Think of the cause of global warming, and fossil fuel energy probably comes to mind. Less conspicuous are the consequences of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food system is elaborate and complex; its requirements and impacts are extraordinary. Fossil fuel tractors, fishing vessels, transport, processing, chemicals, packaging materials, refrigeration, supermarkets, and kitchens. Every step hides an important quantity of carbon dioxide.
Recently a new report was edited by the Club of Rome, “Come on”, about the economical costs and benefits of several human activities, considering environmental expenses and exploiting of natural resources that are usually overlooked. What arises in this report is that many professional sectors wouldn’t be favourable, and that livestock and agriculture, especially some crops, are the worst activities. Where does it come from? Let’s have a look on traditional cultivations, for example. Wide expanses of one only crop… Is really monoculture the best way to cultivate vegetables? When has ever nature used something similar? If the answer is never, it’s because it is extremely damaging for soil, biodiversity and actually the plants themselves. In order to maximize the incomes, crops are selected to produce more and more, without caring about resistance against insects and parasites, and it is put in practice in a bigger amount of fertilizers that needs to be used and that, atomizing in the air, form the powerful greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. It’s not rare that ponds and lakes near intensive crops suffer because of eutrophication: an excess of nutrients caused by fertilizers leaching that begets the degradation of the water bodies and kills the most part of animals living there. When not polluted, wetlands and underground reservoirs are exploited to the dryness in order to get the necessary water. And biodiversity too is negatively affected by such a hostile habitat with a single abundant plant species, poor soil, polluted water and chemical pesticides all around. A research by Unep tells that current food systems accounts for the loss of about 60% of biodiversity.
If we talk about livestock, the situation is even worse. Our passion for meat involves over 60 billion land animals that require nearly half of all agricultural land for food and pasture. And is responsible for massive deforestation especially in Southern countries, as Central and South America. Livestock emissions, including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, are responsible for an estimated 18 to 20% of greenhouse gases annually. A source second only to fossil fuels.
If you add to livestock all other food-related emissions – the only food waste contributes with an 8% of the total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions – what we eat turns out to be the number one of greatest causes of global warming along with the energy supply sector. In fact, recently a new report was edited by the Club of Rome, about the economical costs and benefits of several human activities, considering environmental expenses and exploiting of natural resources that are usually overlooked. What arises in this report confirms the thesis: many professional sectors wouldn’t be favourable, but livestock and agriculture, especially some crops, are the worst ones.
But new farming and breeding methods are spreading all over the world, to have a more sustainable food system. Multistrata agroforestry mimics the natural structure of forests blending an overstorey of taller trees and an understorey of one or more layers of crops, maximizing both horizontal and vertical space, having a far more favourable yield and delivering other environmental benefits, as preventing form erosion and flooding, recharging groundwater, restoring degraded land and soils, supporting biodiversity by providing habitat and corridors between fragmented ecosystems, and absorbing and storing significant amount of carbon. Another example is silvopasture, that mixes trees and pasture or forage into a single system for raising livestock, from cattle and sheep to deer and ducks. This integrated symbiotic system proves to be more resilient for both animals and trees, and is far more sustainable.
What we can do to make the difference is being responsible consumers. It sounds trivial, but what we choose every day at the supermarket is really affecting the environment. Make the right choise!
From October 14th to 26th, every day you’ll find here, and on our Facebook and Instagram pages, funny quizzes and games online to know more about environmental issues. You can play everywhere and whenever you want. Follow the anniversary!
Enjoy our quiz on Kahoot. What to do to play:
1. Download the free app “Kahoot!” on your smartphone or connect to the website www.kahoot.com
2. Sign up/Log in
3. Enter the PIN 0948086 or use the link here https://kahoot.it/challenge/0948086
4. Start the challenge!
Elisa, EVS volunteer from Erasmus+