Book Review – Three Green Rats: An Eco Tale

Three Green Rats An Eco Tale book coverTru dat rat. Ok, so if you don’t have kids or hang out with kids, you may not have any idea what I just said. But the three green rat brothers of Tintown’s Broken Bottle Lane encourage us to walk softly and reduce, reuse and recycle in the children’s tale, “Three Green Rats: An Eco Tale“. Written by Linda Mason Hunter and illustrated by Suzanne Summersgill this rat tale is both fun and educational and the perfect book to review on Earth Day (April 22, 2014).

This wonderfully illustrated and highly clever book takes place in Tintown where the protagonist, Uppity Ethel Misrington, the richest rat in town, wants to build a big box store to sell stuff. Her itty, bitty niece Maybelline Burlingame Helena Stu discovers the green pastures and projects of the green brothers (Oliver, Wilbur and Tom, each with unique green skills) and becomes hooked on nature and green health. As a result, she starts to grow. When catastrophe strikes sickly Ethel, with the help of Maybelline and the green brothers, the day is saved and Ethel becomes a convert to living with less stuff and the city follows suit.

With the town saved, and the brothers heroes, shy brother Tom sums up the direction the town needs to take. “Look around, citizens. You are knee-deep in your own trash, held captive by technology, and so caught up in the rat race you don’t have time to think.”

“We are ruining our corner of Mother Earth, creating a place where no living being can thrive. We’ve cut down our tress, poisoned our air, and dumped sewage in our rivers and streams. Three Green Rats An Eco Tale book imageIt’s time to step back and ask ourselves, ‘Is this what we really want for our children?’ We must learn to live simply. We must walk softly upon Mother Earth and stop talking more than we need to survive.”

I luv it people! L-O-V-E it.

I highly recommend this book. Take some advice from the three green rats this Earth Day and learn to walk softly. This is a must read book for both children and adults to get you on the forward thinking path about how to reduce your impact and live more simply. In celebration of Earth Day, win an e-copy of Three Green Rats: An Eco tale. Email me your contact information with the subject line: Three Green Rats and the winner will be announced next week in the newsletter.

New Climate Report Findings

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 6.27.17 PMThe Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) today released Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

The 1,062-page report, published by The Heartland Institute, contains thousands of citations to peer-reviewed scientific literature — and concludes rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels are causing “no net harm to the global environment or to human health and often finds the opposite: net benefits to plants, including important food crops, and to animals and human health.”

Craig Idso, Founder and chairman of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change and the lead author of Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts, said “Whether the subject is the effects of warming and rising CO2 on plants, animals, or humans, the latest UN report invariably highlights the studies and models that paint global warming in the darkest possible hue, ignoring or downplaying those that don’t.”

“It is most fortunate, therefore, that the NIPCC report provides tangible evidence that the CO2-induced global warming and ocean acidification debate remains unsettled on multiple levels. There are literally thousands of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles that do not support a catastrophic, or even problematic, view of atmospheric CO2 enrichment.”

Publisher of Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts, Joseph Bast and President of The Heartland Institute, said “This new report from NIPCC makes it clear that there is no scientific consensus on the human role in climate change. It further makes it clear that future warming is likely to produce more benefits than costs. Global warming is not a crisis. It’s time to start repealing unnecessary and inexpensive policies that were adopted at the height of the global warming scare.”

The Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or NIPCC, is a panel of scores of climate scientists from around the world that act as independent auditors of the work of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC.

The full report in digital form (PDF) can be found here. An 18-page Summary for Policymakers is available here. Individual chapters of the full report can be downloaded at the Climate Change Reconsidered website.

These reports have been endorsed by leading scientists from around the world, been cited in peer-reviewed journals, and are credited with changing the global debate over climate change. No corporate or government funding was solicited or received to support production of these reports or NIPCC.

Corn Grower Voice on Climate Change

ncga-climateThe president of the National Corn Growers Association provided a voice for American farmers Monday at the Opening Ceremony for Climate Week NYC 2013 along with leaders from business and government all over the world.

Iowa farmer Pam Johnson, who spoke alongside international notables including former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair, President of World Bank Jim Kim, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern and many others, brought the story of American corn farmers to the panel. In her remarks, she stressed the scientific and technological advances agriculture uses to increasing demands and an ever-changing environment.

“Modern agriculture isn’t the problem; it’s the solution,” Johnson explained. “We are producing more grain on limited arable acres.”

“Perhaps more than any other sector of the economy, farmers are dependent upon the weather and must find ways to adapt to changes to remain productive,” Johnson said. “The good news is that technology advancements in agriculture are helping farmers become more resilient in the face of volatile weather while also significantly decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.”

In its fifth year, Climate Week NYC provides a global summit for government, business and thought leaders to drive innovation, build coalitions and deliver practical solutions.

USDA Releases Climate Change & Ag Report

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a comprehensive report that synthesize the scientific literature on climate change effects and adaptation strategies for U.S. agriculture. The report, “Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation,” was created a an input to the National Climate Assessment with scientists from the federal service, universities, non-governmental organizations, industry, tribal lands and private sectors contributing to the peer-reviewed study. It is open for public comment until

“These reports present the challenges that U.S. agriculture and forests will face in this century from global climate change,” said William Hohenstein, director of the Climate Change Program Office in USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist. “They give us a framework for understanding the implications of climate change, in order to meet our future demands for food, feed, fiber, and fuel.”

The reports indicate how climate change is affecting U.S. farms, forests, grasslands, and rural communities. The report finds that while U.S. agriculture and resource management have long histories of successful adaptation to climate variability, the accelerating pace and intensity of climate change presents new challenges to be addressed.

nbb-13-vilsack1For example, the report indicates increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, rising temperatures, and altered precipitation patterns will affect agricultural productivity. Climate change will exacerbate the stresses already occurring from weeds, insects, and disease. The report finds that increases in the incidence of extreme weather events will have a greater influence on agricultural productivity. 

In addition the report finds that over the next 25 years, the effects of climate change on agricultural production and economic outcomes for both producers and consumers in the United States are expected to be mixed, depending on regional conditions. Beyond 2050, changes are expected to include shifts in crop production areas, increases in pest control expenses, and greater disease prevalence.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack gave a few remarks about the study during the 10th Annual National Biodiesel Board Conference & Expo. Listen to his remarks on climate change here: USDA Climate Change & Ag Study

2013 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Become a Carbon Farmer

Do you ever sit around your kitchen table and contemplate other crops you might like to grow? Here is a novel idea – grow carbon. What you ask? Growers across the country are becoming carbon farmers as highlighted in the documentary film Carbon Nation. The film touts itself as a “climate change solutions movie that doesn’t even care if you believe in climate change.” Yet this movie does care about climate change. The narrator says, “We thought we had time to figure things out. Trouble is there is no more time. Climate change is happening now.”

While the film covers the custom gamut of climate change solutions from renewable energy to energy efficiency, it enters new territory by featuring “carbon farmers”. How might you become one of these? By adding wind turbines to your land, or solar panels to your operations or add an algae farm interspersed within your fields.

One of the featured growers was Cliff Etheredge, a cotton farmer, aka wind farmer, in Roscoe, Texas. He along with 400 other landowners are sharing in the payment royalties from wind energy production. “Farmers really do appreciate these things,” he says. This is dry land. We sit out here and pray for rain and cuss the wind. Now what we’ve been cussing all these years turned out to be a blessing.”

Continue reading

Chillin In My Corn Watch

While Cindy and Chuck are traveling around the country bringing you real agricultural news, I’m chillin on this beautiful day in my corn watch. Yes, you heard me right, I have an environmentally friendly watch that is partly made from corn.

Sprout Watches manufactures a line of eco-friendly watches that contain corn resin and bamboo. The watches come in multiple colors, but I chose white because of its neat design on the watch face. Each color watch has a different earth themed design to go along with its earth themed materials.

But back to the corn resin. It’s used as a component of the plastic, rather than using petroleum-based products. Nice, right?  Sprout promotes the technology on its website and notes that corn resin pellets sequester far less fossil fuel and emits much less greenhouse gases.  In addition, the watches are biodegradable and will not leach toxins into the ground. If you want to learn more, they have some neat graphics to demonstrate the process from stalk to watch.

So why am I sharing this story with you? Because it is another example of what our corn farmers across the country are bringing us today and a glimpse of what they will be helping to bring to use in the future – a myriad of products that are petroleum free.

Isn’t Climate Change Inevitable?

“Change is inevitable. Change is constant.”Benjamin Disraeli

Let me say first off, I am not a climate change denier. There’s plenty of proof to satisfy me that the climate of the Earth can and does change over time. It has done so multiple times over the last four billion or so years of its existence – billions of years before we got to roam the planet. However, I do question the notion that humans are a) causing it or b) can do anything to reverse it. I also question why some people believe that any climate change would be catastrophic.

A new campaign by “This is Climate Change” (TICC) has posters up in Reagan National Airport showing glacial retreat in North America. “Consequences of glacial retreat include changes in local ecosystems,” TICC notes. Aren’t ecosystems changing all the time? Wasn’t most of North America covered in glaciers not so very many millennia ago? Had the climate not changed and allowed the majority of glaciers to retreat, we would probably have a much smaller United States of America and Canada probably wouldn’t exist. And, frankly, I think when you compare the photos it looks a whole lot more inviting without all that ice on it – but that’s just me. I’m not a big fan of ice.

As stewards of the land, humans have an obligation to care for our precious resources of land, air and water. However, we should not presume in our role as caretakers that we are omnipotent, or that we know what is best. The world has been evolving and the climate has been changing way longer than we have been here, both constantly and inevitably. It is very likely that the climate will continue to change, for better or worse (in our opinion), no matter what we do or do not do.

If you look up quotes about change, you will find many that say what change is, like Disraeli. Change is eternal, perpetual, immortal, sweet, the essence of life, the signal for rebirth – but it is also difficult, hard work and frightening. As humans, we tend to fear change, even when the change is good.

It was Charles Darwin who said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” I would think that includes climate change.

NCGA Says Cap and Trade Will Hurt Farmers

After a detailed analysis, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has come out in opposition to the House version of the American Clean Energy and Security Act HR 2454, better known “cap and trade” legislation.

NCGA“Since the passage of this bill by the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2009, the National Corn Growers Association has maintained a neutral position on the legislation pending further review,” said NCGA President Darrin Ihnen. “Although our neutrality has often put us at odds with the majority of other mainstream agricultural groups, we believe it was critical to remain engaged with lawmakers while the economic impacts were analyzed.”

NCGA retained Informa Economics to analyze those impacts and as a result of this study, “NCGA has no choice but to oppose H.R. 2454. The results of the Informa study indicates that every corn grower in the country will experience increased costs of production resulting from H.R. 2454. In the early years of this legislation, these higher production costs will be relatively minor. However, over time these prices will significantly increase, placing an unnecessary burden on growers.”

NCGA, along with other agricultural organizations, is sending a letter to Congress supporting a “disapproval resolution” in the Senate, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), that would stop EPA from promulgating rules to regulate greenhouse gases.

Listen to a press conference about the NCGA announcement this morning.

Will Agriculture Benefit From Climate Change Legislation?

Stock-dam Will Agriculture Benefit From Climate Change Legislation? That’s the question that Hoosier Ag Today asked recently after the USDA released its final analysis of the Climate Change legislation that is currently making its way through Congress. As we looks at the pros and cons of this legislation, I think it’s safe to say that things are changing in the agriculture industry today, and we are going to have to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to taking care of the environment.

Gary Truitt writes, According to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, “The report sees extraordinarily small increase in food prices. Somewhere between point one percent and point two percent in the short run and between one percent and two percent by the year 2050.”

He told reporters during a national teleconference on Wednesday that increases in fertilizer and energy costs will be minimal and that farmers will be able to more than offset those higher costs by trading in the carbon market. The Secretary says the conservative study, which assumed no technological progress, found that over the medium- and long-term, carbon offsets will “overwhelm” any increased production costs. Vilsack had tough words for those who advocate more study and a slower approach to dealing with climate change, ”The climate is changing and we have to deal with this change now.”

As the “original environmentalists,” farmers and ranchers should keep a close eye on this legislation. What are your thoughts on Climate Change legislation? How will it affect your segment of the agriculture industry?

Book – Review Our Choice

OurChoice“Producing first generation ethanol from corn is a mistake,” writes Al Gore in his new book, “Our Choice A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis.” The book details the issues surrounding global warming, and presents various options to curb the issue. As a writer in the agricultural industry, I paid extra attention to the chapter regarding biofuels. It came as no surprise that corn ethanol was not presented favorably.

Gore writes, “The production of ethanol in first generation biorefineries has been a disappointment. However, it has had the benefit of increasing income for farmers and has led to the emergence of an infrastructure that will prove highly valuable when second generation technologies are available to produce ethanol from nonfood crops.” He goes on to discuss his personal disappointment with his early support of corn-based ethanol and then continues to lay out the case for second and third generation fuels including cellulosic ethanol.

The industry hasn’t taken the criticism lying down. Bob Dinneen, the president of the Renewable Fuels Association sent a letter to Al Gore stating, “Given your attention to science and the facts, I am disappointed by the treatment of ethanol and other biofuels in your new book, Our Choice. Many of your characterizations of today’s American ethanol industry are out of date or simply wrong.”

Biofuels aside, throughout the book, Gore uses a combination of words, graphics and pictures to demonstrate the climate change debate, detail many of the solutions and offer policy recommendations. There is one area where I think Gore did a great job, and that is explaining what the six categories of global warming pollution are: carbon dioxide, methane, black carbon, sulfur hexaflouride, tetrafluoroethane, carbon monoxide, butane and nitrous oxide. To date, the biggest focus has been on carbon dioxide and Gore’s focus throughout the book is no different.

No matter what side you are on in the global warming debate, Our Choice will give you a platform for futher disucssions on how best to create programs and policies to address global warming.

Farm Bureau Opposes New Climate Bill

This week, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) debuted the “Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act,” an 821-page bill designed to “create clean energy jobs, reduce pollution, and protect American security by enhancing domestic energy production and combating global climate change,” as well as creating millions of green energy jobs. Part of that includes reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent by the year 2020 and 80 percent by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.

The American Farm Bureau Federation isn’t buying it.

afbf“America’s farmers and ranchers did not fare that well in the House-passed climate change bill and they fare even worse in the Senate bill,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “There are few benefits and even greater costs to agriculture and the American public.”

Stallman says the 20 percent target, which is higher than the House bill by three percent, is unrealistic and will lead to higher energy bills for all consumers. “The Waxman-Markey bill, passed narrowly by the House this summer, did at least include credits to farmers for carbon-storing or carbon management practices. The Senate bill does not guarantee any benefits to agriculture for carbon sequestration,” Stallman said.

Another major concern for Farm Bureau is that the Boxer-Kerry bill would not prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from continuing to move forward to fully regulate all greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The bill also does nothing to provide alternative sources of energy to fill the energy deficit left by the reduction in fossil fuels, nor does it prevent the EPA from using controversial indirect land use principles that penalize ethanol, according to Stallman.

“Both the Senate and House bills would bring higher fuel and fertilizer costs to American farmers and ranchers, which puts us at a competitive disadvantage in international markets with other countries that do not have similar carbon emission restrictions,” Stallman said. “For the future prosperity of the U.S. economy and American agriculture, climate change legislation must be defeated by Congress.”