Monthly Archives: January 2015

New Climate Report: Risky Business, Midwest Ag

iowa A week after federal reports that 2014 was the warmest year on record, a new study looks at the impact of climate change on agriculture and the economy. As noted in the Des Moines Register, the report released by the Risky Business Project found that climate change “would hit Iowa’s economy the hardest among Midwestern states because of reduced crop yields. Iowa is the nation’s largest grower of corn. By the end of the century, “the state could face likely declines in its signature corn crop of 18 percent to 77 percent — a huge hit for a corn industry worth nearly $10 billion,” the report said. The farming impact would have a domino effect in Iowa because of its ties to manufacturing, insurance and other industries.”

Here’s a clip:

“Our research shows that under the “business as usual” scenario and assuming no significant adaptation by farmers, some states in the region, like Missouri and Illinois, face up to a 15% likely average yield loss in the next 5 to 25 years, and up to a 73% likely average yield loss by the end of the century. Assuming no adaptation, the region as a whole faces likely yield declines of up to 19% by mid-century and 63% by the end of the century.

Yet while the agricultural industry will clearly be affected by climate change, it is also probably the best equipped to manage these risks. Farmers have always adapted to changing weather and climate conditions, with adaptation and flexibility built into their business models. Armed with the right information, Midwest farmers can, and will, mitigate some of these impacts through double-and triple-cropping, seed modification, crop switching and other adaptive practices. In many cases, crop production will likely shift from the Midwest to the Upper Great Plains, Northwest, and Canada, helping to keep the U.S. and global food system well supplied. However, this shift could put individual Midwest farmers and farm communities at risk if production moves to cooler climates.

The projected increase in Midwest surface air temperatures won’t just affect the health of the region’s crops; it will also put the region’s residents at risk. Over the past 40 years, the Midwest experienced only 2.7 days on average over 95°F. If we stay on our current climate path, the average Midwest resident will likely experience an additional 7 to 26 days above 95°F each year by mid-century, and 20 to 75 additional extreme-heat days—potentially more than 2 additional months per year of extreme heat—by the end of the century. On the other hand, the region will also experience fewer winter days with temperatures below freezing.

But the real story in this region is the combined impact of heat and humidity, which we measure using the Humid Heat Stroke Index, or HHSI. The human body’s capacity to cool down in the hottest weather depends on our ability to sweat, and to have that sweat evaporate on our skin. Sweat keeps the skin temperature below 95°F, which is required for our core temperature to stay around 98.6°F. But if the outside temperature is a combination of very hot and very humid—if it reaches a HHSI of about 95°F—our sweat cannot evaporate, and our core body temperature can rise until we actually collapse from heat stroke. Even at an HHSI of 92°F, core body temperatures can get close to 104°F, which is the body’s absolute limit.”

Mark Bittman on Climate Change

bittman New York Times columnist and long-time food writer Mark Bittman will be speaking at the Englert Theatre on Monday, Feb. 2nd, as part of the Food for Thought semester program. Here’s a clip on Bittman and his participation in the “Years of Living Dangerously” documentary series on climate change:

Copenhagen’s Climate Change-Adapted Neighborhood

cope Creating the first climate-change adapted neighborhood, Copenhagen is ripping up asphalt in its city center and planting undulating plants, grasses and trees for flood mitigation and drainage. Rooftop gardens are also planned.

Here’s a clip:

“By this summer, the transformation of the neighborhood’s courtyard will be complete, followed next year by another square and St. Kjeld’s streets-turned-cloudburst boulevards. A group of residents have also launched a 718-square-yard rooftop garden that will supply produce for the neighborhood.

To most people, though, reinvented plazas with hills and lush vegetation suggest city beautification, not hard-core climate-disaster preparedness. That’s exactly what the architects and city planners had in mind. “If the rain comes, it will be a spectacle rather than a problem,” says Sommer Lindsay. “And if we never have a flood or cloudburst again, it’s still value for money because we got a more beautiful neighborhood.” And as far as Rafn Thomsen is concerned, far from frightening residents, purposely flooded plazas and streets will bring them closer to nature. “Climate change is a huge opportunity to build greener cities,” he explains. “We should stop pushing nature away and stop pretending that we can push the weather away. It’s a whole new paradigm.” Should a cloudburst of the same size as the one from four years ago hit Copenhagen again, it will only fill Tåsinge Square to 40 percent capacity. During Copenhagen’s expected heat spells, the new vegetation will cool the air, and in order to collect water even faster during storms, Rafn Thomsen’s team is developing mini-water towers for use across the city.”

Soil Solution to Climate Change Film

What If A Solution To Climate Change Was Beneath Your Feet?

Soil is a living universe beneath our feet. As important to our lives as clean air and water, soil also holds a potential solution to the global climate crisis. Increasing numbers of scientists, farmers and ranchers are implementing innovative land use practices that build fertile soil and sequester atmospheric carbon These methods of land management have the potential to provide us with nutritious food, improved human health, cleaner water, and a healthier planet for all.

World wide, most soils are depleted of carbon. The atmosphere contains an excess of carbon in the form of CO2, a climate change causing gas. What if that CO2 could be removed and stored in our carbon-hungry soil through land management practices? Find out how in The Soil Solution.

The Soil Solution to Climate Change was one of thirteen films featured in A Climate of Change Tour sponsored by 350.org, TRUST campaign and Wild and Scenic Film Festival. It has screened at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Sausalito Film Festival, Awareness Festival, Davis Film Festival, Wild and Scenic Film Tour 2013 and the One Earth Film Festival.

Carbon Farmers

carbonfarm600 Ecowatch features a story today on “carbon farmers” in California, who are taking part in a soil conservation program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now planning to take the soil carbon sequestration program nationwide.

Could such a program work in Iowa?

Here’s a clip:

“After years of study, they have found that “compost applied to five percent of the state’s grazing land would store a year’s worth of emissions from conventional farms and forestry operations there. If that’s increased to 25 percent of grazing land, the soil would absorb 75 percent of California’s total annual emissions.”

Calling these regenerative practices “carbon farming,” the state of California is rewarding farmers and ranchers for how much carbon they have in their soil. Farmers receive tradable greenhouse gas emission reduction credits, which they can sell on California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Exchange. The program allows farmers to benefit from the state’s cap-and-trade program.

Now, the program is going nationwide. Through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Ducks Unlimited, a conservation nonprofit, has developed a way to measure and reward farmers for carbon sequestration.

“Under the program, ranchers voluntarily set aside grassland in a permanent conservation easement that allows them to grow hay and graze animals, but forbids tilling or conversion to other uses,” according to Sustainable Business. The more carbon they sequester, the more credits they earn. Once the carbon in the soil is measured and formally registered, organizations or companies can buy the credits.

Australia already has a nationwide system for carbon credits from farming and forestry. By planting trees, reducing fertilizer use and methane emissions from livestock, Australian farmers receive carbon credits to sell into the nation’s carbon trading system.

New Study: Lunch After Recess Might Lead To More Veggies

npr NPR ran a fascinating story this week on a new study that concludes kids might eat more veggies and fruits if they had recess before lunch. Here’a clip:

“A study they’ve just published in Preventative Medicine suggests it does. They found that students who have recess before lunch tend to eat more servings of fruits and vegetables than kids who eat lunch first.

The researchers sent assistants to seven elementary schools in Utah, to stand by the trashcans at lunchtime and tally what students ate and what they threw away. The assistants then tallied the contents of more than 22,000 lunch trays for about four days at each school in the spring of 2011 and for about nine days at the same schools in the fall (after three of the schools had changed their schedule to have recess before lunch).

They found students who ate lunch after recess consumed 54 percent more fruits and vegetables than those who ate lunch before recess. In addition, the number of students who ate at least one serving of fruits or vegetables jumped 10 percent when they ate after running around outside.

The researchers also noticed that the students who had recess first didn’t seem to feel the same hurry to eat as those who had recess after lunch. “Now that you have a little more time,” says Just, “you eat the entrée and think ‘OK, I’m still hungry maybe I’ll try this broccoli.’ ”

Roots for the Home Team

roots How cool is this: Partnering with youth garden programs in ethnically diverse areas of the Twin Cities, “Roots for the Home Team” kids sell their salads at Target Field during Minnesota Twins’ games.

What if Iowa City kids and community gardens could do the same at UI baseball and football games?

Check out this video:

Edible Education 101

edible Check out the Edible Education 101 course for 2015, with live streaming on Edible Schoolyard Project’s YouTube Channel. Created in conjunction with the 40th anniversary celebration of Chez Panisse Restaurant and Café in Berkeley, California, the UC Berkeley course focuses on the food system, involving agroecology, agronomy, anthropology, economics, nutrition, sociology, and the arts. From the course description: “In this course, experts on organic agriculture, school lunch reform, food safety, hunger and food security, farm bill reform, farm-to-school efforts, urban agriculture, food sovereignty, and local food economies will offer perspectives making the food system more sustainable and equitable.”

Here’s a video from a class in 2012: “Farming as Dance, The Choreography of Polyculture” with farmer Joel Salatin:

Schools Look at Food Sovereignty

foodjust A high school in Michigan recently hosted a conference on food sovereignty, featuring the Campaign for Food Justice. The conference looked at access and justice issues around all cycles in the food system, with a specific focus on inequities and lack of access for low income communities.

Here’s a clip:

“Michigan Food and Farming Systems is an organization that supports beginning and under-served farmers to make small-scale farming attractive and viable for all people.

“Every point of the system affects every person on the planet,” said Napier- Dunnings. “In order for a system to be fair and healthy it needs to have engagement from all people from a community that are part of that system.”

Redmond shared her thoughts on inequities in the food system and how those inequities affected people of color on a large scale. She discussed the importance of soil and access to land, emphasizing who has access to it and who doesn’t.

“Where I grew up it was easier to get a semi-automatic than a tomato,” she said.

The motivational speaker has launched urban agriculture projects and worked on federal farm policies to expand nutritional food to low-income communities. Redmond was a W. K. Kellogg Food and Society Policy fellow from 2003 to 2005.

In one of her urban projects, Redmond assisted in turning an empty lot in a Chicago neighborhood into a garden and hired people from the community to work the land.

“When people put their hands in the soil they don’t just reconnect for their work, they reconnect to who they are,” Redmond said.”

Hoop Houses in the Schools

hoop Interesting story in the Reno Gazette-Journal about a local elementary school using hoop houses to expand food education and access.

Would hoop houses in Iowa City schools provide for a longer growing season within the academic calendar?

Here’s a clip:

“As part of the program, the two LCSD schools will be receiving 42-foot hoop houses, likely next month, where demonstration gardens will be planted. Emm said the program works with volunteers keeping the gardens going when school isn’t in session.

It is funded by the state of Nevada Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education, or SNAP-Ed, program. The LCSD Board of Trustees last month approved a memorandum of understanding with Cooperative Extension to conduct Veggies for Kids at the two elementary schools.

The program teaches youth how to grow vegetables, and provides 12 weeks of in-school instruction and creates a healthy lifestyle summer institute.

The hoop house at Yerington Elementary School will go where some raised box gardens already exist on the campus from a prior community garden program while at Smith Valley it will go near an existing “school farm” area there.

The program curriculum generally is targeted to second and third grade students, but YES chose to start it younger so it is being taught to kindergarten and first-grade students. Halterman visits YES five afternoons per week, rotating through classrooms so she sees each class once a week. She visits SVS second and third graders Friday mornings.”