Indigenous communities of Inuit Yup’ik living on the St. Lawrence Island of Alaska face a tough winter ahead. For over 20 years, the communities have suffered from unusually high burdens of cancers, miscarriages and other health complications due to their high exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
We hear Congress plans to improve crop insurance programs in recognition of these hardships, as negotiations for the 2012 Food and Farm Bill move ahead. But to really reduce risks, they should go one step further: tie crop insurance payments with an obligation to create healthy soil.
I spent the weekend glued to coverage of the high drama unfolding at the climate talks in Durban, South Africa. I watched closely because there is so much on the line affecting our and our children's future. In the final turbulent days, there were critical moments when a binding treaty with relatively ambitious and fair emissions cuts seemed almost possible. And then, well — the U.S. and our cronies played power politics behind closed doors, just as they have before.
Not coming to movie theaters near you, but taking place right now in Durban, South Africa is “The Great Escape 3.” This is how Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s former lead climate negotiator, describes the scene at the UN climate talks.
“It’s the same movie — it happened in Copenhagen, in Cancun, and it will happen in Durban. The richest nations are trying to escape their responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now... It’s really a genocide and an ecocide.”
“Sin Maíz, No Hay País!” The chant is ringing out this morning across the fields, villages and towns of Mexico, in recognition of Mexico’s National Day of Corn, September 29. “Without corn, there is no country!” is the literal translation of this ongoing national campaign to celebrate and protect the cultural heritage and significance of corn to the Mexican people.
With the campaign entering its fourth year, Mexicans can also celebrate the good news that the maize that Mexican farmers have been cultivating in traditional farming systems for thousands of years already contains much of the genetic diversity they’ll need to weather the challenges of climate change in the coming century.
Soils are the Earth’s largest carbon storage depot after oceans and fossil fuels. Yet scientists estimate that since the industrial revolution, agricultural practices have caused massive carbon losses from the soil, contributing up to a third of all the increased CO2 in the global atmosphere.
But there's hope for restoring this great carbon sink. The science and practice of ecological farming now show that farmers can effectively put carbon back into the soil – and that this, in turn, can be a huge help in the battle against climate change.
Climate change, environment and agriculture are inextricably linked. Many would have us believe that protecting the environment means feeding fewer people. Can we somehow feed the world and save rare and endangered species from extinction?
A scientific review published this month by my colleague, Michael Jahi Chappell and his co-author, Liliana Lavalle, tackles just this question. Asking “Food security and biodiversity: can we have both?” Chappell and Lavalle say yes. Citing the UN-led International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), among other studies, the authors explain how agroecological farming not only can feed the world, but also can enhance biodiversity.
A new UN report released today is making headlines: Agroecological farming can double food production within 10 years, while mitigating climate change AND alleviating poverty.
Yes!! I was elated to read the morning’s coverage of this highly anticipated report from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter. I've been writing on the very real need to prioritize policy support for and investments in agroecology for quite some time, but it is truly encouraging to see such a clear, affirming statement coming from the UN.
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are bad news. These chemicals are highly toxic, travel long distances on wind and water currents, and accumulate in the environment, up the food chain and in the bodies of animals and people. More bad news — climate change is making the impact of POPs worse. A recently released U.N. report, “Climate Change and POPs: Predicting the Impacts,” says that releases of POPs trapped in soil, water and ice will increase due to rising global temperatures. One example: glaciers melting faster means more of the POPs trapped in those glaciers are being re-released more quickly.
With tobacco, lead and alcohol we ultimately acted with precaution when the science on human health effects raised red flags – and we’ve saved millions of lives.
So what do you call it—wise, fiscally responsible, necessary?— when we act to promote farm practices that protect the natural resources that allow us to produce abundant, healthy food, even though the science on just how this is accomplished is not yet complete? Organic or ecological agriculture promises to do this and more. It also helps maintain vibrant rural economies and save lives by providing nutrient-rich food and eliminating the use of highly hazardous pesticides. Scientists now know that it can also help mitigate climate change.