Issue No. 9
An Ivory-Free Canada
In 1980, there were 1.3 million elephants in Africa. There are now only 400,000, and they are being killed at a rate of about 20,000 a year which means they’ll become extinct in our lifetime unless changes are made. Incredibly, Canada has failed to join numerous nations in banning the ivory trade. If you’d like to act, sign the petition to stop the sale of ivory in Canada at www.janegoodall.ca
Is This The Real Life, Is This Just Fantasy?
News stories about plant-based protein -- whether it’s burgers or sausages, non-dairy milks and ice cream, cheese etc., are everywhere but how real is the food transformation? There’s compelling evidence in a new report from the investor group FAIRR that the shift is only going to get bigger and it’s here to stay. The report urges Big Food to step up. See our Aug 29 blog at www.planetfriendlynews.com
Global Climate Strikes
Planet Friendly News is joining the global digital #Climate Strike on Sept 20 as part of Global Climate Strike’s appeal to students and adults to walk out of homes, schools, and workplaces on Sept 20 and Sept 27. Inspired by Swedish teen activist, Greta Thunberg, Global Climate Strike has marked these dates for action around the world to pressure political leaders to address the climate crisis. We’ll have banners and ads on our website and social media urging people to join.
speaking words of wisdom
“This report confirms what we’ve known for a decade or more: Our industrial agricultural system is bad for consumers, bad for family farmers, and bad for our climate. We need to reform our agricultural system by ending the stranglehold a handful of multinational corporations have over our vast food economy … It’s time to end factory farming once and for all .”
— Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch, commenting on the UN’s latest IPCC report.
(And let’s not forget, it’s also bad for the animals!)
Photo: Moving Animals
on the horizon
Is a Climate Tax on Meat in Our Future?
The UN’s latest IPCC report supports eating less meat as one of the most effective ways to fight the climate crisis. Is a tax on meat the next big thing to lower the carbon footprint, health and environmental costs of what we eat? Several studies predict meat taxes are coming, including the concept of a “climate tax”, and Germany, Denmark and Sweden are already considering them to lower the carbon footprint of the food system. Legislators have long taxed products that harm people and the environment e.g., tobacco, which has helped reduce smoking, lower cancer rates and decrease health care costs.
Also, meat consumption has hidden climate and health costs that are not reflected in its price. The industrialized animal agriculture system is a major source of GHGs, contributes to antibiotic resistance and is a significant source of air, water and soil pollution. The World Health Organization has classified processed meat as a carcinogen and red meats are associated with certain cancers. Meat consumption has also been linked to heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
A recent study by Oxford University looked at the impact of red meat consumption on mortality and health care costs and how these factors would change if red meat was taxed. The study predicts that in 2020, red meat consumption will be associated with 860,000 deaths globally and processed meat consumption will be associated with 1.5 million deaths. The associated health care costs would be US$285 billion. If these costs were reflected in the price of meat via a tax, it is predicted to reduce the death rate by 222,000 people and save US$41 billion. The findings were based on global average tax rates of 4% for red meat (up to 21% in high income countries) and 25% for processed meat.
Meat taxes are politically difficult for governments as vested interests fight back. And any meat tax should not impede low-income consumers’ access to protein. People may balk at paying a meat tax but we, as taxpayers, already support the meat industry through massive subsidies. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), agricultural subsidies in 2014 were more than US$600 billion in the 49 top producing countries, the majority going to the meat and dairy industries. But as consumers and voters become more aware of the negative climate consequences of meat production and as the demand for alternative proteins continues to grow, politicians may face less opposition to the concept. People can choose to consume meat despite the health warnings, but the growing awareness that meat consumption is damaging the planet changes the conversation and makes meat taxes more likely.
Land Use: An Under-Appreciated Factor in the Climate Equation
Typical discussions about solutions to the climate crisis focus on reducing emissions from energy, industry and transportation although, increasingly, eating less meat is gaining traction too. However, the UN’s latest IPCC report released in August makes it clear that how we use land is another critical factor as it is both a source of emissions and a solution to their capture (see above chart).
Trees, other vegetation and soils sequester nearly one-third of human-caused CO2 emissions but this capability is under threat because the way we currently use land is making the climate crisis worse. We can’t limit temperatures to safe levels without profound changes to how we produce our food and manage land.
Twenty-three percent of human-caused GHG emissions come from agriculture, forestry and other uses. The way we use land e.g., clearing forests for farming and logging drive these emissions. Forty-four percent of methane – a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2 -- comes from agriculture, the destruction of peatlands and other land-based sources.
Despite these numbers, the land is still managing to remove more emissions than it emits but further deforestation and land degradation will continue to narrow this gap and diminish the land’s ability to act as a carbon sink. Also, the temperature of the land is rising 75% faster than the global average which, of course, includes the oceans. This is leading to wildfires, heatwaves and more extreme rainfall. More than 74,000 fires have burned in Brazil so far this year – half of which are/were in the Amazon. Sources calculate this to be an 80-84% increase compared with last year.
The largest potential for reducing emissions lies in curbing deforestation, especially in tropical forests, as well as large-scale replanting of forests and pasture land. Also, large scale changes to food processing, low carbon farming methods, shifting to plant-based foods and reducing food and agricultural waste, will all help lower the carbon foot print of our food system and -- not only safeguard -- but strengthen the land’s ability to sequester emissions. Source: www.wri.org
the deeper dive
Three Fixes For Millions Facing Food Insecurity
The developed world is seeking to wean itself off fossil fuels and limit the carbon footprint of animal agriculture to slow down global heating. But how do hundreds of millions of people in the developing world, who are least responsible for GHG emissions and have the fewest resources, deal with how the climate crisis is compromising their ability to grow food and feed their families?
To help 500 million farming households in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa adapt their growing methods to be more resilient and reduce emissions, scientists at the global research partnership, CGIAR, have three compelling and accessible solutions to help smallholder farmers. First, heat resistant beans. 400 million people rely on beans for nutrition but global heating is expected to shrink the growing area by 50% by 2050. So, scientists have identified 30 varieties of heat resistant beans that can grow in hotter temperatures and be more drought resistant. This is expected to increase yields and eliminate the need to clear more forests for cropland, a key source of GHG emissions.
Second, managing pests and disease. Hotter growing conditions will lead to an increase in pests and crop disease. Scientists have identified nature-based solutions rather than expensive chemical pesticides as a way to control the problem. The Lynx spider, dragonflies and ground beetles feed on a wide variety of crop eating insects. These helpful predator insects can be attracted by planting wild flowers and encouraging biodiversity on farms.
Third, new methods to reduce emissions. Rice production is a significant source of methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. But scientists and 100,000 farmers in the Philippines are using new irrigation techniques to address the problem. With intermittent, rather than constant, irrigation, rice farmers have lowered water use by 15-30%, reduced methane emissions by 50%, and yet maintained crop yields. “For each dollar invested in projects like these, up to $17 is returned,” says CGIAR executive director Elwyn Grainger-Jones. This kind of agricultural research is a key way to help feed the world now threatened by global heating. Source: www.cgiar.org
saving whales and dolphins
The Canadian conservation group, Sea Shepherd, is working with West African governments to stop illegal fishing in the rich fishing grounds off the coast from Senegal to Nigeria. These coastal nations have few patrol boats to control fishing by unlicensed foreign industrial vessels, and reduce illegal bycatch that is estimated to kill more than 300,000 whales and dolphins each year. Sea Shepherd is offering ships to help coastal nations stop illegal activity. www.seashepherd.org
Photo: Keith Bremner/Unsplash
1. A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association said eating more plants and less meat is linked to a 25% lower risk of early death (from any cause) and a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease. The study followed 12,000 middle-aged adults for almost 30 years. One explanation for the findings was that eating plant-based foods is higher in beneficial nutrients and lower in potentially harmful nutrients. A plant-based diet was also linked to healthier body weights, lower inflammation, lower risk of Type 2 diabetes and better blood pressure.
2. Goldsmiths, University of London, made news in August when their new Warden made the decision to remove beef from their cafes to tackle the climate crisis. .
3. Canada joined 61 states and the EU in closing its ports to illegal fishers to protect against unfair and illegal competition. With the world’s longest coastline, this is a big deal for food security. Source: www.wri.org.
4. In a victory for animals trapped in research labs, the Dutch government plans to stop all animal testing by 2025. Animal studies fail to lead to treatments for humans more than 90% of the time, and 95% of new drugs that test safe and effective in animals fail in human trials. Source: www.peta.org
1. A breakdown of global population by wealth and responsibility for carbon emissions shows: High income people comprise 16% of the population and contribute 38% of emissions; upper middle income people comprise 35% and produce 48%; lower middle income people comprise 40% and contribute 13%; and, lower income people comprise 9% and contribute 0.5%. Source: www.ourworldindata.org
2. Independent research conducted for Impossible Foods found that in 2016 concern about the environment didn’t make it into the Top 10 reasons to buy plant-based meat. In 2019, it ranks third.
3. Only 20% of people have ever flown. Dollar for dollar, hour for hour, flying is the quickest, cheapest way to warm the planet. And buyer beware, three-quarters of carbon offsets are said not to deliver on their claims. Visit: We Stay On The Ground on Facebook.
4. Global emissions of CO2 need to peak by 2020 to keep the increase in the planet’s temperature below 1.5C. And, plans need to be in place now to cut emissions by 45% by 2030. Source: www.commondreams.org
how sustainable is plant-based meat?
There’s growing public awareness that plant-based meat is more sustainable than animal meat which is why so many people – especially flexitarians (those looking to eat less meat) – are transitioning to these products. But what exactly does “more sustainable” mean? This fact sheet from The Good Food Institute www.gfi.org breaks it down using key metrics such as land and water use, GHG emissions and aquatic eutrophication potential (eutrophication causes dead zones and algae blooms in oceans, lakes and rivers).
Here’s a summary of the chart: Plant-based meat uses an average of 93% less land than conventional meat; emits an average of 88.5% fewer greenhouse gasses; uses an average of 95.5% less water; and, results in 75.5% less nutrient pollution in aquatic systems. And, unlike conventional meat, it is antibiotic-free and therefore doesn’t contribute to antibiotic resistance -- considered by England’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sally Davies, as being as big a threat to humanity as climate change.
Raising animals for food occupies 77% of agricultural land but produces only 17% of our food;
Animal agriculture emits more greenhouse gasses than the entire global transportation sector (all cars, planes, ships etc.);
Conventional meat production consumes nearly one-third of all water used for agriculture; and,
Producing food from animals pollutes water quality and causes deadly accumulations of nutrients from run-off.