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Quick Links, City Lights & CBFP

Two very quick updates:

If you missed the event at the City Lights Bookstore last week, NeoFiles has put the first half of the conversation up as a podcast:

True Mutations Live! at City Lights (Part 1)

If you listen closely, you can hear me swear on the interwebs.


Woohoo! Independent confirmation!

Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan has published a paper in Animal Science Journal, calculating the environmental impact of the production of Japanese beef. New Scientist summarizes the findings:

The team looked at calf production, focusing on animal management and the effects of producing and transporting feed. By combining this information with data from their earlier studies on the impact of beef fattening systems, the researchers were able to calculate the total environmental load of a portion of beef.

Their analysis showed that producing a kilogram of beef leads to the emission of greenhouse gases with a warming potential equivalent to 36.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide. It also releases fertilising compounds equivalent to 340 grams of sulphur dioxide and 59 grams of phosphate, and consumes 169 megajoules of energy.

36.4 kg of CO2e per kg of beef, at 2.2 pounds per kg and assuming a quarter-pound of beef per burger, works out to ~4kg of CO2e from beef per burger. The number I used in my estimates for the entire burger? 4.35 kg CO2e per burger. Definitely in the same ballpark.



That sounds like a very close result. Did they use you as a reference? :)

Hah, I bet that'll help you relax a wee bit. That's a good result.

Of course, they were wildly expensive, and you did it first and open source

I just finished a graduate program in interactive environmental journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno where the goal of the program was to experiment with new ways of doing journalism. The founder of the program--a vetran journalist--believed that journalism did a great job of sounding alarms, but didn't help communities work through complex issues (which enviro. problems are). He thought journalism should focus not only on dramatizing the problem, but also possible solutions, or provide a space for a community to work through the issue. That way, more people would come back to journalism and in a way--to the democratic process.

I find your issues fascinating and I am glad you are leading us through this new thinking, but I am disappointed to find your journalism made of the same old alarm sounding stuff. The complex equations might be interesting to a certain segment of the population, but perhaps not everyone. So, like my former professor, I wonder if this journalism that holds your story will really help us ALL get good work done.

For example, it might be nice to compare the carbon footprint of a cheeseburger made with locally produced products vs. one that is traditionally produced in industrial agriculture. Because when I read about the cheesburger footprint, I feel exhausted and hopeless, not empowered.

Also, I am very passionate about the value of rural, working landscapes. The people whose livelihood depend on the production of food have been objectified--targeted as part of the problem, but not allowed to be part of the solution. I hope that your National Geographic show entered these communities with some sense of humility and respect.

Please use your great work to help us ALL move forward and not just impress us with your complex equations.

Thank you for your time and I appreciate your good work.


Abbey Smith

Abbey, thank you -- and I want you to know that I agree with you. I spent several years (and posted ~1900 articles) at WorldChanging.com doing just what you describe: focusing on solutions. Please don't see the Cheeseburger Footprint stuff as wholly representative of my work. Heck, even here at Open the Future I spend more time looking at how to increase our ability to respond to problems than at documenting the problems themselves. For whatever reason, the cheeseburger thing attracted notice; that doesn't mean that I've given up on looking at how to get us out of this mess.


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