26 Jun 2008: Interview

Michael Pollan on What’s
Wrong with Environmentalism

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, best-selling author Michael Pollan talks about biofuels and the food crisis, the glories of grass-fed beef, and why environmentalists must look beyond wilderness to sustainability.audio


It’s easy to think of Michael Pollan as a food writer. After all, his most successful books — including his most recent, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto — focus on food and the implications of the choices we make about what we eat. But Pollan’s work also delves deeply into the environmental effects of those choices — from the impact of America’s corn-based agriculture on its ecosystems to the carbon impact of industrial-scale farming. And Pollan, who serves as Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, has emerged as a staunch advocate of buying local food, growing one’s own produce, and generally making the kind of individual lifestyle choices that could lead to society-wide change in consumption habits.

San Francisco-based journalist Kate Cheney Davidson recently interviewed Pollan for Yale Environment 360 at his home in Berkeley, California. In a wide-ranging discussion, Pollan talked about the need to cut back U.S. ethanol subsidies, why victory gardens worked, and why environmentalism needs to shift its focus from preserving wilderness to creating sustainability.

Yale Environment 360: In your book An Omnivore’s Dilemma, you explore the environmental, ethical, and political implications of our food system. Increasingly you hear people talk about the environmental or “carbon” impact of food. Do you think the footprint of our food has gotten any smaller since that book came out a couple of years ago?

Listen to the full interview (21 min.)

Michael Pollan: I don’t think there’s been any significant change. There are basically two food chains that we have in this country, one a lot bigger than the other. First is a heavily fossil fuel-based food chain, the industrial food chain. The other is a more solar-based food chain, and in that I include things like organic agriculture, pastured meat production. To me, that’s kind of the key distinction. The fossil fuel-based food chain takes about ten calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of food energy. So it’s highly reliant on petroleum, and as a result is largely responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production.

The other food chain is not innocent of an impact on the atmosphere, but it’s a whole lot smaller. It’s still essentially relying on photosynthesis, on solar collection by grasses, on sequestering carbon in the soil through feeding it with compost and things like that so its impact on the climate is much smaller. That solar-based food chain is growing, and this is where a lot of interest in agriculture is today, but it’s still tiny. Organic represents less than two percent of the food economy. Local is probably well under one percent. So I don’t think we’ve made a huge dent yet. But the models are there, and the models are becoming more popular.

e360: What sorts of models?

Pollan: You can compare conventional beef production to a grass-based system of beef production, which is how we used to produce beef. Cattle are evolved to eat grass — they have rumens so they can digest it. So when they [cows] are getting grass, you have a really exquisite and sustainable food chain — where the sun feeds the grass, and the grass feeds the ruminant, and the ruminant feeds us. They are not competing with us for food, and it doesn’t take vast amounts of fossil-fuel fertilizer to produce that food. It takes none, until you start trucking the animal off of the ranch.

The problem with that system for the marketplace was that it’s a slower way to produce beef, and it takes more skill. It’s a lot easier just to put them on a feedlot, give them lots of corn, give them antibiotics so they can survive the corn, give them hormones to speed up their growth. Suddenly you take a two-year process and get it down to 13-14 months. Time is money, so we moved that way.

But now the economics are changing because fuel is so expensive, and fertilizer is so expensive that the economics of grass-finished beef are starting to look a lot better. Certainly from a sustainability point of view it’s a thousand times better. Grass is the original solar technology. Every blade of grass is a little solar collector. That’s the free lunch — sun growing grass, and feeding grass to animals you can eat.

Michael Pollan
Jerry Bauer
Michael Pollan, in his kitchen in Berkeley, California

e360: Climate change is already disproportionately impacting the people who can least tolerate it: the poor. One of those manifestations, it’s feared, will be massive food shortages due to things like changing weather patterns and the demand for biofuels. We may have already begun to see this, as prices of staples like corn and rice skyrocket and people begin to riot over food they can no longer afford. What do you think can be done on a global scale to alleviate what may be the beginning of a food crisis on a level we’ve never seen before?

Pollan: From one level, it’s very simple. Grain is the basis of the diet for most of the people in the world, and grain prices have suffered this surge in prices over the last year that’s unprecedented. That’s because we began making this huge investment in ethanol and subsidizing ethanol production. That led to a spike in corn prices because we were making corn-based ethanol. But when you have a spike in one grain’s prices, all the farmers rush to produce more of that grain. So you had wheat and soybean farmers getting into corn and out of soy and wheat, so that reduced the supply of wheat and soy and the prices there went crazy too. So that’s the big cause.

SUVs in America are competing with eaters around the rest of the world for good food and arable land. You can imagine who’s going to win.”

What do we do? Well, it’s pretty simple. There are three things we need to do. One is fairly easy and the other two get harder. One is back off on this commitment to ethanol, reduce the subsidies we’re giving — it’s about 51 cents a gallon now — and cut out the tariffs on importing ethanol from Brazil. They can produce it more efficiently, and basically we’re protecting our market by keeping that ethanol out.

The next thing we have to do is a little more complicated. The other reason for this increase in food prices, and it’s related, is the high price of oil. If the food economy is as dependent on oil as I’m suggesting, we need to get the food economy off of fossil fuel and back onto the sun. We have to in effect “re-solarize” our food chain by getting animals off of feedlots, where they are eating grain and competing with people for grain. We need to develop organic agriculture, which helps sequester carbon and reduces the need for fossil fuel in the form of synthetic fertilizers. We need to move towards a more sustainable, more solar-based agriculture. That will take a lot of price pressure off, because so much of the underlying, expensive input in agriculture is oil. So you have a situation today where SUVs in America are competing with eaters around the rest of the world for good food and arable land. You can imagine who’s going to win.

So getting agriculture off of oil — that’s a long-term process. In the short-term, it’s not like you’re going to see a price difference. Organic produce isn’t going to be cheaper because the two food economies kind of track each other in price. But if you could remove that ingredient, the fossil fuel ingredient, from much of our food, I think that would help.

Most of this grain we’re talking about is being fed to animals. So meat-eating is a tremendous part of this problem too, and specifically the meat eating increase that we see in places like China and India. They want to eat meat the way we do. Well, here in America, we’re eating over 200 pounds of meat per person per year. When you factor in people not eating meat, that’s an obscene amount of meat. That’s meat at three meals a day, just about. So one way to take pressure off these grain stocks is to start eating the grain and not feeding it to animals and not feeding it to cars. We have to remember that the arable land in this world is a precious and finite resource, and we should be using it to grow food for people, not for cars and animals.

e360: In a recent article for The New York Times Magazine, you suggest starting our own gardens as a means to combat climate change. How do you see this as making a difference to such a global problem?

Pollan: I don’t know exactly what percentage of greenhouse gas we would reduce if everybody planted a garden, but it would be a percentage and it would be a help. If you go back to the victory garden moment in American history during World War II when the government strongly encouraged us all to plant gardens because we were reserving the output of our agricultural system for the troops and for starving Europeans — within a year or two, we actually got up to producing forty percent of our produce from home gardens. No food is more local, no food requires less fossil fuel, and no food is more tasty or nutritious than food you grow yourself. So it’s not a trivial contribution.

The process of growing your own food also teaches you things that are very, very important to combating this problem. One source of our sense of powerlessness and frustration around climate change is that we are so accustomed to outsourcing so much of our lives to specialists of one kind or another, that the idea that we could reinvent the way we live, change our lifestyles, is absolutely daunting to people. We don’t know how to do it. We’ve lost the skills to do it. One of the things gardening teaches is that you can actually feed yourself. How amazing, you’re not dependent on a huge, global system to feed yourself. I think where climate change is taking us is to a point where many of us will need to take care of ourselves a little better than we do now. We will be less able to depend on distant experts and distant markets. We will need to re-localize economies all over the world because we won’t be able to waste fossil fuel, like having our salmon filleted in China before we bring it to the United States from Alaska. These long supply chains are going to have to get shorter.

The writer Wendell Berry was right a long time ago when he said the environmental crisis is a crisis of character. It’s really about how we live. The thought that we can swap out the fuel we’re putting in our cars to ethanol, and swap out the electricity to nuclear and everything else can stay the same, I think, is really a pipe dream. We’re going to have to change, and the beginning of knowing how to change is learning how to provide for yourself a little bit more.

I’m not dismissing the need for public action at all. It’s important in that individual action is not going to be enough to solve the problem.”

My larger, deeper proposal [in the article] was find one thing in your life that doesn’t involve spending money that you could do, one change that would make a contribution both to the fact of global warming and your sense of helplessness about global warming. I think what people are looking for, and why people respond to these kinds of suggestions, is that they do feel powerless. These issues are so big and so daunting and so complex that either you throw up your hands in despair, or you say, "let the experts work it out." I think what people want is a greater sense of their own power to change something now. We’re really impatient. We’ve been waiting for our leaders to do something about this issue for a really long time, and people like the idea that there is something they can do now, and that that something will matter — both for their own outlook and for the facts on the ground that we face.

I’m not dismissing the need for public action at all. It’s important in that individual action is not going to be enough to solve the problem, especially when people in China are going to be happy to emit every bit of carbon I manage not to emit. So we need both, but the two will work hand in hand. Bill McKibben puts it that doing things privately — changing our light bulbs, putting in gardens — this is like calisthenics. This is getting ready for the big changes we’re all going to have to make. I think that’s a healthy way to look at it.

e360: You’ve often mentioned that many of your ideas are not new, and in fact, many of them hearken back to the era of our grandparents and great-grandparents. Why, then, do you think your ideas and writing about food have hit such a chord with audiences now?

Pollan: It is interesting. We were having this conversation in the 1970s. It was kind of just when I was coming of age, and coming to consciousness about the political world when I was in college. We had Wendell Berry’s Unsettling of America, I think in 1977. Francis Moore Lappe’s book Diet for a Small Planet came out a couple years later. And we had a president [Jimmy Carter] talking about the energy crisis, putting on a sweater, and lowering the thermostat, and putting solar panels up on the roof of the White House. There was an energy crisis and it was driven then by a spike in the price of energy such as we’re having today.

But it was a simpler time. We didn’t around food have an obesity crisis, and we didn’t around energy have climate change. We would give a lot for their crises right now. They look pretty easy to solve compared to what we face. But we dropped the thread of that conversation. It happened when Reagan was elected and gas prices came back down. In the 80s, Reagan took the solar panels off the roof of the White House. Carter was belittled for his concern. It was a shrinking of the American horizon. The whole idea of limits was discredited by “morning in America” and the promise of unlimited growth once again.

So we had a kind of interruption in this conversation. And lo and behold, 30 years go by, 35 years, and we find ourselves with another oil shock, another food shock. So we’re resuming that conversation that was aborted. And none too soon.

e360: You’ve been called a writer of food, of agriculture, and of the environment. How would you categorize what you write, and where does your latest book, In Defense of Food, fit within your larger body of work?

Pollan: I don’t see myself as a writer of food and the environment. I see myself as a kind of nature writer who likes writing about the messy places where the human world and the natural world intersect. I’m much less interested in wilderness, where most American writers interested in nature writing go to think about nature, than I am in gardens and houses and diets. All these places where we can’t just look at nature and admire it, or deplore what’s happening to it, but we really have to engage, we have to change.

My writing all starts in the garden. My experience was entering the garden with a head full of Thoreau and Emerson, and finding those ideas, as beautiful as they are, do not prepare you for when the woodchuck comes and mows down your little crop of seedlings. That approach to nature counsels passive spectatorship, and argues implicitly that the woodchuck has as much right to your broccoli as you do, because it’s wild. So I, perforce, had to learn how to think about nature in a way that was a little different.

We’ve had in this country what I call a wilderness ethic that’s been very good at telling us what to preserve. You know, eight percent of the American landmass we’ve kind of locked up and thrown away the key. That’s a wonderful achievement and has given us things like the wilderness park.

This is one of our great contributions to world culture, this idea of wilderness. On the other hand, it’s had nothing to say of any value for the ninety-two percent of the landscape that we cannot help but change because this is where we live. This is where we grow our food, this is where we work. Essentially the tendency of the wilderness ethic is to write that all off. Land is either virgin or raped. It’s an all or nothing ethic. It’s either in the realm of pristine, preserved wilderness, or it’s development — parking lot, lawn.

e360: So how does this latest book, In Defense of Food, fit within your genre of nature writing?

Pollan: After An Omnivore’s Dilemma a lot of people said, “Well, aren’t you preaching to the choir?” I hated hearing that. I wanted to write a book that didn’t preach to the choir, which brought in a whole other circle of readers. I set out to write as popular and accessible and short a book as I can write. The subtitle is “An Eater’s Manifesto,” and it is a political book. Its motto: “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” isn’t exactly “Workers of the World Unite,” but in its own quiet way the goal is to invite people to this movement who might not think they have a stake in it.

In general people are motivated by their sense of personal health. This is why people began buying organic food. It wasn’t to change the world, most of them. It was really because they thought they would be safer eating this food than industrial food. So health is a very important way in with people.

But my message in this book is that your health is inseparable from the health of whole food chain that you’re a part of. That was the sort of stunning thing I learned writing both books — that there’s a direct connection between the health of the soil, the health of the plants, the health of the animals, and you as eater. We’re not just eating piles of chemicals that we can get from anywhere. All carrots are not created equal. Some of them are actually more nutritious than others. How the animals were raised has not just a bearing on their health, but on your health.

So that, I think, is the kind of the covert politics of the book: that your health is not bordered by your own skin, and that you must take a broader view of it if you’re really concerned. We have science now to back this up: that the healthfulness and the nutritiousness of the food you eat really depend on how it’s grown, not what it is.

e360: Do you think people sometimes don’t recognize the food they eat as an environmental topic?

Pollan: Oh yeah. I think for a long time we haven’t. It’s only been in recent years that there’s been some recognition that sustainable farming offers a very important model of not just how to grow food, but how to engage with the natural world. That there might actually be ways where you could change the landscape and actually improve it from objective criteria — biological diversity, or biomass. Or that there might actually be sustainable ways to grow food that in the process actually sequester carbon, or improve fertility. It need not be a zero-sum relationship.

I think most environmentalists have in their minds a belief, and it’s vindicated by a lot of what we’ve seen, that the human relationship with nature is zero-sum — for us to get what we want from the natural world, the natural world must be diminished. But go to a really well run pastured animal farm where they’re rotating crops, rotating species, and you will find a place where a lot of food comes off the land, and the land is improved as a result. That completely flies in the face of our tragic understanding of nature. I think it’s one of the great sources of hope. It suggests that there might be ways that we can figure out how to get what we need and not diminish nature.

So I think we’re undergoing a sea change. I think that environmentalists are recognizing that as important as wilderness is as a standard, as a baseline, sustainability is a very different baseline. I think our focus is moving from wilderness to sustainability. That’s not to say we have to destroy the wilderness to have sustainability. It’s just that, okay, we did that. That was the project that engaged us for 150 years. The project now is very much more the gardener’s project, or the farmer’s project, which is how to use nature without ruining it.



POSTED ON 26 Jun 2008 IN Business & Innovation Energy Policy & Politics Sustainability North America North America 

COMMENTS


Matthew at Treehugger suggested I read this interview in my quest for good news about the environment and I have to say that, as always, his advice was good.
The piece:
'... that there’s a direct connection between the health of the soil, the health of the plants, the health of the animals, and you as eater.'
Seems so obvious, but is so profound - we're all connected and that's why, even though sometimes caring about environment puts us on a path of pain and frustration; it's a good path; it's the right path.
Thank you for reminding me of the fact.
Posted by weee recycling on 26 Jun 2008


The subsidizing of corn for ehtanol is one
reason for the price of grain going up - that's
the politcal end of this. But I think
environmentalism has to look at the money
end: that is hedgefund, pension fund,
endowment fund speculation in the
commodities market. The machinations of the
Finance Economy have broad repercussions for
the the Environmental movement that are
largely outside the reach of politics, policy or
the individual home garden.

I'm not being cynical, but I do think we have to
"globalize" our thinking about how the
capitalism of today works. This world of finance
is largely left to its own devices at our and the
environment's peril.

Part Two of this that never gets mentioned, is
population growth. Nobody ever talks about it-
it's like the elephant in the room...
Posted by myra klockenbrink on 26 Jun 2008


A great follow-up to this interview is the book, The End of Food
Posted by Kare AndersonPenguin Blog on 26 Jun 2008


I began participating in the Eat Local Challenge three years ago, before I read Omnivore's Dilemma. The book solidified my commitment to eating local. There are huge issues at work. I know I represent the smallest percentage of Americans in making these choices. However, there is so much personal gain, as Wendell Berry so eloquently states in his essay, "The Pleasures of Eating."

These changes, these massive changes we must all make, may seem like sacrifice. But many of them bring great rewards for the individual and the greater good.
Posted by Expat Chef on 26 Jun 2008


Thanks for the great interview. This gels my desire to read both of Pollan's books and articulates well a lot of my thinking lately about my personal choices about agriculture.
Posted by William Furr on 27 Jun 2008


I agree with Wendell Berry. Sustainable living is a matter of character. But you could also say that it is a matter of aesthetics -- contemplating life as a sacred conversion, as enchantment. There is a conversion of pleasures to eat as Asians do: small portions of meat (if one eats meat at all) finely cut up, and often blended with larger servings of grain and vegetables. There is pleasure and efficacy in preparing food more attractively and.
chewing it more slowly.

Regarding the high or establishment (Wall Street) economy, I’d agree with one commenter that it operates at a level beyond government control. I’m not sure that this is cause for despair. That economy can be influenced. Many of the top businesses, representing the grand collective of individual investment choices, are veering toward greater sustainability. As a species we have the ability to make collective choices that take us in a direction that is preferred.

Posted by Trevor Burrowes on 27 Jun 2008


By coincidence, today I read the chapter of The World Without Us that discusses the impact of agriculture on the environment, how it depletes the soils, how even "improving soil" still damages the ecosystem and the environment and affects what grows there after the cultivated plot is abandoned. It largely argues that using the land for agrarian purposes does not "improve the land."
Posted by Mar on 27 Jun 2008


I'd love to see the people being asked "what can we do" to say start riding your bike whenever possible. And to have large events where the public can connect with bicycles/organic foods.
www.powerpancake.com
Posted by phil perota on 30 Jun 2008


I am an admirer of Michael Pollan's work. He has made an inestimable contribution in bringing the American public's attention to the critical question of where we are in the food chain. And he has done it with hard headed facts and a light handed touch.

I am therefore chagrined that he claims eight percent of the American landmass has been locked up as wilderness. The actual facts are that only 4.75% of the entire United States is protected as Wilderness. Since 53% of America's Wilderness is found in Alaska, only 2.64% of the contiguous United States is protected as Wilderness.

Mr. Pollan's caution about an exclusive focus on wilderness protection is well taken. But he should know that thinking on wilderness has come a long way since he wrote "Second Nature", a critique of wilderness, nearly twenty years ago.

In truth, as a species, we need both the garden and the wilderness to be healthy and whole.

Posted by Tim Hogan on 01 Jul 2008


Getting ethanol from Brazil is not the answer.
One, ethanol is extremely inefficient as a fuel, and
two, that would mean Brazilian farmers would clear
out even more rainforests to make room for bio-
fuel-friendly crops, when the very presence of the
rainforest does more to combat global warming
than a car running on bio-fuel.

Otherwise, I agree with the author's points and
commend his efforts to share his knowledge with
the public.
Posted by randolph on 03 Jul 2008


"...your health is not bordered by your own skin."

this incredibly resonant statement has made my day.
Posted by nicole juen on 07 Jul 2008


I second Tim Hogan's remarks above, and would add that Pollan's comments on wilderness -- which he seems to conflate with all protected areas -- are at least 20 years out of date. If his view as stated in the interview is his main, or entire, understanding of protected areas, then he cannot be aware of the efflorescence of protected ares strategies that has happened in recent decades. For example, "protected landscapes" -- places where human interactions with the landscape are considered integral values to be protected, and where continued human habitation is the norm -- is now a major protected area type, even here in North America. I suggest that readers who want a sense of this go to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) website and search on "protected area categories." There is much more going on here, and of much more subtlety, than Pollan seems to recognize.
Posted by Dave Harmon on 08 Jul 2008


I loved the article. I am concerned about our drinking water and am considering instaling a reverse osmosis filter. Can you recommend a reputable company? Thanks, Tiffany
Posted by Tiffany Baer on 22 Aug 2008


I read Omnivore's Dilemma and felt the enlightenment. Which is another way to say wow, oh my god and i get it with exclamation. The lights came on and the relevance of all things in nature having a potential for connectedness to the human needs flashed. I began to try to apply this new awareness to my job as a biologist working with a Western Washington Tribe and its natural resources. The enlightenment was that all these interactions for food or other needs can be accomplished with an understanding of function which if considered we could then create access to food with a new less destructive innovation to feed ourselves within a natural functioning world. Not a wild world but a world that overlaps us as humans and our surrounding within nature. A natural (not materialistic) process that provides humans and all other life with many benefits that we may not be aware of but need to come to know. I hope that more authors consider giving this more thought and then create more literature on this ideal.
Posted by Mel Moon on 22 Nov 2008


How's the outside going nowadays outside of berkley? Still a bit of a mess as I might assume if not worse Michael if you know what i Mean. With todays economy being the way it is green is definitely the way. Inside knowledge tells me that Ford is giving huge cash incentives just for people to purchase their SUVS because what they aren't telling people is that the SUV parts manufacturers are going to be obsolete soon. Keep up the good work guys! Happy 2009
Posted by Seth on 13 Jan 2009


Great post. Its such a unique concept that is constantly left un-thought of now a days, to think of the direct correlation between our food and our environment, especially with all the chemical engineering of our food and what have you. We live in a world where natural meets man made. what a scary thought.

What is even more daunting is that my sister works for the FDA and I'm so amazed how many stories she tells me of dangerous and tainted food circulating in our country. The problem is that we are now a global economy and its not good enough to just regulation on domestic grounds.
Posted by Manny Pacquiao on 30 Jan 2009


I admire Pollan's writing and ideas. They speak eloquently about the obvious and the common sense solutions we need to take personally and as community. However, I support Harmon's comment. Pollan, and others, seem to feel a need to boil "environmentalism" down to the few instances of wilderness protection efforts. I am curious about this need to distance themselves from a movement that has brought us the Clean Water & Air Acts, and other human oriented protections. Much of what he says derives straight out of "environmentalism."

I also take issue with his remarks: "there might be ways that we can figure out how to get what we need and not diminish nature." Native plants and animals cannot exist at the same time in a plot completely converted to food production (unless we are talking wild rice). The land we use today needs to be better utilized, like getting rid of industrial farming. We also need to get 'back to the cities' and quit converting what wild spots we have into private reserves for people.
Posted by E. Wolf on 09 Apr 2009


Very Nice Article, Just bookmarked this page. Thank you for sharing.

Pradeep
Posted by Pradeep Perera on 20 May 2009


It just doesn't seem a healthy way forward artificially enhancing cattle food by giving them corn, a food their body is not designed to digest, then providing them with antibiotics to enable their bodies not to reject the food. The answer is to cut down on food consumption and wastage. Man is meant to eat to survive not eat until we are obese while the other half of the world starves.
Posted by Summer on 18 Jun 2009


Well its easy to criticize the way we go about genetically modifying and enhancing our crops and livestock, but the simple fact is that mankind is out growing the natural resources we have on the planet. Until such time as we start to understand this and do something about the population explosion of our planet and the greed that goes on then we haven't got much choice apart to seek better ways of making more out of what we have.
Posted by Khaled on 16 Jul 2009


Ethanol is extremely inefficient as a fuel, and two, that would mean Brazilian farmers would clear
out even more rainforests to make room for bio-fuel-friendly crops, when the very presence of the rain forests does more to combat global warming than a car running on bio-fuel.
Posted by Registry cleaner reviews on 12 Aug 2009


I do not agree with the comment above.

Ethanol is not less efficient than gasoline, for example. If we consider the power of burning, the ethanol produces more energy for the same volume of fuel than gasoline. What is needed is better use of energy, for example, by combustion engines. Another positive factor in Ethanol is that its combustion releases 73 percent less CO2 compared to combustion of petrol.

Furthermore, the planting of sugar cane is not done in area of rain forests. Most come from regular field and not from areas of deforestation.
Posted by Joseph Souza on 17 Aug 2009


In stead of insisting on organic and local, why not insist only organic? From any corner of the third world, the farmers can be assisted for producing food in bio-organic system that can be transported using solar energy. So why local?
Posted by Padam Pandey on 16 Sep 2009


Pollan certainly makes some good points with clarity. Corn ethanol has to big one of the bigger pork bellies ideas. It seems intuitive that burning food is not the proper way to use it.

Less discussed resources are our water sources, like the Ogallala Aquifer, supplying farms in 8 states, it's levels decrease each year. Conserving out food productions capabilities for future hard times maks more sense than making alcohol out of gasoline.

http://hrd.apec.org/index.php/The_Ogallala_Aquifer_and_Its_Role_as_a_Threatened_American_Resource
Posted by Jake Brumble on 08 Oct 2009


With today's economy being the way it is, green is definitely the way. Inside knowledge tells me that Ford is giving huge cash incentives just for people to purchase their SUVS because what they aren't telling people is that the SUV parts manufacturers are going to be obsolete soon. Keep up the good work guys!
Posted by John Sideboard on 14 Oct 2009


I would add that it is also those poor who can least afford to adopt 'green living' as it is often a more expensive way of life initially, with supermarkets offering the cheapest prices on the least ecologically sourced products. It's a bit of a catch 22
Posted by Peter Bikes on 17 Oct 2009


I began participating in the Eat Local Challenge three years ago, before I read Omnivore's Dilemma. The book solidified my commitment to eating local. There are huge issues at work. I know I represent the smallest percentage of Americans in making these choices. However, there is so much personal gain, as Wendell Berry so eloquently states in his essay, "The Pleasures of Eating."

Posted by Collector on 18 Oct 2009


Ethanol is extremely inefficient as a fuel, and two, that would mean Brazilian farmers would clear
out even more rainforests to make room for bio-fuel-friendly crops, when the very presence of the rain forests does more to combat global warming than a car running on bio-fuel.

Posted by dresser on 07 Nov 2009


I don't understand too why insist only on organic local? Why don't help every farmers to produce food in bio-organic system that can be transported using solar energy. it could be very useful for the planet.

Posted by agence on 14 Nov 2009


In stead of insisting on organic and local, why not insist only organic? From any corner of the third world, the farmers can be assisted for producing food in bio-organic system that can be transported using solar energy. So why local?

Posted by Netxposed on 29 Nov 2010


What is even more daunting is that my sister works for the FDA and I'm so amazed how many stories she tells me of dangerous and tainted food circulating in our country. The problem is that we are now a global economy and its not good enough to just regulation on domestic grounds.

Posted by crs-place on 09 May 2011


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Scientists in the U.S. and elsewhere are conducting intensive experiments to cross hardy weeds with food crops such as rice and wheat. Their goal is to make these staples more resilient as higher temperatures, drought, and elevated CO2 levels pose new threats to the world’s food supply.
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Wendell Berry: A Strong Voice
For Local Farming and the Land

For six decades, writer Wendell Berry has spoken out in defense of local agriculture, rural communities, and the importance of caring for the land. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about his Kentucky farm, his activism, and why he remains hopeful for the future.
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Greenpeace’s Kumi Naidoo on
Russia and the Climate Struggle

In a Yale Environment 360 interview, the outspoken executive director of Greenpeace discusses why his organization’s activists braved imprisonment in Russia to stop Arctic oil drilling and what needs to be done to make a sharp turn away from fossil fuels and toward a green energy economy.
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MORE IN Interviews


A Scientist's Call for Civility
And Diversity in Conservation

by diane toomey
The ongoing debate over how to value the natural world has become rancorous and counterproductive, says marine biologist Jane Lubchenco. It is time, she tells Yale Environment 360, for the dispute to end and for conservation efforts to become more diverse.
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Fostering Community Strategies For Saving the World's Oceans
by crystal gammon
To conservationist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, getting coastal communities involved in plans to protect their waters is critical for protecting the planet's oceans. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she talks about her work in one Caribbean island and how it shows how such a strategy can get results.
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The Case for a Climate Goal
Other Than Two Degrees Celsius

by diane toomey
Scientists and climate negotiators have largely agreed that limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius is an important goal. But political scientist David Victor disagrees, arguing that the benchmark is too simplistic and should be abandoned in favor of other indicators.
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He's Still Bullish on Hybrids,
But Skeptical of Electric Cars

by kay mcdonald
Former Toyota executive Bill Reinert has long been dubious about the potential of electric cars. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about the promise of other technologies and about why he still sees hybrids as the best alternative to gasoline-powered vehicles.
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How to Make Farm-to-Table
A Truly Sustainable Movement

by diane toomey
Chef Dan Barber says the farm-to-table movement that he helped build has failed to support sustainable agriculture on a large scale. To do that, he says in a Yale Environment 360 interview, we need a new way of looking at diverse crops and the foods we eat.
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The Case for a Moratorium
On Tar Sands Development

by ed struzik
Ecologist Wendy Palen was one of a group of scientists who recently called for a moratorium on new development of Alberta’s tar sands. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, she talks about why Canada and the U.S. need to reconsider the tar sands as part of a long-term energy policy.
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How Drones Are Emerging
As Valuable Conservation Tool

by crystal gammon
Lian Pin Koh believes drones can be a key part of conservation efforts, particularly in remote regions. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, he talks about how his project, ConservationDrones, is promoting the use of drones for everything from counting orangutans to stopping poaching.
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Making Farm Animal Rights
A Fundamental Green Issue

by marc gunther
As president of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle has pushed the animal welfare group into areas that directly impact the environment. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about how what we eat, how we raise our food, and how we treat farm animals are basic conservation issues.
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Where Will Earth Head
After Its ‘Climate Departure’?

by diane toomey
Will the planet reach a point where its climate is significantly different from what has existed throughout human history, and if so, when? In an interview with Yale Environment 360, biogeographer Camilo Mora talks about recent research on this disquieting issue and what it means for the coming decades.
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How A Small College Launched
Divestment from Fossil Fuels

by diane toomey
Unity College in Maine was the first in the U.S. to divest all fossil fuel holdings from its endowment. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Unity president Stephen Mulkey talks about why he sees this groundbreaking move as an ethical decision and an extension of the college’s mission.
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