World fisheries still in danger of imminent collapse, says U.N.

When last we checked in on the world’s commercial fish stocks, they were in danger of collapsing within decades. And, sorry to say, they still are, according to a United Nations Environment Program report ominously …

Fire and rain

The ‘hell’ before the ‘high water’ in the U.S.

I just wanted to alert Grist readers to an excellent post at The Oil Drum called "Fire and Rain: The Consequences of Changing Climate on Rainfall, Wildfire and Agriculture." The author points out that "Current climate change predictions for much of the West show increased precipitation in the winter or spring, along with earlier and drier summers." To summarize his post, the drier summers will have profound impacts on the forests, grasslands, and agricultural areas. It seems that many kinds of trees are very delicately attuned to particular patterns of precipitation and temperature; changes lead to weakening, disease, and then "megafires" that are much more destructive than "normal" fires. The author discusses the biggest fires in American history, over 100 years ago, that seem to have been caused by the massive deforestation then occurring. A question I have is, is the dessication of the American West similar to the accelerating dessication of the Amazon, both the result of deforestation? The post also discusses the plight of agricultural areas; basically, you're damned if you depend on rainfall that will be decreasing during the summer, and you're damned if you depend on irrigation, because the aquifers and mountain ice packs are decreasing. He details the effects on grains and other agricultural produce. I didn't know that potatoes, orchards, and vegetables all depend on irrigation for most of their water needs. I realize that modeling the long-term behavior of the climate is hard enough, but it seems to me that it would be important to model the effects of those changes on our local ecosystems as well.

Bread-line time?

With wheat stocks at all-time lows, a fertilizer magnate utters the F-word

Famine. For us Americans, the word conjures images of heart-rending scenes from distant shores: the kind of images a sad-eyed Sally Struthers busts our chops about on late-night cable TV. Famine is an abstract concept, …

Why are biofuels losing steam in Europe — and barreling ahead in the U.S.?

The signs are cropping up — we just need to heed them. Photo: iStockphoto “Biodiesel: No War Required,” reads a bumper sticker I see more often than you might expect in North Carolina. As in …

I know why the caged hen squawks

U.K. government says organic, free-range eggs have ‘significantly’ less salmonella

The case for sustainably grown food as a healthier and safer alternative to industrial dreck is gaining force. Here’s the latest, from Natural Choices UK: A recent [U.K.] government survey shows that organic laying hen …

Mayor urges Londoners to boycott bottled water

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has joined the anti-bottle brigade, exhorting Londoners to drink from the sink and declaring that bottled water served to restaurant patrons costs 500 times more than tap water and is 300 …

Monsanto U.

Public-university researchers get cash for studying GMOs — and the shaft for studying organic ag

The following essay, which first appeared on Alternet, is a lucid, detailed look at what has become of public-university agriculture research in an age of budget austerity. ----- I've startled a bug scientist. "Yeah, now I'm nervous," said Mike Hoffmann, a Cornell University entomologist and crop specialist who spends his days with cucumber beetles and small wasps. But he's also in charge of keeping the research funding flowing at Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. What have I done to alarm him? I've drawn his attention to the newly released FY 2009 Presidential Budget. Like more than a hundred public institutions of higher learning, Cornell is what's known as a "land grant" college. Dotting the United States from Ithaca, N.Y., to Pullman, Wash., such schools were established by a Civil War-era act of Congress to provide universities centered around "the agriculture and mechanic arts." Congress handed each U.S. state a chunk of federal land to be sold for start-up monies, and for the last 150 years, it has funded groundbreaking research on all things agriculture, from dirt to crops to cattle. The land-grant system has been, in short, a high-yield investment. The scientific research that has come out of land-grant labs and fields has aided millions of farmers and fed millions of Americans. And the land-grant reach doesn't stop at ocean's edge. Oklahoma State, the Sooner State's land grant, says that the public funding of land-grant research "has benefited every man, woman and child in the United States and much of the world." That was until America's land-grant system met George W. Bush.

Election '08: Real alternatives for real food?

Questions for Obama and Clinton from a Wisconsin farmer

Wisconsin is a state where agriculture is still important, and while farming may not be as glamorous as, say, politics, we still have more people engaged in agriculture-related jobs than any other occupation in the state. Still, when politicians come to Wisconsin, they may do the obligatory photo op on a farm, but they spend their time courting the voters in the big cities. So what are Clinton and Obama promising people like me -- people who spend more time worrying about cows than poll numbers?

Still a 'jungle' out there

Upton Sinclair on downer cows

Regarding the record-breaking meat recall in California, involving an industrial slaughterhouse that used torture to compel downer (i.e, too sick to walk) cows to slaughter, I caught word of a passage from Upton Sinclair’s The …

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