Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thinking about food

Here some food for thoughts

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How the food we consume influence the environment

We recently discussed the consequences of our diet choices for the environment. We talked about how our dietary habits relate to habitat loss and species extinctions. Our conclusions could be summarized in a few lines but our impact is enormous. The proportion of land converted to agriculture to maintain one species (Homo sapiens) is disproportionate. More and more prairies, wetlands and forests are clear up for us to continue enjoying the consumption of a very limited number of light demanding crops (rice, corn, wheat, and soy.) We also noticed that a large proportion of the food produced at large-scale ended up being consumed by domesticated animals. We are impacting the environment through the market. By doing so, we also impact the welfare of other species both wild and domesticated.

The discussion could continue if we consider the oil needed to support modern agriculture, the fertilizer industry, the energy required for production and transportation, and the pollution created by packaging.

Ever since we invented agriculture we have been manipulating plants. Today, the selection by ancient methods continue along the high tech industry. Genetic modified crops (GMO's) are considered by some, the solution to food scarcity [I believe there is already enough food, but it is not appropriately distributed.] Others, like me, think that GMO's crops have escaped not only to the wild but also our ability to track them. Nobody knows where the 'inserted genes' end up. In the same way, very little is known (or published by mass media) about the consequences of GMO's for humans and other species.

We can also talk about how different cultures use food. And we can talk about how many foods end up being discarded to keep market price. The later perhaps could make us angry. This is not the point or perhaps it is. We need to start somewhere. If at least we understand our own contribution in this network, something would have been accomplished.
Lets pass from the academic exercise to action oriented solutions.

To motivate you to keep the discussion, I encourage you to list the factors that could be included in a model to calculate your food print. Reduce that list to only three main factors. Sum the carbon print value of one meal for each person in your house. What is the total impact? This exercise takes about one minute. Please go to 'Is my food causing global warming?'

Tim Lang, University of London

Mirna Santana

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region

Below is the link to the UW-Madison Sea Grant web page, which has an open forum for discussions about climate change in the Great Lakes Region. This web page also contains links to the about the impact of climate change in the region.
Thomas Coley--Great Lakes and climate change: hydrologic impact assessment
Ken Potter--Adaptative management strategies for storm water management
Kennet Trenberth--Global warming is unequivocal
John Magnunson--Climate change: a Great Lakes Regional Perspective
Tim Asplund--Climate Change impact on aquatic sources
Phil Keilor--Climate change impacts ' WI coast communities' and property owners
Jonathan Pazt--Climate change and public concerns
Brian Suttuer--Effect of Climate Change on the fish and fisheries of the Great Lakes

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Something To Share: Extension Project

By Mirna Santana

A while ago, I mention Ted Talks ( as one of the potential sources for your extension projects. I strongly recommend this website. It is fascinating! If you indeed select a video to share with peers, friends, family or the community please request their opinions. Present their opinions in a table. This table should contain at least three columns. One column for their names, a second column asking them what have they learned from the video? And a third column to get their reaction: was there anything that impressed them?
Your target audience: 25 people

Below are some of my picks:

Water, Water and More Water!

By Mirna Santana
Something to think about
Maude Barlow in her 2008 book, The Water Covenant, points out that 36 states in the USA are water stressed. This brings the problem home. Water is not a problem only of the developing nations. It is local. Do you which states are water limited? Where do they get water? Do you know how climate change could influence water resources? As a resident of Wisconsin, do you have any knowledge about the Great Lakes agreements on water?
As individuals we also influence the water resources and the water cycle. Could you estimate your impact in the water supply system/water cycle? How much of the water you use is recycled? Do you really need to buy bottled water? If you do, what are the potential consequences for the resource and for the future of water? What about the pollution we all create by using plastic containers? What percent of the water bottles are really recycled? What happen with the rest? These are some of the issues you could discuss in your meetings. In addition, please watch one video about water (your choice) and reflect about it. Did you learn anything you did not know? Do these knowledge influence the way you understand the resource? Does this knowledge prompt any changes in your behavior? There are enough questions for all group members to participate.

Below are a few resources about water:
The Clean Water Act

Activism and water
Google search: Maude Barlow, click videos
Select one video and discuss the problem. If you have an opposite view about this issue find resources to support your case.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Global Warming’s Effects on Biodiversity

By Griff Gessay

Case scenario (edited by MS)
While many people, think that a few degrees warmer in winter cannot possibly be a bad thing, they often fail to recognize the full effects of a few degrees of climatic difference. Each species of plant and animals is adapted to the climate in which they currently live. Global warming forces species to adapt to new circumstances rapidly. If species can not adapt or migrate to seek their optimal conditions, they could face the risk of extinction. The Green ringtail possums, which live in Australia’s tropical rain forests is an example of an organism that may not adapt to climate change. This animal loses the ability to thermoregulate at temperatures exceeding 30 degrees centigrade--86 F. Thus, a heat wave in this forests could exterminate this species in a short time (Impacts 2005).

I feel that elevating temperatures are changing the Earth faster than anyone can imagine. Destroying an animal’s habitat is analogous to destroying someone’s home, and forcing them to adapt to it. It’s something that is unethical for us to do to them. Besides damaging them directly, we also hurt ourselves by destroying natural space that provides ecosystem services to us. These services would cost too much for humans to recreate, so even the most economically minded person should want to protect natural space. While we’re doing a very good job identifying the problem, I still think very few people are committed to a solution. We’re too used to our consumer lifestyle to simply change. It’s going to take quite a shock to change the way many of us act in developed nations, but it’s a shock we need to get in order to save the planet’s biodiversity.

Why I selected this paper? G. Gessay made a good case about how species may or may not cope with rapid climatic changes. I posted a piece of his essay to place his opinion in context. You could clearly see that he is showing what is his personal take on the problem. Of course there are multiple ways to show your opinion. This is a good place to display your creativity.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Health Impacts of Global Warming

By Heather Hruskocy (Edited by MS)

The extreme rise in temperature has caused heat waves throughout specific areas. Heat waves can be particularly harmful to lower income populations and the elder living in the inner city. Some of their houses may not have good ventilation systems, which increases the probability of people suffering from heat stroke or dehydration. Heat may also contribute to ozone smog. Smog forms when pollutants in the air mix with sunlight, heat, and gases (Kay, 2007). Highly polluted air during ozone warning days, makes people vulnerable to asthma attacks, bronchitis, and emphysema. Children, who have not fully developed their lung capacity, may suffer from lung damage from breathing this unhealthy air (Environmental Defense Fund, 2008). Both of these issues may increase hospital admissions.

Kay, Jane. 2007. Global Warming Health Effects. The San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 16 issue.
Environmental Defense Fund. 2008. Global Warming. Sept. 16, Press release .

Why I selected this example? H. Hruskocy clearly points out some of the most common health issues related to increases in temperature in the Midwest. In addition, H. Hruskocy assertively use her selected sources to provide evidence for her argument. Mirna Santana

Climate Change and Coastal Wetlands

Introduction to the problem
By Sarah Weil
Everyday, the earth is impacted by global climate change. Climate change not only affects the weather but also in turn has negative impacts on many aspects of the world. One of the areas affected by global warming are coastal wetlands. The effects include a rise in sea level and increased temperatures, which change the make-up of coastal habitats and contaminate drinking water. Global warming has also resulted in stronger and more frequent hurricanes and the disappearance of coastal lands. In reaction to these threats, those in the coastal area need to revise the way they live and adapt to more earth-friendly methods of farming, industry, and oil refining.

Why I selected this example: Because S. Weil introduced the focus topic 'Effect of climate change in coastal wetlands' right away. Mirna Santana