DALLAS (Reuters) - More wood was removed from forests in 2005 than ever before, one of many troubling environmental signs highlighted on Thursday in the Worldwatch Institute's annual check of the planet's health.
The Washington-based think tank's "Vital Signs 2007-2008" report points to global patterns ranging from rising meat consumption to Asian economic growth it says are linked to the broader problem of climate change.
"I think climate change is the most urgent challenge we have ever faced," said Erik Assadourian, director of the Vital Signs project.
"You see many trends in climate change, whether we are talking about grain production which is affected by droughts and flooding. Or meat production as livestock production makes up about 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions," he told Reuters in a telephone interview before the report's release.
Assadourian said the key message of the report was that unsustainable consumption patterns were responsible for climate change linked to carbon emissions and other ecological woes.
He said of the 44 trends tracked by the report, 28 were "pronouncedly bad" and only six were positive.
The trends range from the spread of avian flu to the rise of carbon emissions to the number of violent conflicts. The growing use of wind power is among the few trends seen as positive.
Some of the points highlighted in the report include:
- Meat production hit a record 276 million metric tons (43 kilograms or 95 pounds per person) in 2006.
- Meat consumption is one of several factors driving rising soybean demand. Rapid expansion of soybean plantations in South America could displace 22 million hectares (54 million acres) of tropical forest and savanna in the next 20 years.
- The rise in global seafood consumption comes as many fish species become scarcer. In 2004, people ate 156 million metric tons of seafood, the equivalent of three times as much seafood per person than in 1950.
- While U.S. carbon emissions continue to grow, the fastest rise is occurring in Asia, particularly China and India.
Other analysts and think tanks have focused on different trends they say mean less cause for alarm. For example, they point out that while wood is being removed from forests on a global scale, many parts of Europe and North America have experienced reforestation in recent decades.
1. Rising meat/seafood consumption- more per person being consumed AND no doubt in my mind more per person being thrown in the garbage!!! Anyone ever worked in the food industry? Ever noticed how much food slobs throw away? It's criminal.
2. Too many people. Just think how badly we could misbehave w/o global consequence if there was half as many.
Old EPA 23/33/27
New EPA 21/30/24
One interesting thing I recently read was that China is developing without a meat based society because they realize that it's healthy for neither the people nor the environment. I wonder what the difference would be if it were a meat based society...
There's an interesting book called "The Omnivore's Dilemma" - which talks about our global food market among other things...
One of the interesting numbers from the book was how many people a farm supported. Now, take this with a teaspoon of salt, as I don't own the book and I am botching this... But the people supported per acre was something like 121 in 2005 compared to something like 4 in 1950.
+ We're heavily planting corn. Prices drop - farmers plant more corn to compensate. Corn kills soil -- plant soybeans - soybean prices drop.... There's this rather nasty cycle going on that didn't exist on the self sufficient farms of yore. You don't even want to know what happens to grain fed cattle :/
Oh how I wish I had a bit of dirt or a south facing window... I love gardening
Hooray for wind and localized reforestation! But I'm thinking back to "Lost in Space" -- the necessary changes and technology came too late and were to little to save a dieing planet :/
Time is the best teacher. Unfortunately it kills all its students.
Well, I'm doing my part. I eat no seafood at all. Can't stand the stuff. Only eat red meat twice a week, too, and am rabid about not allowing any meat go to waste. That animal died to provide me food, I'm not going to disrespect that sacrifice by throwing it in the trash. In fact, about twice a week we have leftovers night, where you can have what you want to make yourself, so long as it's leftovers.
Tonight's pork chop night, and I can't wait!!! Haven't had any pig meat in over a month.
My great uncle (now dead, was head of the US lamb feeders association) used to complain to me about how during the depression FDR would limit hog births and people would have to kill the piglets even though others were starving to death. He thought this was a terrible waste. However, it was mingled in with stories of jack rabbit runs and the fact that these days farmers overplant and drive prices down so low that often times entire crops will go to rot because it would cost more to harvest them then they would sell for on the market.
It's hard to to find that optimization. That said, wasting food sucks, and I agree, animals are smarter than people give them credit for. At least more emotive.
I see the fix for overplanting/field rotting, tax credits for donating crops to the govt for emergency food, with penalties for wasting more than 5 percent of the harvest. Make it more expensive to rot than to donate. Be nice to have a buffer for lean years stored somewhere, with a comprehensive rotation system so that nothing is stored past its sell-by date.
The only bad thing about donating food to the hungry is that free food makes locally grown more expensive, so local farmers can't afford to grow anything. These feed the hungry projects really do need to have time limits, and assistance provided to help the locals get their own crops going, and I don't mean the sort of assistance Monsatanto provides.
We really need to reevaluate the need to make profit. Yes, a company needs to make money, or why bother. Yes, people need to make money to get by. But excessive profits, profit at any cost, this is a big problem. Was typing up a big rant, but there's no use in it.