No sense, nonsense and a dearth of common sense.

Written By: - Date published: 9:46 am, November 29th, 2018 - 23 comments
Categories: capitalism, energy, Environment, farming, farming, food, global warming, International, making shit up, Media, science, sustainability, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, useless - Tags: , , ,

The Guardian is reporting on a study by the InterAcademy Partnership that has found the global food system is “broken”. According to The Guradian’s reporting, the study is recommending a complete transformation in the way we produce food and in the food we consume. So far, so good, and nothing that many people weren’t  already aware of. The press release is here, and the full report can be downloaded here.

According to the Guardian piece

The global food system is responsible for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all emissions from transport, heating, lighting and air conditioning combined.

From that, people might be forgiven for thinking that if only we changed our diets and how we obtained food, then emissions would drop by around 30%. And by the same measure, people might be forgiven for thinking that all the driving and flying and wasting of energy by industry and citizens isn’t such a big deal when stacked against the emissions from food production.

But the Guardian’s Environment Editor is engaging in some seriously dangerous “glossing over” of reality.

In terms of emissions, the global food system includes transport and heating and lighting and cooling. So I have no idea how Damian Carrington can seriously suggest setting aside the energy inputs required by the food system, just in order to get to a point that implies that by eating vegan burgers instead of a meat burgers we will somehow make a serious impact on the total emissions that are causing global warming (2 trillion tonnes and counting btw).

Almost all human generated emissions come by way of deriving energy from fossil. And eating a vegan burger may well entail more emissions being produced than would be the case with some other burgers. It depends on the energy required to sustain and process and transport whatever ingredients that go into the vegan burger as opposed to the other burger. That’s not me being anti-vegan or pro-meat. (Hell, I was a vegan for quite a number of years back in the 80s and a vegetarian for some years after).

My point is that if we are going to be serious about global warming then we can’t swan around spouting the type of bullshit the Guardian’s Environment Editor is spouting. Eat vegan food or vegetarian food or whatever. It’s not a bad thing to do. But eat the stuff with eyes wide open and not with a side-helping of virtuous “silver bullet” sauce.

The bottom line is that energy derived from fossil must be eradicated from all of our ways of living and all of our industrial and agricultural processes. Eating vegan or vegetarian food doesn’t do that. Removing fossil on the other hand, will push the necessary adaptations in the global food system and elsewhere.

Promoting “consumer choice” as a solution to AGW is an excuse for systemic inaction. Don’t buy it.

23 comments on “No sense, nonsense and a dearth of common sense.”

  1. Sabine 1

    How about people actually don’t want to change.
    They don’t want to give up the super big truck, even tho they only drive to work with it.
    They don’t want to give up cheap plastic junk, cause that is all they got at the end of the day to make them feel good about ….something.
    They don’t want to give up cheap meat, cause it is cheaper then the veggies in the supermarkets who taste like nothing, often are close to rotting and are too expensive.
    They don’t want to give up their Friday night beersies and town going, new top bought just for that occasion..
    They don’t want to give up their cheap flights to go … somewhere.
    They don’t want to give up Macca’s cause chances are that for many it is the only ‘dine out’ they can afford.

    Really,t people, even many here on hte standard don’t want to change, if anything they want to go back to the good ole day of plenty, where the misery ,that we and especially our youngsters will suffer, has started. Cause they still feel entitled to what generations before them had, never mind the pollution and inequality that even existed then, plus the lack of regulations.

    Its in the too hard basket, or depending where you live, literally in the not possible basket.

    When people start framing what needs to be done in terms that most ordinary people can actually do, i.e. omnivore, eat locally, eat seasonally, eat less, i.e. take the bus/tram/train/walk/cycle – but only of course if you have the infrastructure, then maybe you can have a change, Also make it cheap as chips, like literally use the bus, 50 bucks the monthly ticket, and then watch people take the bus. Not Mike Hoskins of course, you will have to pry the keys to his Maserati out of his dead hands, but everyone else might just think that is cheap. We don’t need five cars per family.

    But until then, i venture a guess, most people would not know how to start. And obviously walking from South Auckland to the min wage job down town is not gonna work. Right? And the bus costs you nigh on 15 bucks one way, so that ain’t gonna work either, right?

    As for veganism, or any other extreme culinary experience, maybe we have become so spoiled that literally we can afford to be picky about what we eat. What i would like to know, without imports of many ‘vegan’ foods, and the likes, would that be a livestyle that can be lived here in NZ year round without issues to the body? But do we need to grow anymore cows? No, no we don’t. Absolutely not. We need to go back to producing our requirements locally, preferably as organic as can be, and eat seasonally. I don’t need to have a strawberry pavlova in July.

    But to demand of anyone who is not at least solidly middle class with ‘spending money’ to actually change their habits? I think that is a bit far fetched.

    maybe we should ask people if they really need to pull a boat across the island to go pollute someone elses river/lake. maybe this is where we should start. Make the excesses of the likes of Hoskins with his Maseratis un-fashionable and an object of ridicule, rather then expect someone who lives in a Food free zone in the outer rings of town to show better eating habits and take the bus to work.

    Also i would like a second hand mall as they have in Finland. A hole Mall with shops that are all pre-used, re-cycled, up-cycled and returned to the consuming masses.
    We need smart solutions that ordinary people, with the little bit of energy, time and money left at the end of the day can support.

    Everything else is just virtue signalling for the sake of virtue signalling.

    • Cinny 1.1

      “Also i would like a second hand mall as they have in Finland. A hole Mall with shops that are all pre-used, re-cycled, up-cycled and returned to the consuming masses.
      We need smart solutions that ordinary people, with the little bit of energy, time and money left at the end of the day can support. ”

      That sounds awesome.

      Christmas is just around the corner, and this year our family will be gifting 2nd hand, upcycled or homemade presents. It’s way more fun and better for the planet.

    • Bill 1.2

      Obviously most people resist making the necessary changes. If that wasn’t the case, we’d have made the changes already. Although, to be fair, seeing as how we’re locked in at the structural level, it simply isn’t possible to go “carbon zero” at the level of an individual – everything we buy has a carbon component built in because of how we derive the energy used for production and distribution.

      So we need a hard sinking cap on fossil, and there is no reason, beyond the stupid ideology of the economics that brought us to this point in the first place, why fossil subjected to a hard sinking cap can’t be available for free (thus ensuring equity).

      Basically, we can be fossil free in whatever space of time we choose if we adopt the mechanism of a hard sinking cap. And individuals, agriculture and industry will have precisely that same amount of time to adapt to doing whatever is done in the context of a fossil free world.

      It’s not complicated.

      On the other hand, we can run around like headless chooks flapping on about how anything and everything bar dumping fossil will somehow save the day.

      • greywarshark 1.2.1

        A hard sinking cap. How would we implement that? Can it be done nationwide only, or begun at least in one country and then picked up by others? Are countries already starting to operate this policy? Which?

        • Bill 1.2.1.1

          I’ve done posts on it. (For example here and here)

          New Zealand, by virtue of being an island nation, is one of a few places that can do it unilaterally and set an example for the international community to follow.

          At the time I did the posts, the cost of government buying all of the petrol and diesel used in NZ was about the same as what the government had set aside for buying carbon credits – so do-able. (NZ$2 billion in the first year and, obviously, ever less in subsequent years)

          My suggestion was and is that we use current distribution networks and with the addition of some simple software to “run” the hard sinking cap alongside already existing ‘flow rate’ software on pumps, people then access their requirements for free.

          Business that wishes to survive would do well to take any shot term savings from such a scenario and invest those savings in non-fossil sources of energy.

          • greywarshark 1.2.1.1.1

            If we cut out the free, which is idealistic, we can still get a message over that we have to limit our use of reducing resources but also that there iare increasing levels of climate changing emissions. Making something free doesn’t get people on the right track.

            Can we start handing out information at the petrol pumps, put it on a voucher that will help pay for some local project of value?

            • Bill 1.2.1.1.1.1

              What’s idealistic about free? It’s not in tune with economic thinking (if that’s not an oxymoron), but there’s nothing idealistic about it.

              It ensures equity. It frees up money for business and what not to adapt. It’s a practical way forward that merely severs the binds to an economic dogma that insists everything must have a monetary value attached to it.

      • Sabine 1.2.2

        i am not running, but then i don’t expect miracles from people who already have nothing.

        Those of us that could afford to make changes are the ones making the least. Be that by degree of government or individual choices of the people.
        This is like expecting the people in the developing world to cut their emissions while the first world drives SUVs to the dairy for a bottle of milk. Nonsense.

        We need to come up with solutions that people can actually work with.

        i.e. in smaller communities not every one has a car, not everyone can afford a car, but chances are most everyone will need a car at some stage, so everyone has one car or several. Currently you are to go into debt buying that car, hope to everything that is holy that you wont be stopped with out Rego/WOF, and that you have enough pennies putting in enough gasoline to get you where you need and back.
        Solution: A community car or three. A community carpark – locked if you like, and a membership stipend. Thus the car is bought for a charity/org, is run maintained via memebership fees, and if you need a car, you can book yourself into that day. Imagine all the free space as no one needs three car parks/or a three car garage anymore.
        A good way to take cars of the road that should not be there in the first place.

        Currently a nice thing going on are Community Fruit Stalls, people growing veggies leave their surplus there, for everyone to take.

        We can not be ‘fossil free’ until we talk about how we are going to be fossil free.
        You still need electricity, you still need heating, you still need a form of transport.
        So how about we talk about not the need for public transport but the effect it would have if done well.

        As i said, put a law out that forbids the towing of recreational boats on our tiny roads to rural areas to pollute rivers and lakes there. Essentially, store your boat there, by the lake/river, or rent a boat there by hte lake / river, but do not truck it 300 k ms down on friday to truck it back up 300 kms on Sunday. This is the excess that could should stop immediatly. The poor person in Huntley is not gonna give up their cars they need to go work/shop, if the rich fuck from AKL/WLGTN/Qtwn etc continue their excesses without reprimand.

        It took me 5 years to talk my partner out of buying a MacMansion. Why? Cause that is what is build, this is ‘his kiwi dream’ etc. Now we own a 50 sqm two bedroom unit, brick n tile, insulated, with more garden then house. He can’t begin to understand why ever he wanted one of the big things. I never saw any attraction in them to begin with.
        20 Years ago people laughed at me and my bicycle, could not understand that i walked to work, that i always lived closed to work – but it be cheaper elsehwere …..no it isn’t, and now i see that people are finally coming to my point of few. That a car is not a need, but only ever a want. The family car is serving as a Community Car. It is old, cheap, and it provides transport to people that don’t have any.

        WE have solutions, we just need to bend our mind around, not the negative impact it would have , but the positive impact it will have.

        As for doom and gloom, at the end of our lives we will die. Be that man made or because we run out of time, its still all the same.

        • greywarshark 1.2.2.1

          Great ideas Sabine. And good end point. And doing something towards being a good citizen, is good for oneself, and sets example, and can build in numbers.

        • Bill 1.2.2.2

          We can not be ‘fossil free’ until we talk about how we are going to be fossil free.

          Maybe you missed the past decades of talking and meeting and talking some more that have produced zero action? (Global emissions are rising year on year).

          We find out how we operate in a different environment by entering that new environment – by, in this case, incrementally creating that new environment. And we create it by diminishing our use of fossil at a rate commensurate with the best scientific knowledge and data we have.

          Or we can allow politicians wanking on about carbon prices and what not to effectively throw the poor under the bus.

          • Sabine 1.2.2.2.1

            i honestly don’t give a shit about polititians talking. That is literally all they do with very little to show for.

            WE – the people – need to come to grips that literally it is up to us to bring about change. And WE – the people – will have to get out of our cars, and of our high lofted ideas of what others should do – and start doing it ourself.

            So again, how would you bring about ‘power down’ if you still need electricity, gasoline, and the likes, because literally no one is changing a thing.

            you are writing the same thing over and over again, but what do you want to do, what would you be happy to do, cause our poor are already under the bus, and so are you and i and everyone else who does not own million dollar properties and bankaccounts hoping that that is enough to insulate them from the coming shit storm.

            • Bill 1.2.2.2.1.1

              New Zealand is going to have to commit to reducing fossil use by about 10% per year. That incrementally creates the environment we incrementally adapt to. (There’s nothing to be gained in “talking” before acting – it just pushes things back)

              I already produce 5/8ths of sfa carbon as an individual. But that counts for nothing given that the problem sits at a structural level and not at an individual level.

              If NZ got its shit together, then my carbon footprint, along with that of many other poorer people in NZ, would likely and properly rise in the short term. (ie – there’s a certain amount of carbon embedded in the necessary housing upgrades that poorer people need in order to have lower fuel/energy use in the longer term)

    • Brutus Iscariot 1.3

      His name is HOSKING.

      What is it with Kiwis and name malapropisms? Can’t remember how many times i heard JK referred to as “KEYS”. Do we have some tic where we need to insert random S’s into people’s names?

    • Draco T Bastard 1.4

      Also make it cheap as chips, like literally use the bus, 50 bucks the monthly ticket, and then watch people take the bus.

      Public transport needs to be free. But then you’ll get the ignoramuses that want to be in their own car in their own world complaining that they’re subsidising everyone else through their rates while they had to pay for their cars. Which they actually would be but it’s their choice to have a car and all the added expenses to go with it. If they didn’t want to subsidise everyone else then they should just take public transport.

      Cars need to be made far more expensive as well.

      But to demand of anyone who is not at least solidly middle class with ‘spending money’ to actually change their habits?

      The way to do it is to make imports far more expensive. Not through any regulation but through the exchange rate. In fact, that’s what a floating exchange rate is for. We’ve had trading deficits for decades which means that the NZ$ should be through the floor. We actually shouldn’t be able to import from China ATM.

      If we allowed that to happen (or, better, actually had our dollar floating with regards to trade flows) we’d have the RWNJs here demanding that the market not be allowed to function because it’d be an effective pay cut for everyone.

      maybe we should ask people if they really need to pull a boat across the island to go pollute someone elses river/lake.

      In a market economy the idea would be to ensure that the costs of polluting fall fully upon the polluter. In other words, being able to do that would cost too much for anyone to actually do it.

      We had Wayne Mapp telling us how cars are a symbol of how wealthy we are a few months back.

      • Sabine 1.4.1

        i tend to agree with most of what you say.

        not sure if you can get things to be ‘free’ considering that they have a cost, but public transport should be run as a Not for Profit. Any money made needs to be reinvested in full to maintain the fleet, upgrade the fleet and upgrade the grid that gets the service.

        Of course Wayne Mapp would tell us that cars are a symbol of wealth, to be honest, most of us can’t afford them, so they are bought on tick – thanks to ‘finance’, badly maintained, often not wof’d nor rego’d, and only with as much gasoline as one would need.
        But cars are also a testament to how lazy, fat and uninspired our society has become, if cars are still a symbol of wealth as they were in the late sixties and early seventies.

  2. greywarshark 2

    Good thoughtful piece Bill. Does it mean that we will have to face counting miles approach in Brit supermarkets. Won’t we be able to export – little or nothing? We have to think as changes will happen. Can’t rely on Australia as co-operative partner, facing the future friends shoulder to shoulder. We are being shouldered out at present.

    • Bill 2.1

      If we need to bring fossil use down by 10% per year over x number of years to get to zero carbon from energy soon enough that we might limit warming to 2 degrees (which we do), then we have that same span of time in which to figure a way to produce stuff and send it half way around the world without using fossil.

      Alternatively, we can ignore the elephant and get stomped by climate changes that will render a lot of current production simply impossible.

      At the moment, the political and business world are pursuing the second option – trying to maintain “business as usual” and hoping for some kind of a miracle to pop up and take away global warming and any resultant climate change.

      It’s a course that doesn’t drop us off at any nice destination.

  3. WeTheBleeple 3

    Everybody talking, very few acting. We WANT this, but we’re waiting for leadership. Stop waiting and be the leader. Humans seem to fear being seen as stupid or wrong more than unimaginable hardship and death… Vanity and ego have to go.

    You are either scared, or deluded, being: insane… or ill informed. There are no other options.

    Your lawn is a fossil fuel sink. Try a rebellious planet saving act and turn it into food, medicine, fuel and flowers. Start today.

    Your food is shipped all over the world and sprayed with all manner of poisons. Think of your garden as the new main supplier of your diet, and the supermarket as your supplement. Now, keep that in mind and work towards it.

    Your body is a tool. Get fit again. Walk, bike, garden, breathe. All of these exercises can help your mental health as well as the planet. And if you’ve been paying attention, your mental health could do with the support.

    Your children are your legacy. Save them, or kiss them goodbye as selfishness will ultimately wipe your genetic line off the face of the planet.

    This is not a drill.

    • Robert Guyton 3.1

      Biogym, WTB. That’s what gardening is, a free-to-use, all weather, multi-base biogym where your whole self; body, mind and other bits, can recreate their worn-thin-by-civilization, selves. I recommend buying nothing in preparation for your sessions in the biogym; no devices or tools, no special clothing or shoes, just keep it simple, loose and practical. Biogyms are typically cheap to operate; the floors are self-cleaning, the air changes without fans or conditioners, anything you break will self-replicate and any minor damage you do to your body while you’re building yourself up; cuts and scratches, bumps and bruises etc. can all be mended with what’s at hand; plantain for cuts and stings, comfrey for sprains, willow bark for headaches, horehound for sore throats, elecampane for coughs and wheezes and so on. Biogym! It’s new! It’s you!

      • WeTheBleeple 3.1.1

        Today’s Biogym involves a weed whacker! Electric… to do the last vestiges of lawn, now paths between raised gardens, out front. It is a work in progress, this war on lawn. Then, it’s half a dozen sets of wheelbarrow wheeling down to make mulch mounds and stuff tomato cuttings in them.

        I’m trying to fool the general populace with a landscaped ‘bark garden’ look out front. It is the storm hit sweetgum logs now used as garden surrounds and a dozen productive trees planted in its mulch. While I love a wild look, a lot of people can’t handle it as they don’t understand it…

        Part of my mission, then, is to make sustainable gardening/permaculture more palatable. The front draws compliments from random strangers, a very low maintenance (cept those pesky lawn paths) highly productive set of gardens. Log surrounds, chip mulch, fruit and native trees, and a smorgasbord of flowers, berries and veg beneath. A stump with a bowl carved out for a birdbath. A random log lying in some mulch to break it up. Rectangles, a square, a triangle…

        Beautiful, yet not out of place in a suburb.

        The back is being converted to food forest, slowly but surely. So the section is a mullet. Business up front party in the rear. I hope to be able to present several types of garden design on the one section to give people more ideas/inspiration. A more formal landscape look, a cottage garden look, and a food forest.

        I must say, your articles have made me think a lot. This is a good effect aye. There’s only so much leaving it to nature I’ll be doing with the light hogging canopy of 15 m tree privet down back. Some will get coppiced, all will get cut down to size. Hugelkultur, borders, firewood, vine frames, mulch… I’ll make do. I think I can run vines on the coppiced specimens and bring down the food/wood harvests simultaneously. I want to lop them in autumn for the winter light so it works well in that regard. No trees come down till I have replacements though.

        When going for a tidier look, one rule of thumb you’ve probably figured out: Add more flowers. This simple rule can make a drab landscape pop.

        • WeTheBleeple 3.1.1.1

          “There’s only so much leaving it to nature”

          It’s ironic I said that just this morning. I dutifully barrowed down a load of mulch and dropped it where I’d deemed a good spot for tomatoes. I started to shape a mound and saw, only two feet away, five wild tomato volunteers.

          I could have been drinking lemonade on the couch…

          I pampered my new wild friends snipping the young nightshade out with fingernails and placing mulch all around the toms. I’ll still put some other varieties on the spot I’d spotted. I will laugh if the wild ones do better.

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