Archive for the ‘Agriculture’ category

Biofuel Displacing Food in Starving Nations

11-07-07

The biofuel kick, prompted by concern for global warming, is driving up the cost of food in developing nations to the point where the trade has become “a crime against humanity,” according to a UN official quoted in this story from the UK Guardian. Writer George Monbiot begins with a painful allusion to Jonathan Swift:

It doesn’t get madder than this. Swaziland is in the grip of a famine and receiving emergency food aid. Forty per cent of its people are facing acute food shortages. So what has the government decided to export? Biofuel made from one of its staple crops, cassava. The government has allocated several thousand hectares of farmland to ethanol production in the district of Lavumisa, which happens to be the place worst hit by drought. It would surely be quicker and more humane to refine the Swazi people and put them in our tanks. Doubtless a team of development consultants is already doing the sums.

The story goes on to explain how biofuel offers countries that have publicly committed to reducing carbon emissions “a means of avoiding hard political choices.” (more…)

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Drying Up Southern California

10-16-07

Colorado Springs Business Journal reporter John Hazlehurst is almost finished with his comprehensive, six-part series about the Colorado River and how western states’ dependence on it is increasingly untenable due to persistent drought.

Part 5 is about Southern California, the bête noire of water geeks. For years, the region’s water wholesaler, the Metropolitan Water District, took more than its share of Colorado River water. In 2001, MWD agreed to stop doing that in return for rights to surplus water from Lake Mead.

But climatologists say there will never be a surplus from Lake Mead again. What was once thought of as drought is “the new normal” for the Colorado River basin. So…

Southern California, which relies upon imported water for more than 60 percent of its drinking and agricultural supplies, is uniquely vulnerable to a decline. Without substantial, reliable new sources of water, the region’s future will be very different from it past.

The Imperial Valley, threatened both by the needs of municipalities and the drought in the Colorado River Basin, might no longer be able to support irrigation-intensive agriculture. And throughout Southern California, the lush, water-intensive suburban lifestyle that has drawn so many to the region will disappear.

These interlocking crises threaten the prosperity, and even the sustainability, of one of America’s greatest cities.

The growth and prosperity of Los Angeles could end in less than a generation, as snowfalls diminish on distant mountain ranges and water that once flowed down the Colorado River to nourish orange groves, lettuce fields and the manicured lawns of movie stars is no more — vanished in the heat, gone with the wind.

Later this week, Hazlehurst wraps it up with a story about what Colorado Springs is doing to wean itself from the river.

(The Colorado Springs Business Journal is a Dolan Media Company publication.)