A Conversation with Anna Lappé on Climate Change

Original Published Date: June 2010. The first thing one notices about Anna Lappé, author of the new book, Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do about It, she knows how to focus abstract, interrelated concepts, such as industrial agriculture, and food system, into concrete terms as they relate to climate change concerns.

Not only will agriculture be effected by rapid changes in weather conditions brought on by climate change, the food system itself (the entire process by which food reaches the end of our fork) is the largest single emitter of atmospheric greenhouse gases that drive climate change effects. Culling through the scientific literature, Lappé reports that about 31% of all carbon dioxide emissions are directly or indirectly related to the agriculture sector. Two very potent atmospheric gases, nitrous oxide and methane, are released in agriculture production, and are almost 300 times, and 25 times more active in the atmosphere, respectively (ton for ton), than carbon dioxide.

In the opening introduction to her book, Bill McKibben writes:

“Climate change is the biggest thing human beings have ever done; nothing else even comes close. We’ve already managed to substantially melt the Arctic, to force epic drought, to thaw the high-altitude glaciers that water Asia and South America, all with a single degree of temperature rise”.

While carefully connecting the dots between industrial agriculture, and climate change, Lappé underlines the inherent weaknesses of conventional agriculture, and the terrible costs to the planet if we do not reform that system.

As a whole, climate friendly farming not only benefits the environment; it reduces our dependence on fossil fuels, on the use of chemical poisons, improves the taste and nutritional quality of the food we eat, is humane in the treatment of livestock, strengthens local communities, increases biodiversity, and is good for eaters and farmers alike.

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