Are We in Wonderland?

Climate Change

Are rapidly changing climatic conditions is making our world unrecognizable? Have we slipped down a rabbit hole and come out to another world?

All this because of what has been “an inconvenient truth” that many have ignored far too long. If we hold a “looking-glass” up to our eyes, what will we see in this futuristic world?

One area of great change is agriculture, worldwide. Last April, Janessa Olsen spoke about environment and modern agriculture during Sustainable Rossmoor’s monthly meeting. Ms. Olsen represents the Ethical Choices Program, which presents outreach programs to area schools. Much of her presentation addressed the effects of factory farming (“industrial agriculture”) on the environment. She said genetically modified crops contain pesticides and herbicides.  She said they also have damaging effects on the soil.

Dangers Posed by Factory Farming

We learned industrial agriculture cultivates single species crops for efficiency.  But this practice is problematic, as it makes them more vulnerable to disease. Crops that feed us, and the animals we consume, also can contain pesticides within their DNA. The effects of these GMO’s on our own DNA, however, are often unknown. The foods derived from these crops can play havoc with our “microbiome” (gut) and can even cross the blood-brain barrier.

Olsen also described the abuse of animals in factory farming. Cattle, pigs and chickens often live in overcrowded holding pens. Agitated, the chickens peck at each other. Farmers crop the chicken’s beaks in an effort to prevent this.

Dairy cows are separated from their newborn calves after giving birth.  They are also milked by automatic-milking machines. Many of these are also on a revolving platforms, which cows resist and have to be prodded aggressively to enter.

Factory farming leads to other major environmental problems. Beef cattle farmers clear swaths of rain forest to provide grazing areas.  The practice significantly elevates greenhouse gases, notably methane and carbon dioxide. Uncontrolled waste runoff from pigs and cattle also into the ground water polluting ground water.  The pollution causes the current crisis involving Listeria and Salmonella in crops harvested for food.

Innovative Farming Practices

Rapidly changing climatic conditions demand new solutions.  Innovative responses to counter environmental toxins and such cruelty to animals have proliferated in recent years. First, indoor “vertical farming” is growing in large cities. Secondly, cultured, or cell-based, meat and fish produced in laboratories, can provide “meat” without killing or harming animals. Third, alternative “milks,” derived from plants such as soy, almond, cashew and oats are replacing dairy milk and milk products. Let’s take a closer look at those first two innovations.

Vertical Farming
Hydroponics
Lettuce is grown hydroponically indoors without pesticides

First, “vertical farms” are springing up in urban areas throughout our country and the world. The farms eliminate the need to transport food long distances, thereby reducing the food’s carbon footprint.  Located in warehouses, shipping containers and converted factories, these “farms” are viable year-round.  They are also many times more productive than soil-based farms. By using LED lighting and hydroponics with nutrient-rich water, without the need for pesticides, they also save water and energy.

One such project is Square Roots in Brooklyn, New York.  Square Roots is a compound of 10 steel shipping containers.  The farm grows soil-free crops indoors under LED lights. Chef/restauranteur Kimbal Musk (brother of Elon Musk) and Tobias Peggs co-founded Square Roots. Its lights require less energy than conventional lighting, give off little heat and are focused to optimize plant growth year-round.

Some critics argue these urban farms don’t guarantee the ability to feed the world’s projected population explosion.  However, proponents believe they are key to our future survival. As early as 2016, Musk and Peggs realized people between ages 25 and 34, approximately 69% with college degrees, were increasingly becoming farmers concerned with environmental safety.

For more, see this USDA report https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2018/08/14/vertical-farming-future.

Meat Alternatives

Second, creating “meat” in laboratories eliminates the need to kill animals. The film The End of Meat illustrates world-wide efforts to accomplish this. The film addresses the impacts of meat consumption.  It also highlights the benefits of a vegan diet and the roles animals can have in society in the future. Sustainable Rossmoor and Plant-Based Rossmoor also featured the film in June. For more information, visit https://www.humanedecisions.com/the-end-of-meat/ .

What local efforts have emerged to counter rapidly changing climatic conditions? One of a growing number of startups is Memphis Meats. Founded in 2015, it is based in Emeryville. The company believes traditional production damages the environment and unnecessarily harms animals.  Memphis Meats co-founder Uma Valeti, a former cardiologist, also believes his company will “continue the choice of eating meat for many generations … without putting undue stress on the planet.” The company was featured in an NBC Bay Area article this July. For more information, see https://www.memphismeats.com .

Numerous research articles have probed the effects of this major change on greenhouse gases and their warming impacts on our Earth. Such research remains a future area to explore with our “looking-glass” in this “Wonderland” of our time.

Courtesy of Rossmoor News, August 7, 2019.  Email Joy Danzig at joyfuld@gmail.com.

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