Wednesday, November 02, 2011 2:49 PM
Mongolia has an outsized reputation for vast emptiness, but in fact there are plenty of creatures living there, including 2.7 million people and the 35 million horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and camels that they keep. All those pasturing animals leave a large ecological hoofprint, reports Ronnie Vernooy in Solutions Journal, and climate change is disrupting the weather patterns that sustain the country’s many nomadic herders.
A new program, though, is pointing the way toward a more sustainable future, using the concept of the commons as a way to share resources—in this case, those seemingly endless pasturelands. Writes Vernooy:
The government has begun to respond to the threat to herders and their way of life. In a number of regions across the country, herders, in collaboration with local governments and researchers, and supported by a number of new policy measures and laws, are practicing comanagement, a form of adaptive management that builds community resilience.
The concept has been popularized by the academic and activist H. Ykhanbai. … Ykhanbai was uniquely suited to the task: raised in a herder family in the far-away Altai Mountains, he attended the University of St. Petersburg, Russia, where he studied Garrett Hardin on the “tragedy of the commons” and Elinor Ostrom on collective action. Ykhanbai understood that pastures in Mongolia are a common pool resource shared by many users, while private ownership of livestock allows herders to become real managers of their own businesses. Sustainable management of herds therefore depends on the carrying capacity of pastures and on the interactions between neighboring herders who rely on the same resources.
The Mongolians herders’ tactics include reducing herd size to prevent pasture degradation and desertification caused by overgrazing; moving camps at different times to adapt to weather shifts; diversifying their income; and growing their own potatoes and vegetables. Comanagement pilot projects have been launched in several areas of the country with promising results, and boosters hope the practices may be adapted to neighboring Central Asian countries including Kyrgyzstanand Kazakhstan. And, Vernooy suggests, “China could learn a lesson or two.”
Source: Solutions Journal
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010 5:41 PM
The holidays just wouldn’t be the same without the slowly simmering tension between people who eat meat and those who don’t. Vegetarians brace themselves for uncomfortable questions about their motivations, while carnivores are certain that they’re being seen as bloodthirsty murderers by the veggies as they gnaw on their turkey drumsticks.
I’m a meat eater, but increasingly I’m a conscientious carnivore, eating meat sparingly and when I can be assured the animal was treated with respect and compassion. That’s why I was powerfully moved by a new video released just before Thanksgiving by the Humane Society of the United States that starkly reinforced an uncomfortable truth: Mass-produced turkeys lead grim lives of discomfort, cruelty, and outright abuse.
The footage, obtained by an undercover employee at the Willmar Poultry Company in Willmar, Minnesota, shows young turkeys, or poults, being mistreated at the megaplant, where they tumble off conveyor belts, are grabbed by the handful, and have their beaks lasered off in a grotesque spinning machine that dangles them by their heads. It’s a bizarre, highly mechanized, and, yes, inhumane place.
Here’s the kicker: The plant is so huge that according to the Humane Society, it supplies 50 percent of the turkeys sold in the nation. That means there’s a very good chance your family’s megafarm turkey came from the very place shown in the video.
When a story about the turkey video was posted by the Minneapolis newspaper the Star Tribune, comments ran into the hundreds. Many broke down along predictable lines, with unrepentant carnivores and self-righteous veggies staking out their polarized ground. The interesting responses came from people who were truly shocked at how turkeys are treated and reconsidering their holiday main-course options.
To me, it all adds up to one thing: squash lasagna. Happy holidays.
Source: Humane Society of the United States
D. Sharon Pruitt
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009 4:46 PM
Environmentalists, especially of the veggie persuasion, are quick to point out that meat accounts for nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing consumption, giving meat up even one day a week, is the easiest way to reduce your carbon footprint, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N.’s panel on climate change, said last fall.
But not all meat is created equal, Lisa Hamilton writes for Audubon. Some methane production is unavoidable (file this fact under “cow burps”), but “animals reared on organic pasture have a different climate equation from those raised in confinement on imported feed,” asserts Hamilton, author of Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness.
In large-scale farming confinement systems, manure flows into (disgusting) lagoons, where its decomposition releases millions of tons of methane and nitrous oxide into the air every year. “On pasture, that same manure is simply assimilated back into the soil with a carbon cost close to zero,” Hamilton writes.
What’s more, grass-fed livestock can be an essential player in a sustainable set-up. Manure revitalizes soil (in lieu of chemical fertilizers or shipped-in compost), and grazing encourages plant growth. Hamilton also points to Holistic Management International, an organization that proposes managed, intensive grazing as part of a climate change solution.
“In order for pasture-based livestock to become a significant part of the meat industry, we need to eat more of its meat, not less,” Hamilton writes. “So if you want to use your food choices to impact climate change, by all means follow Dr. Pachauri’s suggestion for a meatless Monday. But on Tuesday, have a grass-fed burger—and feel good about it.”
Sources: Audubon, Holistic Management International
Image by pointnshoot, licensed under Creative Commons.
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