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Farming Subsidies Are Destroying The World, And The Public Is Paying For Them

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Photo Credit: www.wallpaperaccess.com

Global farm subsidies (money granted by the government to assist the industry so that the price of food can remain low) are driving climate crises and destruction of wildlife, according to a new report. What’s most disturbing is the money comes from taxpayers, meaning that the public is providing these funds – a whole lot too, more than $1 per minute!

In total, $700bn a year is given to farmers worldwide. The report analysis found that only 1% of this is used to benefit the environment. The other 99% are used to promote high-emission cattle production, forest destruction and pollution from the overuse of fertilizer.

Soy farms in China. (Photo Credit: Xinhua)
Soy farms in China. (Photo Credit: Xinhua)

There is a desperate need for reform to these subsidies – the security of humanity itself is at stake here! The report says a big reduction in meat-eating in rich nations and other damaging uses of land is required as well. However, this will naturally happen by redirecting the subsidies to storing carbon in soil, producing healthier food, cutting waste and growing trees instead.

The idea that subsidies are needed to supply cheap food is a misconception. The report found that the cost of the damage currently caused by agriculture is actually greater than the value of the food produced. Overall, the damaging way the world currently produces food and uses land causes $12tn a year in hidden costs to the environment, human health and development. Furthermore, producing healthy, sustainable food would actually cut food prices, as the condition of the land improves.

Jeremy Oppenheim, principal at the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), the collaboration of food, farming and green research groups that produced the new report, said:

“There is incredibly small direct targeting of [subsidies at] positive environment outcomes, which is insane. We have got to switch these subsidies into explicitly positive measures.”

Oppenheim explains how some subsidies are difficult to quantify precisely so the true global total was likely to be $1tn a year. “That trillion dollars of public funding is available and is a massive, massive lever to incentivize the farming community across the world to act differently,” he says.

Dairy Cows in New York. (Photo Credit: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
Dairy Cows in New York. (Photo Credit: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

This isn’t the only report that reveals how the world’s food system is broken. There have been a series of recent works shining a light on the problem. Here are three:

  • 130 national academies of science and medicine concluded in November 2018 that the system is driving the planet towards climate catastrophe while leaving billions of people either underfed or overweight.
  • Another 2018 study created a huge dataset based on almost 40,000 farms in 119 countries and covering 40 food products that represent 90% of all that is eaten. The research found that livestock uses 83% of farmland to produce just 18% of calories, therefore avoiding meat and dairy was the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet.
  • Yet another impactful piece of research is the “planetary health diet” which was published by scientists in January 2019. Adopting this diet requires an 80% cut in the red meat eaten by Europeans and North Americans so the world could see 60% of today’s pasture could be used for wildlife or other environmental purposes in the coming decades. That 60% is an area roughly the size of Brazil!

Meanwhile, Oppenheim’s FOLU report states that they “couldn’t find any examples of governments using their fiscal instruments to directly support the expansion of supply of healthier and more nutritious food.”

If things don’t change, the consequences will likely be catastrophic. The report states:

“Continuing on current trends means sleepwalking into a scenario wherein climate change increasingly threatens human life, biodiversity and natural resources are depleted, people increasingly suffer life-threatening, diet-induced diseases, food security would be compromised, and [poverty reduction] is seriously impaired. Such a pathway would within a few decades threaten our collective security.”

Transforming the food and land use systems in the next decade is not a daunting task, but a remarkable opportunity! It could reap a societal return more than 15 times the investment costs required. Not only that, but it would also make the food supply more secure.

Oppenheim said:

“Stick with the model we have got and you can be reasonably confident that in the next 20 years we are going to have a number of climate-related food price spikes, because we have a highly concentrated system, with a small number of [regions] that are absolutely critical to the supply of grains.”

Caterina Ruggeri Laderchi, research director at FOLU and formerly at the World Bank, added:

“We need a big system reset and I think it is the role of government is to lead on these issues. It is extremely important for the planet, but it can be good for business too…a shift to sustainable production of healthy food could unlock $4.5tn in new commercial opportunities each year by 2030.”

Beautiful, dense vegetation from the cloud forests from Costa Rica. Credit: Shutterstock
Beautiful, dense vegetation from the cloud forests from Costa Rica. Credit: Shutterstock

There are some examples of the benefits from reforming subsidies. For instance, farmers in the European Union have reduced greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer by 17% while yields rose. Meanwhile, Costa Rica has seen a remarkable return of rainforest following the elimination of cattle subsidies as well as payments for improving nature. “But there is a long way to go,” the report concludes. “Perverse subsidies need to be rapidly redirected or phased out.”

This article (Farming Subsidies Are Destroying The World, And The Public Is Paying For Them) was originally created for Intelligent Living and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Austria Poised To Become First EU Nation To Fully Ban Glyphosate

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Photo Credit: Getty

Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams

Austria is on track to become the first country in the European Union (EU) to fully ban the world’s most commonly used herbicide after the nation’s lower house of parliament passed a bill Tuesday that would outlaw all uses of glyphosate, which researchers and global health experts have tied to cancer.

The scientific evidence of the plant poison’s carcinogenic effect is increasing,” the leader of Austria’s Social Democrats, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, said in a statement. “It is our responsibility to ban this poison from our environment.”

Glyphosate is a key ingredient in Roundup — a product of Monsanto, a U.S. company that merged with German pharmaceutical giant Bayer last year. Reuters noted that “it is now off-patent and marketed worldwide by dozens of other chemical groups including Dow Agrosciences and Germany’s BASF.”

In 2015, glyphosate was classified as a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Despite that designation, mounting public concerns, and a series of ongoing legal battles launched by cancer patients in the U.S., Bayer has maintained that Roundup is safe — and regulators in both the U.S. and EU have continued to permit the widespread use of the weed killer.

Katharina Rall, a researcher with the Environment and Human Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, welcomed Austrian lawmakers’ move as “good news.”

Following the lower chamber’s vote Tuesday, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported that “unless Austria’s upper house chooses to object the glyphosate ban, the bill will be signed into law by the country’s president, Alexander Van der Bellen.”

DW pointed out that the ban, if it takes effect, will put Austria at odds with the EU policy on glyphosate.

“This ban would apparently clash with E.U. rules, as, in 2017, the bloc cleared the herbicide for use for the next five years. The E.U. relies on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency which did not classify glyphosate as carcinogenic. However, reports from earlier this year indicated that some European regulators were copying and pasting from studies conducted by Monsanto itself.”

A spokesperson for Bayer told the Wall Street Journal, “We expect the European Commission to review this decision critically, as it may be inconsistent with mandatory legal and procedural requirements and scientific reasoning.”

The bill was also criticized on legal grounds by Austria’s right-wing People’s Party (OVP), which opposed the ban as “a slap in the face to farmers,” as well as the country’s sustainability ministry, which is responsible for agriculture and the environment.

However, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) joined with the liberal Neos party and the Social Democrats Tuesday in passing the bill. Putting that vote into context, Reuters explained that the country “is currently led by a provisional government of civil servants ahead of a parliamentary election expected in September. Political parties are forming shifting alliances to pass laws that appeal to their voters before parliament goes into recess this week until the election.”

Erwin Preiner, a member of the Austrian parliament for the Social Democrats who worked on the ban, told the Journal, “We want to be a role model for other countries in the E.U. and the world.

As of 2017, Austria had the highest portion of organic farmland among all EU member states — 23.4 percent, compared with the bloc’s average of just 7 percent. Though Austria’s action targeting glyphosate may be the boldest yet in Europe, the country is not alone in considering strict regulations of the weed killer.

Among Austria’s EU partners, France said in 2017 it hoped to ban glyphosate within three years, but President Emmanuel Macron has since said such a move could not be ‘100 percent,’” reported Agence France-Presse. “In May 2018, the French government pledged to ban glyphosate ‘for its main uses’ by 2021, and ‘for all of its uses’ within five years. In January 2019, French authorities banned the sale of Roundup Pro 360.”

About the Author

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow her on Twitter: @corbett_jessica.

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Sustainability

Coconut Husk Waste Can Replace Wood And Save Millions Of Trees

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Coconut Husk Waste Can Replace Wood And Save Millions Of Trees
Photo Credit: CocoPallet

The planet is home to 3 trillion trees. Although, according to a study published in Nature that number is falling. Every year 15.3 billion trees are chopped down, and around 46% of the world’s trees have been cleared out over the past 12,000 years. Unfortunately, humans have been slow to develop sustainable alternatives, partly because wood is necessary for manufacturing many goods. Thankfully, a Dutch start-up called CocoPallet is one of the companies that are taking action to change this!

What Is CocoPallet?
CocoPallet
Photo Credit: CocoPallet

CocoPallet produces 100% bio-based, durable transportation pallets out of recycled coconut husk waste. The process used by CocoPallet is cheaper than using wood and they don’t require the highly toxic methyl-bromide fumigation that some countries still use in wood pallet manufacturing. They also don’t require any glue because the coconut husk has its own natural glue called lignin. This natural glue is activated when they grind the coconut husk and press them together at high temperatures. It’s estimated that CocoPallet saves more than 200 million trees from being chopped down every year. Since shipping pallets are used all around the world, it’s no surprise.

Hardboards Made Of Coconut Husk Waste

The technique was originally developed by researchers at Wageningen University but was later on commercialized by Michiel Vos, entrepreneur, and founder of CocoPallet.

Jan Van Dam is a plant scientist at Wageningen University, who specializes in creating materials out of plant fiber. Although it never occurred to him to craft objects out of coconuts until an Indonesian man entered his office at the college 20 years ago with a piece of wood board. “It looked like a normal piece of hardboard. But according to this man, it was not made out of logged trees, but completely made out of coconut bark, the outer shell of the fruit. Rock hard, wood-like board material from coconut husk? That was new to me” said Van Dam.

Van Dam explained that he saw a huge potential with the coconut husk, especially in Asia where coconut waste is abundant. He said:

In many tropical countries, the coconut waste is rotting away or is set on fire. If you make raw materials out of the husk, you will hit several birds with one stone: you prevent deforestation, because less wood will be produced, you give farmers an extra income, because their waste is worth money, and you prevent the material from slowly rotting away, reducing pollution and climate change.

85% of coconut husks go to waste
85% of coconut husks go to waste

In 2005 the researcher attempted to manufacture this technique in the Philippines where he opened a pilot factory. However, due to circumstances such as an insufficient local power supply, the project was short-lived.

How CocoPallet Was Born

Luckily, the clever technique was revived in 2010 when Michiel Vos found Van Dam. Vos was making a hardwood alternative from bamboo fibre and needed natural glue, so he asked Van Dam for advice about alternatives that he could use. Van Dam suggested that he use coconut husk instead because the glue was part of the coconut husk. He also mentioned that anywhere in Asia it could be found basically for free off the side of the roads. Amazed, Vos left his office with a final report. He concluded that pallets were the perfect use case for this technology.

Vos explained:

“Asia produces more than a billion pallets every year. They require softwood, which does not grow in the tropics, thus is imported from Canada, New Zealand or Eastern Europe on a large scale. Complete forests are being shipped to Asia to make pallets that are mainly used to ship products back to America or Europe. It is clearly a lot more efficient to make them in Asia with local materials.”

CocoPallets have important advantages: they are stronger and lighter than the old-fashioned pallets, they are fire retardant, and thanks to an adjusted design, also easier to stack, so they take up less space. Above all, they are cheaper, and a lower price is always the best sales argument for a sustainable product,” Vos added.

Van Dam says the coconut alternative is also moisture resistant and termite resistant, which is an important factor for tropical use. Vos and CocoPallet have won entrepreneurial and innovation awards and now have a factory in Indonesia. CocoPallets are a win-win solution that saves millions of trees while also recycling a waste product. It doesn’t get any better than that!

If you enjoyed reading this article and want to see more like this one, we’d be humbled if you would help us spread the word and share it with your friends and family. Join us in our quest to promote free, useful information to all!

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“Plant For The Planet” Is Saving Our Planet By Planting Trees In Mexico

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“Plant For The Planet” Is Saving Our Planet By Planting Trees In Mexico

Reforestation is one of the most straightforward natural strategies for fighting climate change. Scientists estimated that such natural solutions could contribute to at least 30% towards winning the battle. It’s believed that by planting a trillion trees, the tide of climate change could turn around.

Forests currently take up as little as 30% of earth’s land; however, centuries ago, it was a lot more than that. Unfortunately, humans have eliminated almost half of the world’s trees. This is most likely true because as civilization expanded, humans have torn down forests to use the land for agriculture, mining, drilling, and other purposes. Thankfully, people are increasingly starting to recognizing the importance of forests.

Growing Forests To Fight Climate Change
Photo Credit: freethink.com

A team of Mexican conservationists in collaboration with Plant for the Planet, one of the world’s leading tree-planting organizations, has been working to plant at least 5 million trees in a town called Constitución in Campeche, Mexico.

Campeche is on the Yucatan Peninsula, in the southeast part of Mexico. Plant for the Planet specifically targeted this location because, in the Mexican region, trees grow four times faster than they do in Europe. Currently, over 100 plantation workers have been planting six different kinds of native, mahogany tree species across the region where there was once a forest. Since they first began their mission in 2016, the team has planted up to half a million trees in the area.

Plant for the Planet is a global forestation movement that has a goal of planting a trillion trees all around the world over the next three decades. Collectively, the organization has managed to plant about 14 billion trees around the world since 2006. Today, they are planting a new tree every 15 seconds!

  Photo Credit: Plant For The Planet
Photo Credit: Plant For The Planet
Deforestation

Deforestation is the removing or destruction of forests. Deforestation not only affects the animals who live in them but the people who live around them as well. According to The World Wildlife Fund, 80% of land animals and plants call forests their home. A majority of animals become extinct due to deforestation, such as the Hawaiian crow is now extinct in the wild.

Why Are Forests Important?
  • 80% of land animals and plants call forests their home.
  • Trees prevent soil erosion.
  • Many species need the essential cover that forests provide to thrive.
  • Forests reduce the risk of landslides and flooding.
  • Through photosynthesis, trees release oxygen into the air that we need to survive. Scientists estimate that a single tree can release 260 pounds of oxygen every single year.
  • Trees suck up harmful carbon dioxide and pollutants from the air.
Reforestation
  Photo Credit: Plant For The Planet
Photo Credit: Plant For The Planet

Plant For The Planet puts a lot of thought, care, and attention into their methods to ensure the trees’ survival. Their efforts begin in the nursery, where workers grow more than four million seedlings with the highest quality standards. Once the trees reach a specific height in the nursery, they’re extracted and sent off to be planted. The newly planted trees are then cared for by the forestry workers – they prune them and clear out any weeds.

Not only do these reforestation projects help bring trees and greenery back to the earth, but they also provide meaningful work and income to the local workers.

Good Example

The efforts of tree organizations are a good source of hope for the future of our climate, along with ecological benefits that go far beyond carbon sequestration. This project is a perfect example of what forest restoration efforts could look like, and It shows how easy it is to plant trees on a large scale efficiently.

This article (“Plant For The Planet” Is Saving Our Planet By Planting Trees In Mexicol) was originally created for Intelligent Living and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Nine Latin American Countries Set 70% Renewable Energy Target By 2030

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Nine Latin American Countries Set 70% Renewable Energy Target By 2030
Photo Credit: www.intelligentliving.co

Latin America is in the spotlight for its promising rise in climate leadership! Nine countries have set a collective target of 70% renewable energy use by 2030, which is more than double the EU’s target of 32%.

Colombian energy minister Maria Fernanda Suarez presented the target at the United Nations Climate Action Summit (that just took place in the beginning of October), where world leaders were asked to deliver concrete proposals to combat climate change. Colombian President Iván Duque was also present.

It’s the most ambitious goal in terms of a global region. Right now, nine countries in the region have agreed to this plan and we will continue to get more countries to be part of this goal ahead of the upcoming summit,” Suarez said. “The introduction of viable renewables, meaning wind, solar, biomass or other clean energy, is the first priority.”

Colombia has been working towards diversify its energy sector by really pushing the implementation of wind and solar technology. At the moment, over a third of the nation’s energy already comes from renewable sources like hydroelectric power. There was also news about a massive solar project recently being approved by a government agency – it’s so big it could help save Colombia two hundred million tons of carbon emissions once up and running!

The other countries involved in the pact include, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. Panama and Brazil are undecided, and the rest of the countries are not involved. It has been a growing trend on the continent to push for renewable alternatives and this pact is a part of that. Although, some countries like Panama and Brazil are still considering whether to commit to the ambitious plan.

Atacama Desert wind farm. Credit: Jose Luis Stephens/iStock

The upcoming annual UN Climate Change Conference will be hosted by Chile in December – this momentum is in preparation for that. Chile has definitely been at the forefront of combating climate change. President Sebastián Piñera has placed climate change at the top of his agenda since the start of his second term in December 2017 and significant legislative actions have taken place. Dozens of coal factories are expected to close soon to help the country reach its overall aim of carbon neutrality by 2050.

These bold leaders in Colombia and Chile are spurring initiatives, at a time where firm global leadership has largely been stalled, and inspiring the rest of Latin America to aim high. All these nations united – enthusiastically combating climate change – are creating a model for the rest of the world to follow!

If you enjoyed reading this article and want to see more like this one, we’d be humbled if you would help us spread the word and share it with your friends and family. Join us in our quest to promote free, useful information to all!

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