Assignment 3: draft

With the all the new knowledge that the World has been accruing in the past 20-30 years on Global Warming and Climate Change, the main focus seems to be on how bad burning fossil fuels is. But is the burning of fossil fuels, such as cars, natural gas power plants, and even coal burning power plants, really the worst contributors of Greenhouse Gas emissions and Climate Change? What about factory/industrial farming of animals? How much is this process contributing the changing climate?

“So how is food—supposedly life-sustaining stuff—one of the key factors in an environmental crisis that threatens the basis of life on earth?”[1] Saying that food is a major contributor to Climate Change, and that food production is emitting Greenhouse Gases that are just as bad, if not worse than burning fossil fuels is not an easy pill for some to swallow, pun intended. It is easy to understand the backlash to saying the food we are growing, and selling for a few dollars are contributing to climate change and our changing World. However, after looking at the numbers, and implementing more organic farming techniques it may be easier to understand there are cleaner methods to farming.

Some statistics form the Humane Society in 2006 are; “animal farming contributes about 9% of human induced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. 37% of methane (CH4) emissions, which has 20 times the global warming potential (GWP) as CO2, and 65% of nitrous oxide (N2O), which has 300 time the GWP of CO2”.[2] But the emissions created form animal factory farming is not all that that contributes to Climate Change.

Industrial farming accounts for about 70% of the fresh water usage in the United States, and for about 75% of the water pollution problems in the United States due to run off of manure that is rich in antibiotics, and other chemicals.[3] How long does would it take for these streams, and rivers to become clean if run off from these industrial farms are slowed, or stopped? What is the half-life for these polluted waterways?

Growing food that is cheap for the masses, but still healthy for human consumption, and for a clean Earth is not as tricky as one might think. Michael Pollen looked at sustainable farming techniques in his book, “The Omnivores Dilemma”. His book looked at a closed loop style of organic farming, where nothing goes to waste, and animals are able to grass feed in open fields. Pollan offers a reasonable solution to industrial farming techniques, unfortunately not at the yield that factory farms can generate food. And in a world where many are starving, it is difficult to choose organic over cheap.

[1] Lappé, Anna. “Taking a Bite out of Climate Change.” GRACE Communications Foundation Communications Foundation. Accessed March 18, 2016. http://www.sustainabletable.org/982/agriculture-energy-climate-change.

[2] “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Animal Agriculture.” The Humane Society. January 1, 2006. Accessed March 23, 2016. http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/hsus-fact-sheet-greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-animal-agriculture.pdf.

[3] Good, Kate. “5 Ways Factory Farming Is Killing the Environment.” One Green Planet. April 1, 2014. Accessed March 18, 2016. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/factory-farming-is-killing-the-environment/.

 

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