardeners can make the weather work for them. Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Go Agroecological or Go Extinct

 

As if we were living out a rerun of a 1970s Heartland horror movie, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has echoed the ominous, damning words of Earl Butz, the Agriculture Secretary under Republican President Richard Nixon: "Get big or get out," Butz infamously said, a bitter command as thousands upon thousands of family farms began collapsing under the consolidated onslaught of multinational corporations, vertical integration, and bank debt.

Butz's words and policies undermined support for family farms, and encouraged the metastatic growth of factory-farms and a stupendous increase in subsidized production of staples for export, in turn a glorious benefit for the fast-food industry and makers of processed foodstuffs. All of this contributed to making America the world's most obese nation, a nation also distressed with staggering rates of diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and other diet-related diseases.

The trajectory of corporate control, consolidation, chemicalization, and colonization has continued unhindered by public concern.

Now cometh Sonny Perdue, Republican President Donald Trump's USDA Secretary: “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” Perdue proclaimed in September, thereby adding a rhetorical kick in the ass to the painful plague of bankruptcies and farmer suicides currently afflicting rural America.

This latest slam came just weeks after Perdue mocked farmers during a Minnesota Farmfest  listening session. A former salesman of ag chemicals, Perdue uttered a cruel joke about the very people he is supposed to help: “What do you call two farmers in a basement? A whine cellar.”

Truth be told, Butz, Perdue and their ilk have given farmers a lot to complain about. According to the National Farmers Union, in just the last five years, more than 67,000 US farms went out of business. This cancerous decline of family farms and rural communities is not inevitable. It’s the result of the “get big” policies that have ruled agriculture for the past 50 years.

These slap-in-the-taxpayers-face realities underscore the critical importance of the resilient, community farm and food initiatives that have arisen so dynamically in the US and abroad in recent decades, with scant government support.

The emerging, networking community food movement, with its emphasis on organic, sustainable, regenerative farming systems imbued with economic and social justice, arises in a time of vast environmental contamination. The umbrella term for all these initiatives -- widely used around the world and emerging in the USA -- is agroecology.

Agriculture can be transformed from being a major contributor to pollution and climate change, as it is today, to being a major remedy. That’s what agroecology (and deep agroecology) are all about. It can be the foundation for our next evolutionary step as human beings living on a finite planet.

Based on the multitude of hard realities engendered by corporate chemical agriculture, it’s time to uproot the “get big or get out” farm slogans of Earl Butz and Sonny Perdue, and to supplant those damning words with something both wise and realistic: “Go agroecological or go extinct."

Photo credit Pixaby


Independent journalist Steven McFadden is rooted in cyberspace at DeepAgroecology.net. Information about his wider work and all of his nonfiction books is available at Chiron-Communications.com.

resilient-agriculture

RESILIENT AGRICULTURE

Climate change presents an unprecedented challenge to the productivity and profitability of agriculture in North America. More variable weather, drought and flooding create the most obvious damage, but hot summer nights, warmer winters, longer growing seasons and other environmental changes have more subtle but far-reaching effects on plant and livestock growth and development.

Resilient Agriculture recognizes the critical role that sustainable agriculture will play in the coming decades and beyond. The latest science on climate risk, resilience and climate change adaptation is blended with the personal experience of farmers and ranchers to explore:

  • The "strange changes" in weather recorded over the last decade
  • The associated shifts in crop and livestock behavior
  • The actions producers have taken to maintain productivity in a changing climate

The climate change challenge is real, and it is here now. To enjoy the sustained production of food, fiber and fuel well into the 21st century, we must begin now to make changes that will enhance the adaptive capacity and resilience of North American agriculture. The rich knowledge base presented in Resilient Agriculture is poised to serve as the cornerstone of an evolving, climate-ready food system. 

Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Supporting Biodiversity and Health with a Flexitarian, Sustainable Diet

Industrial meat production is unsustainable
Image by skeeze.

Animal agriculture is the single largest driver of biodiversity loss, and in the last few decades we have significantly increased our land use for livestock purposes. Converting unique ecosystems to pastures and fields for feed crops, we are not growing food directly for ourselves but for the animals we eat. Livestock graze on 26 percent of the planet’s habitable (ice-free) land, and 33 percent of our croplands are used to produce livestock feed.

Meat production accounts for 18% of anthropogenic emissions. For the sake of the argument, a recent study showed that if the whole world went vegetarian or vegan, food-related emissions would decrease by 60% and 70% respectively. Of course it is unrealistic that even the majority of the global population would at any point stop eating meat, and in certain places, the climate and environment can only support animal agriculture, and attempts to convert pastures to crop lands have failed.

In the developed world, young and well-educated people are turning to plant-based diets, but with incomes rising in developing countries, demand for animal products is only expected to increase. This is bad news from a global health perspective, as higher meat consumption is linked to poor health and premature deaths. It can also make it more challenging to argue that people in developed countries should try to reduce their meat intake. However, a new study shows that we don’t need the whole world going vegan to start reversing climate change. Simply reducing our meat consumption to 10% (around 90 grams) of our daily caloric intake would have a significant positive effect on the planet’s ecosystems and global biodiversity. If we also pay attention to where that meat is coming from and supporting small, sustainable farms instead of industrial meat production, we can help generate even more positive effects on biodiversity: in fact, small-scale, sustainable livestock grazing helps many native species that thrive only in open landscapes.

Support small-scale farms
Photo byFree-Photos.

We underestimate the effect of our dietary choices on the climate and environment, and when we discuss the climate crisis, we talk about cars, not steaks. The average American family of four, however, emits significantly more greenhouse gases from meat consumption than from driving two cars.

Here are just four simple tips to reducing meat intake and eating more sustainably:

Eat more plants

This is an obvious one, and while some meat lovers out there still think vegetarians and vegans only eat salads, a plant-based diet can be incredibly diverse and includes vegetables, grains, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, a combination of which can make for flavorful, delicious meals.

Take inspiration from other cultures

Some food cultures, especially in Asia, include little meat and no dairy. Try mixing up your meal routine with inspiration from China or Thailand, and look to Mediterranean dishes for a vast variety of meat-free flavor.

Reduce your food waste

This is a big one and it benefits not only the planet, but also your wallet. The average American household wastes at least 40% of food. This includes a lot of meat and dairy. A few tips to reduce food waste at home: see meat and dairy for what they are - precious resources. Don’t buy too much, don’t over serve, save leftovers (and actually eat them), store food in the right place and trust your senses (smell, sight and taste) over the expiration date on the package.

Choose small-scale, sustainable and ethical meat producers

Finally, if you’re going to eat meat, make sure you know where it comes from. This includes doing a little bit of research and shopping at farm stores, farmers markets and independent butchers.

Mia Rishel is a conservation biologist whose work has taken her many exciting places: rehabilitating wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, helping endangered iguanas in Mexico, exploring predator coexistence in Namibia, and promoting farm animal welfare in Zanzibar. She is Chair of Grant Writing and Volunteer Committees for The Orangutan Project USA, grant writer for Conservation South Luangwa and copywriter for Faunalytics. Read all of Mia’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

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THE MEAT LOVER'S MEATLESS CELEBRATIONS

Kim O’Donnel knows meat eaters. In fact, she is one. As a voice for the Meatless Monday campaign, she’s been cooking up delicious you-won’t-miss-the-meat fare for the vegetarian-curious-but-vegan’s-too-crazy crowd. With a focus on holidays (or any celebration), O’Donnel’s versatile recipes ensure that eaters of all dietary stripes will leave the table satisfied. Cast aside those fears of cardboard tofurkey and gray starches. Instead, revel in dishes that inspire, surprise and are so tasty, “meatless” is an afterthought (with allergy- and animal- free options, to boot). Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

People are Taking Their Money Out of Fossil Fuels in the Divestment Movement

 

In societies around the world, people band together to stand up for what they believe in. They know there's power in numbers.

Even better, the broad reach of social media enables activists to quickly and effectively distribute messages. The fossil fuels divestment movement is gaining momentum. Let's take a look at what it involves.

What Is Divestment?

Divestment happens when people get rid of stocks, bonds or investments connected with companies that individuals think are ethical or morally questionable. You can think of it as the opposite of investment. Divestment and disinvestment are often interchangeable terms that mean the same thing. 

How Do Activists Want to Impact Fossil Fuel Use?

The people taking part in the divestment of fossil fuels cease investment activities with associated companies. They hope this action creates a stigma around the fossil fuel industry, disintegrating its original appeal.

Some who support the fossil fuel divestment movement only stop investing as a show of symbolism. If working towards reduced dependence on fossil fuels is essential, it doesn't make sense to hold investments that directly link to companies that rely on them.

People believe divestment could make companies realize that promoting fossil fuel use is no longer financially viable. If that happens, entities may put higher investments into renewables instead.

During a 2015 interview, Bill Gates claimed divestment alone is not a solution, because not enough people have stocks associated with fossil fuels. Gates suggested movement broaden its message to support researching and developing new energy options. It seems most people on board with the cause have done just that.

How Do Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaigns Work?

People can take part in fossil fuel divestment campaigns in a variety of ways. One of the most common options is for divestment-focused groups to target the offensive oil and gas companies. They pick businesses based on the carbon emissions embedded in their reserves.

Another tactic is to urge institutions to divest from fossil-fuel related companies. For example, many universities rely on support from fossil fuel companies to keep operating, but that's starting to change. In mid-September 2019, the University of California educational system announced it would divest $83 billion from fossil fuel company-based endowment and pension funds, both worth billions.

A representative from the University of California said the organization decided to continue its fossil fuel investments posed a financial risk, and more appealing opportunities exist in renewables. Many other institutions are following California's lead, getting on board with the idea.

What Are the Effects of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement So Far?

It's difficult to calculate the total number of people taking part in this growing divestment of fossil fuels. However, 180 institutional investors committed to cutting fossil fuels from their portfolios in 2014. Now, the number exceeds 1,100.

Organizations often keep a tally of the total amounts divested so far. According to a September 2019 report, people have committed to divest $11 trillion from fossil fuels. The movement is quickly picking up momentum.

It confirmed that, although it took two years for the first $2 trillion of divestment to happen, the most recent $2 trillion occurred in only six months. People no longer see this kind of divestment as a niche idea.

Another positive effect of this movement is that there's seemingly no limit to getting involved. For example, New York City made history by pledging it would divest from fossil fuel owners by 2022 (read the ICLEI case study to see how the City is doing it). This decision is particularly significant considering the city has the nation's largest municipal pension system, controlling $194 billion in investments.

In 2018, Ireland made a historic move by voting to become the first country to divest public funds from fossil fuels.

The advocacy for this issue is active down to the local level. Divestment supporters in San Francisco recently staged a traffic-blocking protest in a financial district to urge banks to divest from fossil fuels.

An Exciting Way to Take a Stand

People often talk about "voting with their wallets." They purposefully decide not to buy from companies involved in practices they're against. The support of fossil fuel divestment is another way to show support.

Even if individuals don't have fossil fuel investments, they can collaborate to put pressure on the companies or organizations that do. This kind of conscious action could make affected parties realize renewable energy is the way of the future.

Photo source.

Kayla Matthews has been writing about healthy living for several years and is proud to be a featured writer on a number of inspiring health sites, including Mother Earth News. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+, Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on ProductivityTheory.com. Read all of Kayla's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

plan-c

PLAN C

Plan C explores the risks inherent in trying to continue our energy-intensive lifestyle. Using dirtier fossil fuels (Plan A) or switching to renewable energy sources (Plan B) allows people to remain complacent in the face of a potential global catastrophe. Dramatic lifestyle change is the only way to begin to create a sustainable, equitable world. The converging crises of Peak Oil, Climate Change and increasing inequity are presented in a clear, concise manner, as are the twin solutions of community (where cooperation replaces competition) and curtailment (deliberately reducing consumption of consumer goods). Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.







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