Food System

Why Ozone Levels Pose a Challenge to Food Security

Aug 9th, 2018 | By Divya Pandey, AXA Research Fund; Lisa Emberson, University of York, and Sofie Mortensen, Stockholm Environment Institute

Ozone is a well-known and interesting gas. It is thought of as a “good” gas when present in the stratosphere, where it forms the ozone layer sitting 15 to 30 kilometers above Earth that protect life from detrimental ultraviolet radiation.
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Clean Cars May Cost Less Than You Think

Sep 30th, 2016 | By Amy Leibrock

Yes, you can afford an alt-fuel car. A new study released this week by Massachusetts Institute of Technology compares the lifecycle cost and emissions of owning 125 different vehicles on the market, and guess what? It turns out that clean cars are a great deal for both the environment and your pocketbook.
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Food System

White House Recognizes Sustainable Agriculture Changemakers

Oct 27th, 2015 | By Amy Leibrock

The White House recently honored 12 agricultural leaders as Champions of Change for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture. They were recognized for leading efforts in sustainable agriculture that benefit soil, air, and water quality while helping to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions. Among them was our newest board member, Erin Fitzgerald Sexson. Sexson is senior vice president of global sustainability at Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.
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Sustainable America Celebrates Launch of Stamford 2030 District

Oct 29th, 2014 | By Amy Leibrock

What if our cities could help solve pressing climate and energy issues instead of contributing to them? That’s the idea behind the 2030 Challenge for Planning, a national movement that asks the global architecture and planning community to find ways to reduce energy use, water use and transportation emissions from new and existing buildings dramatically by 2030.
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Eco Living

5 Climate-Friendly Actions You Can Take Today

Sep 19th, 2014 | By Amy Leibrock

Whether it's Earth Day or not, there's no better way to support the climate change issue than by taking action in your own daily life. Here's a quick list of things you can do every day to help curb dangerous emissions that are changing our climate.
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Food System

How to feed the billions

Jun 10th, 2012 | By Aubrey Yee

Playing off the popularity of Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” several concerned groups are now calling industrial agriculture the new ‘inconvenient truth’.

Wondering how we are going to continue to feed the 7+ billion people on this planet, a recent video by the University of Minnesota’s Institute of the Environment cites some alarming figures:

- More than 40% of the earth’s surface has been cleared for agriculture
- Global pastures cover 30 million km2–the size of the African continent
- Agriculture uses 60 times more land than urban and suburban areas combined
- Every year we use 2,800 cubic km of water on crops - its the biggest use of water on the planet, and major rivers and lakes are drying up
- Agriculture contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than all the planes, trains and automobiles on the planet combined.

What are we to do? While there are no easy solutions, this video and others like it aim to elevate the global dialogue around this crucial issue quickly. The University of Minnesota group suggests initiatives around: incentives for farmers, precision agriculture, new crop varieties and drip irrigation. This is clearly a huge and complex issue, but one that will become increasingly present in international policy debates, and as a matter of survival, a reality we cannot ignore.

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Food System

Why Are Food Prices Rising?

Jun 1st, 2012 | By Nicole Rogers


The US Bureau of Labor Statistics released the April 2012 Consumer Price Index (CPI) on May 15, and the numbers on food prices have continued their upward trend as expected. The food at home index (grocery store prices) increased 3.3% since April of 2011, while general food prices were similar - up 3.1% overall.

The price of food has been increasing for years. Total food expenditures in the US increased 3.4% from 2009 to 2010, and the food at home CPI surged 4.8% in 2011.

This isn’t normal inflation, so what is causing the steady uptick in food prices?

Food prices are really a global issue. Countries less dependent on food imports like the US are less affected by global volatility in food prices, but we are not left unscathed. Factors that affect food prices include oil prices, weather, small yields, higher demand, and crops diverted to biofuels.

Much of our food is shipped long distances using a system completely dependent on oil. When the price of oil goes up, typically the price of food goes up too. Food producers and retailers try to absorb as much of that cost as possible until they have to pass it along to consumers.

Unusual weather patterns attributed to climate change have affected harvests worldwide, often producing smaller yields, and sometimes decimating an entire crop. Have you tried to buy a pine nut recently? The price has skyrocketed in the past few years due to a poor crop and increased demand in China, which led them to cut their exports. This story on pine nuts from the Chicago Tribune is a good example of how a few of these factors can dramatically change the price of a given food.

For another good example closer to home, notice the price of vegetables and tomatoes specifically in the graph above. It’s good the price of something is dropping, right? Not so fast. The price drop does reflect a strong supply of fresh market vegetables this year, but it also reflects poor harvests in 2011 due to severe spring freezes that raised the price of tomatoes almost 50% last year. Usually Mexico’s fresh vegetable crop makes up for US freeze damage, but in 2011 the freezing weather went far enough south to affect Mexican crops as well. In addition, there was a temporary, and controversial, overproduction of tomatoes in 2012 that drove prices even lower.

The growth of the economies of countries like China and India have meant a greater demand for certain foods like meat and high quality grains. This increase in demand drives prices for these items, among others, higher.

While biofuels are an important alternative fuel source that could help us decrease our dependence on oil, in recent years large portions of the domestic corn crop has been diverted to biofuel production. The same is true in places like China and India. This means less corn to feed cows, less corn to make into food products, and of course higher demand for corn, which leads to higher prices.

It’s clear that food prices are affected by a complex web of factors from weather to politics to human taste. As the world we live in changes, we will have to be flexible and innovative to keep up with the rising price of food.

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