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Umbra on meat eating and global warming

Dear Umbra, I see that PETA's latest campaign says that meat eating is the No. 1 cause of global warming, not SUVs. This statement may be manipulative and political, but -- is it true? J.Helena, Mont. Dearest J., I'll bite. Shallow digging on one People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals site quickly uncovered their excitement at a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, "Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options." Over 300 pages on livestock and the environment. It's riveting and you too can download and read it. Apocalypse chow? Photo: iStockphoto The …

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Veganism: All or nothing?

The average American weighs about 170 pounds, eats about 180 pounds of meat, gets about 24 mpg, has about two kids, owns about one-third of a cat or dog, and lives in a 2,350-square-foot home. There are lots of ways to alter your carbon footprint. Depending on your personal proclivities, some ways are "easier" than others. You get to pick what is "easiest" for you. For some, the "easiest" thing to do is not have kids. For others it is to go car-free. Not having cats and dogs is easy for many. Choosing a small, energy-efficient home, condo, or apartment …

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On PETA’s latest campaign

Just 'cause I love poking the hornet's nest, I thought I'd weigh in on this brouhaha about PETA, vegetarianism, and environmentalism. As I see it, there are three core questions: 1. Should citizens of conscience become vegetarians? To me, the answer to this question is pretty obviously yes. I don't see how it can be seriously argued. Depending on your inclinations, you can heed the health arguments, the moral arguments, or the environmental arguments (regardless whether you agree with the UN study that meat production is the No. 1 contributor to global warming, it is obviously a very large contributor, …

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The subjects of PETA and vegetarianism …

... have clearly driven you people insane.

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Animal-rights group makes the stupid claim that enviros must be vegetarians

This is a guest essay from Alex Roth, a financial analyst, attorney, and environmentalist in Washington, D.C. Matt Prescott, a spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, asserted last month that "you just cannot be a meat-eating environmentalist." PETA's pronouncement is part of a cooperative campaign among a number of animal-rights groups. Their message is that meat production exacerbates global warming. PETA will lead the charge by dispatching an operative in a chicken suit to tour the country in a Hummer. The group will also deploy billboards nationwide with a mocking cartoon depicting climate-change hero Al Gore eating …

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Human-powered irrigation can increase harvests for farmers

Recently, I wrote about treadle pumps that let human power replace diesel power for irrigation. As a one-to-one replacement it sounded pretty oppressive. But it turns out that it is not a one-to-one replacement. Poor farmers who only earn a dollar or so, per person per day, can afford to do a lot more irrigation with treadles than they can renting diesel pumps from rich farmers and buying diesel fuel to run it. So they multiply the size of their harvests by two or three, their incomes by even more. Even in a formal efficiency analysis, you are probably increasing …

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Climate change will cause agricultural output to decline significantly, says study

Attention, people who eat: Climate change could cause global agriculture output to decline by up to 16 percent by 2080, according to a new study from the Center for Global Development and the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Like life itself, the allocation won't be fair: productivity is likely to generally decline in developing countries -- India, Pakistan, and most of Africa and Latin America -- while improving in the U.S., most of Europe, and Canada. India, which is on track to become the world's most populous nation by mid-century, could see its food production fall by up to 38 …

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How the meat industry thrives, even as costs rise

Note: This is the second installment of a two-column series on global trends in agriculture. The first was on U.S. fruit and vegetable farming. When corn prices spiked last fall, things looked dire for industrial meat processors. These enormous companies thrive by confining (or contracting with farmers to confine) livestock into tightly packed quarters and stuffing them with corn. Pricier corn -- in this case, pushed up by the government-backed surge in ethanol production -- seemed to translate to lower profits for the industrial meat giants. On cue, Big Meat executives like Tyson's Richard Bond complained bitterly about the end …

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Talking Rain adds organic water flavors

Talking Rain now has four flavors of organic bottled water. Wow.

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In related news, the ’07 corn harvest will break records

For decades now, the USDA has been dumping cash into cellulosic ethanol research (most recently through a joint venture with the DOE). So the USDA's analysts should know something about the prospects for mass production of cellulosic ethanol, hailed by its boosters as a panacea that can wean us not only from oil, but also from corn as an ethanol feedstock. So what's the latest from USDA analysts on this miracle fuel? From a report released last week: Although cellulosic-based production of renewable fuels holds some longer-term promise, much research is needed to make it commercially economical and expand beyond …

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