By Clifton Ross
It may seem hard to believe that the process that brought the head of lettuce to your salad—and all the other delicious components of your organic meal, like the baked potato and the grilled free-range chicken breast—are all a major cause of climate change. According to the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, “Approximately one-third of greenhouse gas emissions are produced by agriculture and land-use changes, with 18 percent of the overall total coming from livestock alone.” While organic, free-range, or better yet, vegetarian diets are steps in the right direction, the steps are still circumscribed by a system that guarantees climate change, even in its “greenest” sectors.
Part of the problem is the amount of energy (inputs) required by standard agriculture to produce the world’s food: in the United States 7.3 calories of energy go into delivering one calorie of food. From the tractors that break the ground for planting, then return to do the planting and harvesting, to the transport and processing, to the further transport to the supermarket, and all the way to your drive to make the purchase (unless you bicycle and cut a calorie or two off the process), energy is used and carbon produced.