Environment

Organic farming should be in a Golden Age. Organic marketing groups, and the junkyard dogs they pay to attack scientists (1) finally got mandatory labeling on conventional food, the public is already spending $13,000,000,000 on organic food in the U.S. alone, and margins have shown to be much higher.

I have long wondered why everyone doesn't switch to organic farming.

It's that pesky free market. 
Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin recently signed Federal Law 358-FZ, which bans genetic engineering of plants and animals for the indefinite future.
If the food industry is not in crisis, it certainly contains an increasing level of complexity and associated risks. A recent analysis suggested 50% of US food production is wasted, with global estimates above 30%.

Retailers want perfect produce, leading to wastage occurring throughout the food supply chain. They also seek low prices, leading to industrialization of processes.

Giant Ice Age species including elephant-sized sloths and powerful saber-toothed cats that once roamed the windswept plains of Patagonia, southern South America, were finally felled by a perfect storm of a rapidly warming climate and humans, according to a paper in Science Advances.

The timing and cause of rapid extinctions of the megafauna has remained a mystery for centuries.

The work led by the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide, says that it was only when the climate warmed, long after humans first arrived in Patagonia, did the megafauna suddenly die off around 12,300 years ago, after the last Ice Age intermission.


The Australian dairy farming industry is in a state of crisis. Cheap dairy products and fluctuations in both the domestic and global markets have taken a financial toll on farmers. Consumers have rallied to help struggling dairy producers.

But this is only half the problem. The true cost of dairy is also paid by dairy cows and the environment.

A new study has implicated farms as a bigger source of fine-particulate air pollution than all other sources. This is no surprise in Europe, China, Russia and Europe, since food is the most important strategic resource everywhere. 

And it's an easy enough problem to solve. As technology continues to improve, emissions will go down anyway, so fumes from nitrogen-rich fertilizers and animal waste that combine in the air with industrial emissions to form solid particles could double and particulate matter would still go down. 


I had drinks with an old college friend last week. As we reminisced and I caught him up on my job leading the Tropical Ecology Assessment&Monitoring (TEAM) Network, he stopped me mid-sentence.

An international team has just published a study titled "Greening of the Earth and its Drivers" in the journal Nature Climate Change (doi:10.1038/nclimate3004) showing significant greening of a quarter to one-half of the Earth's vegetated lands using data from the NASA-MODIS and NOAA-AVHRR satellite sensors of the past 33 years.

The greening represents an increase in leaves on plants and trees. Green leaves produce sugars using energy in the sunlight to mix carbon dioxide (CO2) drawn in from the air with water and nutrients pumped in from the ground. These sugars are the source of food, fiber and fuel for life on Earth. More sugars are produced when there is more CO2 in the air, and this is called CO2 fertilization.


Natural solutions are all the rage to people who believe in a 20th century "balance of nature" hypothesis. Scientists know better, it is obvious that there is no ecological balance, no environmental harmony, and never has been, the winners are in nature are instead species who got somewhere first or were better suited to an area and outlasted others and so seemed to be a balanced fit.


A new test has been developed to check for contamination of shallow groundwater from modern gas extraction techniques, such as hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.