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Fairness tradeoff?

Sven Wunder, a researcher with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), notes the following trade-off [PDF] for the kind of environmental charity where people are paid not to pollute. His conclusion: we are better off paying the moderately bad guys than the really bad guys or the good guys. I'm going to post this without further comment, because either you see hidden assumptions and problems with this, or you don't: From the February 2007 issue of Conservation Biology: Consider a hypothetical example from the Brazilian Amazon. Assume a global biodiversity fund sets aside US$100,000 for a pilot PES scheme …

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Where your dinner is mined

A friend sent me Tyler Cowen's thoughts on a new food book from Steve Ettlinger. I don't know who Tyler Cowen is, but he made me want to read the book: There are entire companies which do nothing but break eggs open for other companies; the largest such egg-breaking company is based in Elizabeth, New Jersey. That is from Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated Into What America Eats, by Steve Ettlinger. So far this is my pick for the best food book of the year. …

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Think again

This article in today's NYT highlights new research that shows that locally produced food in some instances may actually be more energy intensive than food imported from hundreds or thousands of miles away. While this may surprise many environmentalists, it shouldn't. A lot of factors contribute to the total energy/carbon footprint of food, and the distance the food travels is only one dimension. But there are many other reasons to question the "local is always better" logic. For example, importing grains can be an amazingly efficient way for areas lacking in water to conserve water resources. Dried grain is light, …

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Yet another distortion to correct a distortion

Anybody who closely follows U.S. agricultural policy appreciates the journalism of Philip Brasher and his team at the Des Moines Register. One of Mr. Brasher's recent articles highlights a feature of the farm bill recently passed by the House of Representatives that probably few people have heard of: the "Healthy Oils Incentive Program." According to the website of freshman Congressman Nick Lampson (D-Stafford, Texas) -- who recently underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery -- the Healthy Oils Incentive Program would create a "one-time incentive" to encourage development and commercialization of certain oilseeds and healthy oils to replace the use of trans …

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Water, that is

Take a few minutes to drink up this NYT editorial on the virtues of tap water. It's one of the most emailed stories on the NYT site, so maybe you've already seen it. This bit is particularly relevant ... Water bottles, like other containers, are made from natural gas and petroleum. The Earth Policy Institute in Washington has estimated that it takes about 1.5 million barrels of oil to make the water bottles Americans use each year. That could fuel 100,000 cars a year instead. And, only about 23 percent of those bottles are recycled, in part because water bottles …

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Climate change impacts on wineries: Could this be the last straw for some?

Many of those opposed to action on global warming might change their tune if they knew that it would actually affect their beverage of choice. That's right, global warming might change wine. For more info on this, check out this story from KQED Public Broadcasting in San Francisco.

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Freight Fright

Organic farmers in Africa fear for their livelihoods as U.K. frets over food miles Small-scale organic farmers in Kenya and other African countries are waiting anxiously to find out whether the U.K.'s main organic certifier, the Soil Association, will withdraw organic certification from food items that are flown in from far-flung regions. Concerned that the air-freighting of food contributes to global warming, the Soil Association has been contemplating the move as a way to get Brits to buy local. Critics of the proposal say it could destroy the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Africans who work on organic farms. …

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Are Those Bisphenol Genes You’re Wearing?

New study confirms that bisphenol A can mess with animal genetics Know what time it is? It's time to check in on bisphenol A, the chemical in many plastics that gets creepier by the day. Despite continuing claims by the chemical industry that products containing the compound -- which can include baby bottles, water bottles, toys, dental sealants, and food containers -- pose no health risk, a spate of recent studies suggests otherwise. A team from Duke University found that bisphenol A exposure in the womb put little mice babies at greater risk for obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Their results, …

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It’s a thing

Tom Konrad ponders the ethanol situation and wonders: what if, instead of feeding most of our corn to cows, and then growing a bunch of grass to make cellulosic ethanol, we use all the cow corn for ethanol and feed the grass to the cows? Gimmicky hook, but quite a fact-filled, educational article.

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For now, local politics is the way to effect ag-policy change

Over the past few years, grassroots support has swelled for new federal farm policies -- ones that promote healthy, sustainably grown food, not the interests of a few agribusiness firms. Udder madness. Photo: iStockphoto The target of much of this organizing has been the 2007 farm bill. If past farm bill debates have been the concern of a small cadre of lobbyists and activists, this one has hit the mainstream. Informed farm bill discussions have turned up in newspapers' food sections, general-interest magazines, and even the best-seller list, in the form of books like Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and …

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