An answer to the question What exactly is wrong with industrial agriculture? deserves a whole month’s of posts discovering the issue from both sides. However, sometimes a good graphic presentation, in the old phrase of “a picture is worth a thousand words”, can neatly sum up the arguments involved. Although clearly stating the case against industrial agriculture, the following infographic by The Christensen Fund, first posted by the Nourishing the Planet project, does an excellent job at illustrating why it is that the more natural agroecological methods of crop production are more environmentally and socially sound.
The world’s farming and transportation sectors are some of the biggest contributors to global warming and climate change since they emit around 14 percent of total global greenhouse gases each. Emissions are counted mainly from agricultural production and from the fossil fuels burned in road, air and sea freight, respectively. However, the two are also increasingly interlinked because of rapid growth of international trade in agricultural goods—such as foods, natural fibers and bio-fuels—over the last few decades. Agriculture’s impact on atmospheric pollution is rising because of the energy needed to move agricultural products between more and more countries around the world.
In theory, international trade is a good thing because it can reduce the price of goods for consumers and increase sales for producers, making everyone better off. However, this is a purely economic perspective that does not take important environmental issues into consideration. While goods will always continue to flow across national borders, if we are serious about reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and halting climate change, then we need to make sure that they do so in the most environmentally sound way possible. Read More »
Chatham House, a London based international affairs think tank and home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, has developed Resource Futures, an excellent and evidence-loaded infographic that illustrates the new political economy of global resources.
Visitors to the interactive site are invited to visually explore resource use around the world and are enlightened to the mapping of current trends. Starting with trends in consumption, data is graphed onto a world map and a navigation tool at the bottom of the screen allows one to switch seamlessly between statistics for different crops, fish and meat, timber, fossil fuels and metals: Read More »
In December, Development Roast asked are genetically modified (GM) foods a friend or a foe? Proponents claim that GM crops can help alleviate poverty and hunger by producing better seed technologies that resist drought and pests. Dr Channapatna Prakash of Tuskegee University embodied this view in his millennial article for AgBioForum, the Journal of Agrobiotechnology Management and Economics, entitled “Feeding a World of Six Billion.” Others argue that this is irrelevant since hunger is not related to a lack of food but inequality in its distribution, and that there are just too many possible side effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that are unaccounted and untested for by private companies who develop them. In 2000, outspoken critics Miguel Altieri of University of California, Berkeley and Peter Rosset of La Via Campesina gave their “10 reasons for why biotechnology will not ensure food security, protect the environment and reduce poverty in the developing world.” The following infographic from Visual.ly summarises some of the definitions and issues involved:
It has been long established that national measures of wealth, such as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), do not tell the whole story of people’s lives. The search for a more inclusive representation of what is important has been on for a few decades. The Human Development Index (HDI), for example, was first published in 1990 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as a direct response to Amartya Sen’s capability approach. This Nobel Prize winning economist’s groundbreaking insights argued that governments should not only focus on increasing citizens’ monetary wealth, but on ensuring that they are able and capable of achieving their dreams, goals and full potential in the society they live in. The HDI, which was co-created by Sen himself, is a composite measure that takes into account the GDP, life expectancy and education levels in each country. Although it is still by no means perfect, since its conception, critiques of the HDI, namely measurement errors and the important things it still does not capture, have been incrementally addressed and incorporated into later versions. For example, the 2010 HDI was the first to factor in inequalities in the three mesaures between the world’s nations, creating a separate Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI). You can download the full 2011 country rankings here.
The honest poor can sometimes forget poverty. The honest rich can never forget it.
Gilbert K. Chesterton
Growing up in 1980s and 90s Russia was not easy. For the first few years of my life three generations of my family lived in a tiny two bedroom flat on the fifth floor of a ten story grey Communist monolith. Living in such close proximity, my grandparents on my mum’s side, my parents, and my sister and I shared a lot, except perhaps privacy. With regular state salary payments being rarer than all the world’s blue moons, my mum forwent many meals to keep my sister and I fed. On the flip side, every year, for the best part of the three months that a typical Russian school summer break lasts, my father’s parents inherited the responsibility of taking care of us, the kids. Their apartment, located in a rural town called Gorodovikovsk in the southern Russian Republic of Kalmykia, where my grandmother still lives, was a little roomier, but it lacked many of the amenities that most people living in developed countries take for granted. We used the communal outdoor, hole-in-the-ground latrine, using only old news pages for toilet paper. Meanwhile, on the count of, at best, an unreliable water supply, we filled up every pot and pan in the kitchen with fresh water from the local well, heating just enough every other day to have a quick “bucket wash” (perhaps this explains why I am still unable to take a shower that lasts longer than a minute).
As New Orleans braced itself for the arrival of Hurricane Isaac late in August 2012 the thoughts and good wishes of those far away were and remain with city’s residents. It seemed unjust that the city should be hit again and again when the monumental destruction that the 2005 Hurricane Katrina left in its path, and the subsequently inadequate response of the authorities, was already so devastating for the coastal metropolis. The Katrina crisis shone a bright spotlight on the infrastructural, public services, and general poverty and unemployment problems that have festered unchecked in the city and this spotlight brought with it a tsunami wave of anger. Enough was enough—things had to change. For a few, that meant subduing their frustrations and taking practical action with initiatives to turn the city around.
Whether the food industry can play a constructive role in battling public health and environmental problems is a heavily debated question. On the one end, global companies like Coca-Cola are touting their own efforts towards sustainability and are claiming to be making significant inroads. Meanwhile, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) argues that, despite their sustainability rhetoric, companies like the agriculture giant Monsanto only damage sustainability efforts because they are driven mainly by profits and encourage unsustainable practices like pesticide-use. Whereas, writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Professor Marion Nestle of New York University and Dr. David Ludwig of Harvard University, argue that companies could act in the interest of public health and environment only if guided to do so by consumer demand and public policy and regulation.
This week’s The Economist featured a story on rising global epidemic of obesity that was part of the Special Report on Obesity. I was very enthused by the initial discussion that mirrored much of the analysis that the Development Roast has offered in the past. Yet a grave disappointment ensued when the piece entitled Fat Chance seemed to contradict much of the preceding argument when reaching its conclusion.
The article begins with the now very familiar recounting of the global statistics that show obesity and its accompanying diseases such as diabetes, heart conditions and food-related cancers as the biggest killers worldwide, in both advanced and developing nations. It then went on to admit that such a widespread trend, which is imposing a heavy cost on both public and private purses, as well as causing a reduction in labor productivity, presents a dilemma for a magazine. Read More »
Inspiration: Redrawing Green-Fingered Battle Lines–An Interview with the founder of the Guerrilla Gardening Movement in London
The city of London is a very expensive place to live. Most Londoners settle for the cheapest available accommodation; small inner city flats in large, grey, 1970’s purpose-built, ex-council authority blocks. Unfortunately, the relative affordability comes at a price; the surroundings tend to be as grey as the buildings themselves.
This is exactly the setting that Richard Reynolds found himself in eight years ago when he moved to a gloomy area of London known as Elephant and Castle (E&C). Development Roast caught up with Richard to find out how people are redrawing the green-fingered battle lines through the Guerrilla Gardening community that he launched in London—a movement of individuals who secretly reclaim and green neglected city spaces. Read More »