More demand for wood as a source of biomass could drive more acquisitions of land in developing countries with food security problems, says a new report by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). The organization suggests greater public scrutiny and debate. (more…)
In a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia and published in Environmental Science & Technology, the authors claim that algae causes more harm to the environment than traditional biofuel crops like corn.
However, in this study, the researchers used algae production data from at least a decade ago.
In response, Andres Clarens the lead author of the study said he used the most recent data that he could, which was about 10 years old. Algae biofuel companies keep their research a closely guarded secret, he said.
We’re in for some climate chaos. The Copenhagen Accord means at least two to four degrees of warming over the next fifty years — and who knows how much “global weirding.” As greenhouse gases trap more heat, or energy, close to the earth, and that energy is used by large weather systems, which move faster and are more intense than ever.
This means more Category 5 hurricanes. More likelihood of Florida snow. My biggest concern about all this change? Eating. If crop yields drop 80 percent as they’re expected to, if we don’t adapt to a changing climate, I might get hungry.
So how do we produce food in a changing climate? How do we produce food with shortages of oil and fuel around the corner? Well we might start, like Joel Salatin’s family-owned Polyface Farm in Virginia, by decreasing inputs to the farm.
Climate change not only presents difficult challenges for the energy industry, but also raises serious concerns about food security as loss of topsoil and desertification reduce arable land around the world. Within this climate, genetically-modified crops (GMOs) will play a crucial role in supporting increased development and population growth.
GMOs are organisms, such as plants and animals, whose genetic characteristics are being modified artificially in order to give them a new property. Last month, Monsanto, the world’s leading seed producer, announced that it expects African countries to increase plantings of GMOs in order to boost food security and economic development in the face of climate change. Africa is the only continent where per-capita food output is falling, which also raises concerns about introducing fuel-dedicated crops. GMOs could increase yields for both food and fuel, but international and regional rules governing GMOs represent a significant barrier to increased international trade.
In the past few years, the Vertical Farm Project at Columbia University has become a minor cause célèbre in the worlds of urban planning and sustainable agriculture. Since this summer, it has been featured in The Huffington Post, The New York Times, Popular Science, and most recently Scientific American. The project’s founder, public health professor Dr. Dickson Despommier, has also been interviewed on the Colbert Report, which led to some polite ribbing as well as an explosion of traffic on the project’s website.
So what is it? Basically, you can think of the Vertical Farm as the ultimate in local food production: a one-block urban skyscraper, with each floor dedicated to producing a different food staple. For the bulk of the plant crops, controlled environment agriculture would be employed in order to maximize production levels per square foot. Lower floors would be used for raising domesticated animals such as chickens and cattle, and organic waste products from both animals and plants would be composted for electrical generation and soil amendment via methane digestion. This combination would – theoretically, at least – make a vertical farm energy and resource independent. The Vertical Farm planners claim that a single such unit could provide enough food for 50,000 people annually.
This week, São Paulo is hosting the International Conference on Biofuels. Organized by the Brazilian government at the Hyatt Hotel, the event wants to encourage an international discussion on ethanol production and application worldwide. So far, the plenary session that called my particular attention was the Plenary Session III on “Biofuels and Sustainability” moderated by Marina Silva, the former Brazilian Minister of Environment. Some of the participants brought up a very provocative subject – the “Black Agenda”.
For Maria Foster, Director for Gas and Energy at Petrobras, the “Black Agenda” is an international lobby against international certification of Brazilian ethanol. In her opinion, this group is blocking worldwide commercialization of Brazilian ethanol because of oil companies’ concerns regarding the potential of ethanol on a global scale.