Food and agriculture blogs
As a consumer you have the potential to promote development through your buying habits. But how effective are you?
Agriculture is just one of the sectors in which carbon labelling — the labelling of a product to show how much carbon (and other greenhouse gases) have been emitted during its ‘lifecycle’ — is being used to show how individual products contribute to climate change. The logic behind applying carbon labels to agriculture seems sound enough: agriculture accounts for 10 to 12 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and produces much of the food we eat and the products we buy. Finding a way to tell consumers how much individual agricultural products contribute to this should encourage them to choose those products with the lowest carbon footprint and help make agriculture more sustainable. But the truth is that it is very difficult to provide accurate carbon labels for agricultural products. And carbon labelling can impact farmers in the developing world in ways that don’t support development.
Earlier this month, I spent a week in Mali, going back to the villages which I have studied for the past 30 years. While international climate negotiators met in Cancun, Mexico, for the UN summit on climate change, I was keen to catch up on how climate change was affecting livelihoods in the West African Sahel.
One interpretation of Lady Gaga’s recent outing in a dress made of raw meat is that it was a statement about our society’s ‘hypocritical attitude to meat’. Have some consumers become so distanced from the way in which their meat is produced that the sight of raw meat is so shocking? And is this willful ignorance representative of a wider refusal to accept the realities of how our consumption of meat impacts both the environment and wider society? If that is the case we ignore it at our own peril.
Seeking an easy way to prepare fish at home, many families in the developed world turn to fish fillets. Grilled, sautéed or fried, the fish is ready to eat in minutes, having been pre-scaled, pre-gutted, deboned and pre-packaged before it arrives at the local supermarkets. But what happens to those fish scraps that are stripped away?
In Uganda, a landlocked east African country hit by fish scarcity, these scraps or fish bones are called fille, after the late musician Philly Lutaya, whose bony frame shocked Ugandans in the early 1990s when he publicly announced that he was dying of AIDS. While fillets – with a ‘t’ – are exported for consumption in the rich North, fille – the fish bones without a ‘t’ – are left for the locals to scavenge on.
While the downturn has hit many economic sectors hard, have farmers prospered?
Have we glimpsed real signs of economic recovery?
The war on drugs in Mexico has intensified. A recent article in the Economist reports that drug-related killings have increased by almost 1000 since last year. Moreover, innocent people in Mexico are becoming victims, as drug gang shootings are no longer just targeting police and rival gangs.
Mexico and the US are working to eradicate the problem by investing US$1.3 billion in anti-drug aid, though only US$331 million is to be invested in social intervention. Yet the lack of intervention through social welfare programmes may be the underlying cause of the rapid growth of drug gangs and related violence.
‘Mind-withering stupidity’ is how UK writer George Monbiot characterised the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) decision not to protect bluefin tuna.
The ‘absence of a ban’, he went on to say, ‘ensures that, after one or two more seasons of fishing at current levels, all the jobs and the entire industry are finished forever, along with the magnificent species that supported them’.
Some might say that archaeology is all about potsherds and old bones. But digging into the past can be a way of uncovering patterns of human behaviour with real relevance for our own time. And recently a group of archaeologists did just that, by unearthing an earlier culture that is an uncomfortable echo of our own.
A study by this University of Cambridge group claims that the Nazca — a people famed for creating the gigantic ‘Nazca Lines’, patterns on a Peruvian desert that can only be seen from a plane — precipitated their own decline through excessive deforestation.