Opinion | Reducing Our Carbon Mouthprint: Food and Climate
To the Editor:
Re “The Big Questions” (“The Climate Issue,” Food section, May 1):
Almost a decade ago, I published a book arguing that to address the climate crisis we must transform not only our energy system, but our food system, too. So I was thrilled to see the Times feature on this critical theme.
It’s just as important to talk about changing how we produce our food as it is to question what we eat. Yes, those of us in meat-gobbling America could reduce our burger intake, but swapping out Quarter Pounders for heavily processed plant-based fare produced in unsustainable ways is not the answer.
Indeed, the science is showing just what a crucial role organic and agro-ecological farming practices play in reducing farm emissions and improving soil health, while fostering resiliency to droughts and floods and soil-based carbon sequestration. These farming approaches also protect farmers, workers and eaters from brain-damaging, cancer-causing, infertility-inducing pesticides, and they promote the biodiversity and insect health essential for food security, and, heck, planetary survival.
The writer is the author of “Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It.”
To the Editor:
A 2018 report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gave the world just 12 years to reduce emissions and avert the worst impacts of climate change. To reach the goal we need all solutions on the table — including altering our diets. Though chicken has a smaller carbon footprint than conventionally raised beef, “switching from beef to chicken” (as your article suggests) is not a sustainable option.
Each year we raise more than 50 billion chickens worldwide, and replacing beef with chicken would require that we raise tens of billions more. Raising chickens at an industrial scale has huge impacts on our public health, worker safety, air and water, and animal welfare that make chicken an unsuitable alternative.
More than 70 percent of all antibiotics are fed to farmed animals, causing the growing epidemic of antibiotic resistance. Some of the most dangerous jobs in American are in chicken slaughterhouses. Rural communities near poultry farms have their air and water polluted by waste. And let’s not forget the chickens themselves — 99 percent of whom are raised in cramped, unsanitary conditions on factory farms.
Plant protein has none of these problems and is far better for the climate. In short, the most sustainable and sensible solutions place plants at the center of our plates.
The writer is executive director of Farm Forward.
To the Editor:
In light of this month’s United Nations report on the decline in biodiversity, food solutions for climate change problems are needed now more than ever, and I applaud this project. However, I take exception to your analysis of farmed salmon as having a low impact.
Farmed salmon consume more pounds of wild fish than they produce. Their diet consists of meat byproducts, soy, processed oils and other additives, all of which contribute to climate change, and many farmed salmon producers use antibiotics and hormones.
Alaska’s fisheries provide wild salmon for America. But this environmentally sustainable, responsibly managed fishery faces imminent threats from mining companies and ecosystem loss if we don’t prioritize wild salmon over farmed.
Kelly Collins Geiser
The writer is chairwoman of Slow Food San Francisco.
To the Editor:
A flurry of stories in The Times covers many aspects of the link between climate change and agriculture. This growing awareness makes it increasingly possible to pass public policy to encourage farming practices that benefit the environment rather than harming it.
Several states are doing just that. California has a suite of programs that subsidize farmers to sequester carbon in soil, conserve water and reduce methane emissions on dairies, investing more than $300 million to date. New Mexico just established a Healthy Soils Initiative to accelerate soil health practices, and Massachusetts is debating a bill to do the same. New York has a Climate Resilient Farming Program that gives grants to farmers.
These types of farmer-centered, incentive-based, state-level programs could unleash the power of farms and ranches to curb our ever-increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
The writer is executive director of the California Climate and Agriculture Network.
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