Sunday, April 13, 2008

food, waste and climate change

Curiously, some of the major results of our Local Food Lent experiment were caused by becoming a paid writer. That is a bit of a broad generalisation of what I do, but I do get paid a bit for submitting regular environmental blog posts. I now read a lot more and think a lot more about what I read.

For example, last week I learnt that:

1. 50% of all food is wasted between the farm and the plate. Of the food that reaches our kitchens, 30% is thrown away uneaten (I'm not clear whether this is included within the 50% or not). This amount of food is sufficient to meet the half of the annual imports of food for the continent of Africa. This is almost a criminal waste when there are parts of the world where the poor are rioting over food.

2. If you measure the energy balance of food, it costs far more in calories to grow and transport them than we get from the food. Which when you stop and think about it is crackers. We'd be better off learning to survive on drinking petroleum, it'd be a lot more efficient. Sadly it appears that driving a short distance to the shops may well be more energy efficient than walking if you eat a lot of meat.

3. At least one respected climate scientist is reported to have said that the IPCC's recent target for CO2 in the atmosphere is far too high. This is the concentration in the atmosphere beyond which it is going to be really hard to get things back to normal - the tipping point. And if he is correct, we are within a hair of this point already. So rather than attempting to find political solutions which allow a 'sustainable' amount of CO2 growth in the future, the truth might be that we need to dramatically reduce the absolute concentration of CO2 and not just reduce the rate of increase. This would require a dramatic decrease in our standard of living one way or another - we either do it voluntarily or have the effects of climate change do it for us.

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