Elizabeth Sawin’s article on sustainable agriculture was excellent, but it left out a key piece of the efficiency equation. Today’s farmers not only compete against other farmers in the United States who are subject to U.S. policy, but against all farmers worldwide.
Even without expanded definitions of efficiency, our farmers are up against competition that is able to use more “efficient” pesticides banned for use in the U.S. (although usually produced by U.S. companies), farming methods that are far more environmentally destructive, labor that is not only cheaper, but would violate U.S. child-labor laws, and so forth.
Any plan for making U.S. farming less environmentally destructive must find a way to level the competitive playing field worldwide — at the very least by refusing to import food or other agricultural products grown using pesticides banned in the U.S.
I’m a longtime reader and supporter of Grist and I love the “Daily Grist” — just love it. But I realized as I was reading the good news in “Holey Ozone, Batman” today that I miss this sort of story — the kind that put Grist on my radar screen in the first place, and made me a loyal reader. In fact, I have a confession to make: Recently, I’ve been dreading the “Daily Grist” because it has been turning into a doomsayer and a Bush-administration basher.
Sure, there’s doom, and sure, the Bush administration is an abomination — but I don’t need another news service to tell me that. I came to rely on Grist for pointing out the bright spots: profiles of individuals making positive change, breakthroughs in science and technology that reduce environmental impacts, highlights of the positive steps taken by politicians, and so forth.
Maybe there is simply less good stuff out there these days to highlight in the “Daily Grist,” but I hope you’ll keep looking hard for the points of light. It’s dark out here!
Re: City of Angels
I was happy to read about Honda’s upcoming introduction of hydrogen-powered cars in Los Angeles. You mention that the hitch is figuring out how to develop a steady supply of hydrogen to fuel those cars. While that is an important problem, the real question is what energy source will be used to make the hydrogen. Fossil fuels currently power hydrogen processing. But hydrogen could be made using power from renewable sources (solar, wind, etc.). It’s important that the public understands this distinction so we really can work towards “zero emissions.”
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Re: Turtle Power
I usually have a strong stomach for guts and gore, but I am extremely grossed out by the picture of the hacked turtle. Was there not some other way to present this story? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the typical animal-rights activist who won’t let any violent act on an animal go without public outcry. I like to get the news from you, not a dose of Ipecac.
Good points today on biodiesel. Consider also: There’s a finite amount of waste vegetable oil available. Once that’s gone, any biodiesel use is roughly equal to oil, from a global warming perspective. And investment in biodiesel infrastructure may slow conversion to other, better technologies (i.e. hybrid, fuel cell, electric vehicles).
There may be a reason to support conversion to biodiesel for heavy-duty buses and trucks that currently use diesel. For passenger vehicles, there are much cleaner alternatives today, and no reason to support biodiesel.
I am concerned about your promotion of biodiesel and your minimizing of its health impacts when inhaled. Spewing dirty vegetable oils will not lead to cleaner air and is unfair to those who may be allergic to the corn-, peanut-, or potato-infused oils. Umbra herself noted that the nitrogen oxide emissions of biodiesel (which damage the lungs) are comparable to petrodiesel. Given that we don’t yet know the respiratory health impact on people who may be allergic to biodiesel byproducts, we should not promote them. I’m for the zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell as a better solution.
Re: The Dead Phone
I saw your article on cell phones in landfills. If you tackle the issue again, you may want to mention that donating phones to battered women’s shelters is a good way to reuse them. Most old phones can still be used to call 911, even if there is no active account. Shelters give them out to their clients, who then can use them in times of emergency. Other options would be to donate the used phones to friends and family members who travel a lot or live in risky areas.
Reduce, reuse, recycle, right?
Editor’s note: Check out Grist‘s “Do Good” section for information on how to recycle your cell phone.
Perhaps you are aware of the difference in water demand between the agricultural practices of raising livestock for slaughter versus growing vegetables. It’s huge. A few months ago I made some calculations based on numbers I found on the Internet and concluded that by maintaining a vegetarian diet instead of eating meat, I likely conserve about 400,000 gallons of water per year. Of course, there are many variables that cannot be accurately factored into the computation, but I figured the range to be between 100,000 and 1 million gallons, with 400,000 a reasonable compromise. Together, my wife, our three children, and I likely conserve 1 million gallons a year, the great majority of which is not local water.
Although Umbra made some good comments about why people should conserve water, I think there are some more compelling and obvious points that she missed. There are financial and environmental costs associated with the production and disposal of potable water. Decreasing consumption lowers these costs. I would ask Mr. Toothbrush Man if it would be worth turning off the water while he brushes in order to save having to build a new wastewater treatment plant and suffering all of the impacts that go along with it.
Pago Pago, American Samoa