Animal Brutality in Florida

By: Peter Baghdadlian

 

The state of Florida is one of a kind compared to both neighboring states as well as non-neighboring states. Some say it is the closest state to the Caribbean world, and some say it is the gateway to the world of crime and drugs. While both of these statements are true, I find Florida to be the basement of the United States. It is a damp and moist area, as well as filled with insects found nowhere else and filled with deadly alligators. The biodiversity in Florida is indeed unique and the ecosystems located within these states are only found only in a handful of places in South America. One of the most beloved and rare animals found in Florida is the Manatee, or as it is more commonly known as the Sea Cow. The Manatee used to be on the verge of becoming endangered specie in Florida as many were brutally killed either on purpose or by mistake in 1991. But as the State of Florida began making efforts to reduce the death rates of the Manatee and since then the population has increased by almost five hundred percent today. However, there is new specie that is on the states horizon to preserve, but the situation is not as dire as the Manatee situation; the Bull shark. The Bull shark is one of the three major subspecies sharks found in Florida waters. This past week, three Florida citizens are charged with animal brutality after a notorious video surfaced all across the media world. Three men were video taping dragging a bull shark through the waters with their speedboat at incredible speeds. The state typically does not prosecute animal cruelty even though it is a common crime against Mother Nature omitted on a large scale. But after several hurricanes hit Florida and not only damaged the ecosystems but also took the lives of many species, the State began to “crack down” on animal cruelty. This case of animal cruelty even reached the Governors office, which inspired him to create new laws to prevent such aggravated animal cruelty. The important thing to keep in mind however is that these three citizens were not born as animal torturers; instead it was the society they were raised in that failed to teach them the human-animal relationship and responsibility we share. First and foremost humankind has for centuries had this ideology that animals and non human species are inferior to human beings. Humankind must come to the conclusion that the only reason why we think we are superior to all other species and organisms is because we try to evaluate them and try to see if any of them have any human qualities. As it is known no animal on the planet is as unique and rational as human beings. The truth is that human beings are no better than the high soaring eagle or the small caterpillar slowly eating its way through a leaf. Once human beings understand that we are just important in the world of the environment as any other organism, human beings will begin to see the true value of all living organisms within an ecosystem. For centuries human beings have thought that ecosystems simply exist to solely benefit human beings both economically and socially. But in reality ecosystems exist so that we may preserve it for future generations of all species and promote it to ensure the continuous biodiversity. But if humankind continues to abuse and exploit the natural world simply for our benefits, we will cease to see any promotion of the biodiversity that is embedded with in our own genes. This type of idea might sound ecocentric, but nonetheless it is the true relationship humankind has with the natural world. While ecocentrism has been implemented in handful of countries, mostly in Europe, it is the only solution to prevent the same tragedy that fell on the flightless auk, and so many species that are no longer available for the current human eyes to see. To quote one of my favorite hippie songs, The River Jordan, “There is only one river, there is only one sea. And it flows through you, and it flows through me”. So we must show the same respect and appreciation we do towards our brothers and sisters and apply it to all types of living organisms. At four and a half months into a pregnancy, a human fetus has a reptiles tail; a remnant of our evolution. The truth is that you can fight a lot of wars and survive, but if you fight your biology and Mother Nature, you will always lose. That is the secret to survival. Never go to war, especially with yourself. Therefore, the actions committed by these three Florida men are only crimes committed against themselves and makes any brutality and cruelness brought onto any animal is irrational.

 

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article189456164.html

 

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Environmental Degradation of the Barents and Kara Sea

For almost thirty years now, the Cold War has ended and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) has dissolved. However, the effects of the Cold War are still present today. What little fragments are leftover from the once superpower USSR, could in fact drastically change the ecosystem in the Arctic Circle as well as the Barents and Kara Sea. Several Soviet and post-Soviet nuclear powered submarines armed along with nuclear weaponry, have sunken in Russian waters as well as in exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of Russia and Norway. At the time, the Russian government did not have the economic power as well as the technologies to recover these sunken submarines to be decommissioned properly as well as dismantled. It is essential for these nuclear submarines to be recovered to ensure the biodiversity of these ecosystems surrounding Norway and Russia. As of right now there are four sunken nuclear reactors and one sunken nuclear armed submarine in the Kara Sea. Two submarines in the Barents Sea, K-278 and K-159, have sunken and now are, according to Russian government officials, are properly being decommissioned to ensure the continuation of the ecosystems in the area. The Russian government said in a report that the sunken nuclear reactors had no long-term negative effects on the sea and the land surrounding the sea. However, the European Union-Russian Parliamentary Cooperation Committee (EURPCC), have conducted an independent research on the effects of these nuclear reactors at the bottom of the Kara Sea. In their report, they have concluded that the current effects of the nuclear reactors on the ecosystem or minimal, however if Russia fails to recover these nuclear reactors this could endanger the biodiversity of the current ecosystems. If Russia continues to prolong the required response that this issue demands, the EURPCC reported that it could and most likely kill many rare fish species located only in the Kara Sea, as well as Sea Corals that have already began to deteriorate due to the rise of both world and Russian pollution. The sea reefs located in the Kara Sea are home to some of the oldest and longest living sea species that the human race has not fished to extinction (at least not yet). The world has already experienced what nuclear infected waters and land could do to all living species in the Chernobyl disaster. It is crucial for the Russian government to properly react to their predecessor governments actions. As for the sunken submarines armed with nuclear weapons, must be properly decommissioned without overlooking any possibility of an unexpected accident that might occur. As of right now K-159 has been recovered and is being dismantled in Murmansk, a small port city located in the High North and possess much proximity to their neighboring country Norway. Russia has denied many allies, including the United Nation Committee for Environmental Protection (UNCEP) for assistance and technological support as well as strategical advice. It is essential for the Russian government to conduct the decommission of K-159 properly before it reaps the same effects that Japan is expecting after the explosion of the North Korean nuclear missile that exploded over Japanese EEZ waters, only a little over fifty miles from Japanese land. It is for this reason that this writer believes that there must be a UN committee that overlooks all nuclear weapons and nuclear powered machinery that are being dismantled. As Winston Churchill once said, “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”, and it is for this reason that Russia welcomes with open arms and open doors for the assistance that has been offered to them to successfully handle these critical environmental issues. But perhaps there is a reason why the Russian Federation keeps receiving advice and assistance is due to the fact that at the end of the previous fiscal year, Russia has cut the budget for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE). Russia, once being one of the few superpowers on this Earth, continues to fail in addressing several environmental issues that continue to degrade their ecosystems as well as shared international ecosystems. From how the Russian government so far has handle this delegate issue, it seems that the federal semi-presidential republic has turned into a kakistocracy.

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The Plastics Pollution Problem

By: Christina Thomas

Convenience has become a defining element of the past few generations and it fuels even very menial daily decisions whether we know it or not. Should I make my own coffee at home and bring a reusable thermos to work or just stop at Starbucks? Should I make and pack a lunch or just get take-out? Do I really feel like walking a few extra blocks to get the subway when I can just call an Uber? These seemingly small and meaningless decisions have big impacts that we don’t even think of, especially in terms of pollution with plastics, Styrofoam, and garbage in general. This convenience has made us a very wasteful society and nothing demonstrates that more than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The Great Pacific Garbage patch is a spot in the ocean between Japan and California in the North Pacific Ocean where the currents pull together much of the garbage and debris that wind up in the oceans. The most common type of garbage found here are single-use plastics and they range from very small, micro-bead sized plastics to plastic bottles and bags, and even plastic six-pack yokes.

While litter in general is horrible for the environment, plastics pose a particularly difficult problem because they do not biodegrade but rather photodegrade into smaller particles (Sigler, 2014, p. 1). This makes cleanup difficult as these small particles can wind up slipping through nets and may barely be noticed during ocean and beach cleanups as opposed to larger items such as plastic bags and bottles.

Not only are these plastics detrimental to the health of the ocean ecosystem, but they also threaten wildlife that may mistake the plastics for food or get caught in the plastic six-pack yokes while swimming. There have been cases of turtles getting caught in the rings while still young that wind up with deformed shells for the rest of their lives unless the yoke is removed early enough (Sigler, 2014, p. 3). Additionally, there has been an observed increase in the rates of cancer in marine organisms, which many scientists are contributing to the high amount of BPA containing plastics (which have also been linked to causing cancer in humans) floating in the ocean (Erren, Zeub, Steffany, & Meyer-Rochow, 2009, p. 1).

While humans may not see any negative implications to themselves in a situation like this, the fact is that this plastic bio-accumulates in the food chain; plastic cannot break down and pass through the digestive system so a fish that mistakes microplastics for food will ingest the material, which then becomes fat soluble, and if that fish is killed and eaten, that plastic is then passed to the consumer (Sigler, 2014, p. 1). As the health consequences of human ingestion of plastics down the food chain have not quite been established, it’s important that we are aware of the issue and ensure we do something to rectify the problem.

However, health is not the only human consequence of our excessive reliance on plastics and the convenience they offer because plastic materials are a major market failure. It is estimated that, “after a sort first-use cycle, 95% of plastic packaging material value, or $80-120 billion annually, is lost to the economy” (World Economic Forum, 2016, p. 6). Additionally, due to the amount of plastics that are never recycled or properly disposed of, there are costs present in regards to environmental degradation and impacts to tourism industries that find plastic waste washing up on their beaches, making swimming unsafe and unsanitary. In regards to climate change, it is estimated that the greenhouse gases released when producing plastics pose a cost of approximately $40 billion annually in externalities, which is greater than the plastic packaging industry’s profit pool (World Economic Forum, 2016, p. 6).

The above economic arguments have spurred a movement known as “the New Plastics Economy” in which recycling processes are further developed and made more efficient, people are educated on the importance of keeping these materials circling through the economy instead of just disposing them, and plastic products themselves are redesigned to be more environmentally friendly and, ideally, biodegradable (Grace, 2017, p. 8). The biggest issue with the movement, however, is that every member on the plastic supply and demand chain needs to cooperate in order for the problem to be solved. Manufacturers need to agree to limit the amount of plastics the make and use, businesses need to agree on finding renewable or sustainable alternatives, and consumers need to be ok with using these alternatives (Gold, Mika, Horowitz, Herzog, & Leitner, 2014 and Confino, 2017). With an ocean that is predicted to contain more plastic than fish by weight by 2050 (Confino, 2017), it is becoming more imperative that we find a solution to this problem.

While the economics as they currently stand make it hard to fathom alternatives to plastics due to their relative cheapness and convenience, externalities need to be taken into account and future probable economic impacts need to be discovered and noted so as to avoid devastating and irreversible impacts to humans, the environment, and the wildlife that depend on these now polluted waterways.

 

References

Confino, J. (2017, April 3). The secret to ending plastic waste and its devastating impacts. Huffington Post, Business. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-new-plastics-economy_us_569dfbb2e4b00f3e9862bf79

Erren, T., Zeub, D., Steffany, F., & Meyer-Rochow, B. (2009). Increase of wildlife cancer: An echo of plastic pollution? Nature Reviews Cancer, 9(11). https://doi.org/10.38/nrc2665-c1

Gold, M., Mika, K., Horowitz, C., Herzog, M., & Leitner, L. (2014). Stemming the tide of plastic marine litter: A global action agenda. Tulane Environmental Law Journal, 27(2). Retrieved from Academic OneFile database. (edsgcl.371382621)

Grace, R. (2017). Closing the circle: Reshaping how products are conceived & made: Ideo & Ellen MacArthur Foundation create an outline for a New Plastics Economy & launch a Circular Design Guide to help. Plastics Engineering, 73(3), 8. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=9211haea&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA487433170&it=r&asid=ac017b811d7883d8fa58aaf485d713a6

Sigler, M. (2014). The effects of plastic pollution on aquatic wildlife: Current situations and future solutions. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 225(11), 1-9. Retrieved from http://rlib.pace.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=8gh&AN=122849834&site=eds-live&scope=site

Sigler, M. (2014). The effects of plastic pollution on aquatic wildlife: Current situations and future solutions. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 225(11), 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-014-2184-6

World Economic Forum. (2016, January). The new plastics economy: Rethinking the future of plastics. Retrieved from http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_New_Plastics_Economy.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oil Spill on the House Floor: By Peter Baghdadlian

Climate change has been a gripping and critical issue that many countries have attempted to address and resolve the matter for years now. The truth is, the United States has been conscious of the ongoing and ever growing issue of climate change for almost a century now. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, the Bell Labs had conducted several experiments and collected data that assured that not only is the global climate changing, but also human actions may have a strong influence on the continuous climate change. The Bell Labs have concluded in their reports and science series that car emissions and factory pollutions have been the biggest contributors to the temperature change within the Earths atmosphere. The Bell Labs have constantly been providing the public with this information and data, hoping that it will spur change in people’s perspective on how we treat the environment. However, for decades and decades, the American government has failed to acknowledge that climate change is a commonly shared issue that has demanded our best efforts to resolve the issue of climate change. Why in such a developed country, that values education, knowledge, and change continuously and deliberately refuses to recognize climate change? Is it because of politicians conflicting issues? Is it perhaps influential companies and individuals that taint politician’s perspectives? Or is it because conflicting information provided by other research companies? The truth is more shocking than these reasons, because the truth to why the American government has failed to recognize climate change is a combination of all these reasons. One of the most powerful, both financially and socially influential, companies in the United States is the Koch Industries. This conglomerate has reached their arms in all different types of companies; ranging from fossil fuel companies to political think-tanks. Koch Industries directly finances Exon Mobile, Shell, Cato Institute, and the Heartland Institute along with many other Political Action Committees (PAC’s) (Before the Flood, Stevens). By owning one of the largest fossil fuel companies, as well as financing other fossil fuel companies, the Koch Industries has acquired the fiscal capabilities to lobby against fossil fuel reformation. In addition, the Koch Institutes has been able to infect political think-tanks that supply both the public and politicians with altered data (Before the Flood, Stevens). To completely ensure that the American government continue to fondly look upon fossil fuel companies, fossil fuel companies, especially the Koch brothers, have made campaign donations to various politicians. Many of the well-known politicians, who year after year receive donations for their campaigns, are like James Inhofe, the chair of the Senate, Paul Ryan the speaker of the House, and many other Senators and Congressmen who have received donations and continue to deny climate change (Personal Finances, oursecrets.org). Currently there are one hundred and thirty one congressmen and congresswomen who receive and accept donations from major fossil fuel companies and are conveniently climate change deniers. And in the Senate, thirty-eight members are climate change deniers and continue to receive financial support from these companies (Before the Flood, Stevens). As it is well known, for a bill on any topic to be passed in the House of Representatives and as well as the Senate it must be voted on and approved by at least the two thirds of the committee. So if we examine the number of Congressmen and Congresswomen and as well senators who receive annual donations have “Stonewalled” the development of environmental protection and preservation. Unfortunately this is how the American government operates; however this is not the end for environmental protection. To succeed as a country to address the issue of climate change, we must play “their game” with “their rules”. So the solution is very simple. We must firs educate our youth and students the dire situation of our current ecosystem. With the proper and uninfected information that we entrust our youth with, they will with out a doubt travel the righteous road to make serious changes in the way we treat our ecosystems. When people are equipped with the truth and adequate amount of information, they will value the improvements and changes they will make rather than the pieces of paper the year after loses value. For centuries our ecosystem has been stable and safe. But after the recent changes and innovations in machinery and fuel consumption, conglomerates like Koch Institutes and British Petroleum have turned their back on society, corrupted our political system and plunged the world into and environmental crisis. We might have avoided complete catastrophic disaster, but it has come at a great cost. But the people and institutions that continue to incentivize fossil fuel use are still in power and that needs to change. They will tell us that we need them to continue experiencing our current life style. They will spend billions of dollars to fight reforms and lobby against bills. The fight to change all of this will not be easy. But something’s are worth persevering for.

Work Cited:

https://www.opensecrets.org/personal-finances

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The Green Energy Revolution

By: Christina Thomas

As climate change continues to affect social and economic welfare, many have been calling for a “green-energy” revolution. Environmentalists have turned to solar and wind power as our saving grace from fossil fuels but businesses and several economists have said that transitioning completely to renewable energy would not be good for economic growth, causing lost jobs and low profit margins. As this argument continues to rage on, and as people continue to deny climate change, a compromise needs to be reached that can benefit everyone. But what does such a compromise look like? Is it possible to achieve a “green-energy” revolution as technology now stands? Or is further technological development required to ensure renewables are economically competitive with conventional energy sources, such as coal and oil?

Due to heavy oil and gas subsidies in the United States, renewables have been very slow taking off here as opposed to our European neighbors. Due to this, it is evident extensive policy changes are necessary in order to spearhead renewable energy development. Though the Obama administration and other G20 nations propose they “end inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” in 2009, no official policies were proposed and progress was incredibly limited for years (Oil Change International, 2017).

Where the Federal government is lacking as far as renewable energy policy, local and state governments are trying to pick up the slack. One such example is New York and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s renewable energy plan. This plan has 3 goals to achieve by 2030: 1) to achieve a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels; 2) 50% of New York State’s electricity will come from renewables; and 3) achieve a 23% decrease in energy consumption in buildings from 2012 levels (Cuomo, 2015). Though ambitious, New York has already begun several efforts to achieve this goal, such as planning a wind farm for off the coast of Long Island and investing $1.5 billion in renewable energy projects throughout the state (New York State Office of the Governor, 2017).

However, these are only a couple examples in a country that is behind in environmental policy. As such, it is important to analyze how new policies have affected countries in the European Union, which is a bit more advanced than the United States when it comes to environmental policy, specifically renewable energy policy. Germany is one of the best examples as they have been a leading forerunner in the promotion of renewable energy within the last decade.

The top policy change Germany addressed was through subsidies for the renewable energy industry. From 2006 to 2014, Germany’s total subsidies for renewables nearly quadrupled, “from 5.8 billion to roughly 21.4 billion euros” (Bouhringer, Landis, & Reanos, 2017, p. 189). While these subsidies have led to enormous growth in the industry, this has resulted in higher energy surcharges on electricity bills for consumers, which has led to debate on whether or not Germany’s renewable energy policies are economically efficient. In addition to these high surcharges, the EU-wide emissions trading system has caused costs of Germany’s renewable energy to rise. This is due to the issue that subsidies have lead to such a big expansion of renewables that “renewable power production will simply reallocate emissions across these [trading] sectors while the overall compliance cost to the EU-wide emissions cap will rise due to costly CO2 emission abatement from excessive expansion of renewable energies and too little abatement from other (cheaper) mitigation opportunities such as fuel switching from coal to gas or energy efficiency improvements” (Bouhringer, Landis, & Reanos, 2017, p. 190).

However, as policy-induced expansion of renewable energy is relatively new, its economics impacts are not well known, especially in the long run. While arguments have been made that a renewable energy industry can help grow an economy and provide jobs to help sustain larger markets, there have also been arguments saying that the industry cannot sustain itself and may become less profitable in the economy as a whole. One literature review has actually concluded that, while renewable energy may help promote growth and employment in the short-run, sustained reliance on renewables will cause negative economic growth in the long-run (Jaraite, Karimu, & Kazukauskas, 2017, p. 200). This may not be cause for despair for green-energy promoting environmentalists, however, as this study only relied on the data to date from the EU, which has its own rules and regulations separate from the United States and may thus not be a good indicator of what the market within the States would look like.

Additionally, research has been done to try and determine what the best policy-scenario would be in terms of promoting renewable energy (Papapostolou, Karakosta, & Doukas, 2017, pp. 88-109). These findings have proposed three separate ways in which the EU governs its renewable energy development: 1) through individual countrywide policy requirements; 2) through region-wide requirements; and 3) as a national federation policy approach. Each of these categories is then further broken down into overriding policy requirements and voluntary commitment-based requirements and whether one is more effective over another. According to the findings, most CO2 and renewable energy reduction goals were more successfully reached through indicative regional targets in which each region had its own say in how renewable energy plans were created and managed as opposed to having to follow a strict, overriding national requirement (Papapostolou, Karakosta, & Doukas, 2017, pp. 104). Though the United States is not under the same laws and requirements as the EU, it may be helpful in future policy-proposals to just see what worked and did not work for the EU and attempt to translate it into American policy as best we can.

Renewable energy development will continue to remain an obstacle and an issue until the technology can compete with that of conventional energy sources (Schelly, 2015, p. 66). Until we can better develop battery storage in solar panels and more efficiently harness wind power, it is likely that oil and gas will continue to remain our primary sources of energy and drivers of our economy.

 

References

Bouhringer, C., Landis, F., & Reanos, M. A. T. (2017). Economic impacts of renewable energy promotion in Germany. Energy Journal, 38(1), 189-209. Retrieved from Environment Complete database. (Accession No. 123066694)

Cuomo, A. (2015). 2015 New York state energy plan. Retrieved November 3, 2017, from https://energyplan.ny.gov/Plans/2015.aspx

Jaraite, J., Karimu, A., & Kazukauskas, A. (2017). Policy-induced expansion of solar and wind power capacity: Economic growth and employment in EU countries. Energy Journal, 38(5), 197-222. Retrieved from Environment Complete database. (Accession No. 124674951)

New York State Office of the Governor. (2017, June 2). Governor Cuomo announces major climate and jobs initiative in partnership with the Worker Institute at Cornell University ILR’s school and climate jobs NY to help create 40,000 clean energy jobs by 2020. Retrieved November 3, 2017, from https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-major-climate-and-jobs-initiative-partnership-worker-institute-cornell

Oil Change International. (2017). Fossil fuel subsidies: Overview. Retrieved November 3, 2017, from http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/

Papapostolou, A., Karakosta, C., & Doukas, H. (2017). Analysis of policy scenarios for achieving renewable energy sources targets: A fuzzy TOPSIS approach. Energy & Environment, 28(1/2), 88-109. Retrieved from Environment Complete database. (Accession No. 121641110)

Schelly, C. (2015). Frameworks for understanding and promoting solar energy technology development. Resources, 4(1), 55-69. https://doi.org/10.3390/resources4010055

Thomas, R. P. (2017). The paradoxical relationship between renewable energy and economic growth: A cross-national panel study, 1990-2013. Journal of World-Systems Research, 23(2), 540-564. Retrieved from SocINDEX with Full Text database. (Accession No. 124799015)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agricultural Industrialization

As our patterns in production and consumption of food evolved over the last few decades, the economics of the industry have developed as “millions of farms have folded as government policy has encouraged larger, more intensive farm operations, such as industrialized farming” (Food Economics, Grace Communications Foundation). Much of the world has seen an increase in industrialized agricultural methods as the need for mass production of food seems to over exceed the capacity of traditional farming practices. Increasing the availability and sustainability of crops has been a challenge for the farming industry, especially with political and socioeconomic provocations.

the-us-is-making-a-big-shift-away-from-factory-farming

Industrial agriculture and factory farming refers to a modern type of agriculture which requires high inputs of money, fertilizers, and eliminate jobs. Industrialization of the farming industry is relatively new. Since the rise of fast food restaurants in the 1950’s, the agricultural industry gained some incentive to mass produce as consumer tendencies shifted. “In 1960, on average, one farmer fed 26 people per year. Now, a farmer feeds about 155 people per year” (Farmers Feed US). “The food industry has evolved enormously, utilizing science and technology to make food production ‘bigger, faster, badder and cheaper” (Food Inc, 2008). The post war economies of the 1920s and 1940s caused “capital and technology [to] replace labor and management as farms were consolidated into larger and fewer farm businesses” (Ikerd), causing a significant decline in the number of small farms by the 1970s.

According to Business Insider, approximately 10 companies control most of the world’s food supply today. These companies operate as monopolies and essentially represent the industrialization of food production.  Major food corporations are solely concerned with profit maximization and therefore uses monetary power t10-companies-that-control-almost-everything-we-eato dominate the market in order to maintain control over prices, production and supply. Food monopolies lobby to influence political agendas that suit their business endeavours which include creating food and agricultural policies. “There is the premise that water, land, food, and agriculture should be handed over to powerful, corrupt transnational corporations to milk for profit, under the pretense these entities are somehow serving the needs of humanity” (Kashmir Times). Corporations have long sought to control basic human necessities. According to his article, John Ikerd believes “corporatization of the food system is no longer being driven by profit… the motives of further corporate consolidation are market power and political power”. Market power can be used to extract profits by exploiting both consumers and producers.

While we often blame corporate greed for the rise in industrialized agriculture, we forget to assess consumer demand which helps drive the industry. The world population has more than doubled since the emergence of industrialized farming in the 1960s, which means, hypothetically, we should have doubled the food supply since then. As corporations engineered ways to amp up production at lower and lower costs, the majority of consumers remained ignorant to the truth as people continue to chase ‘the lowest price’ without considering the circumstances behind it. “Admittedly, for people living in poverty, choosing good food is more of a challenge. Some poor people may spend up to half of their income for food and spending another ten to twenty percent for food would require five to ten percent more income” (Ikerd) Particularly, the rise in income inequality in America has given people the incentive to consume at a far lesser cost. Therefore, companies are willing to producer at as low possible a cost in order to provide prices.

There are many debates around the cost and benefits of industrialization. “Industrial agriculture has been sold to the public as a technological miracle [which]… would allow food production to keep pace with a rapidly growing global population, while its economies of scale would ensure that farming remained a profitable business”(Union of Concerned Scientists). One of the main arguments for industrialization is the ability to mass produce food and therefore feed those in the world who lack adequate resources to access such. Industrialization has provided far cheaper alternatives which make it easier to address world hunger issues. Some agro-economists argue that industrialization can be made sustainable for example, by “turning to high-tech solutions like precision agriculture”(Lusk, NYT). Lusk believes “big problems [such as climate change, growing world population, drought and water quality” can be addressed by industrialization through innovation, entrepreneurship and technology”. The question then becomes of whether mass production is actually good for humanity. Other agro-economists see industrialization as an inherent problem for our health safety and our environment. “Industrially produced food appears to be inexpensive, but the price tag doesn’t reflect the actual costs that we taxpayers bear.”(Industrial Livestock production, Grace Communications Foundation).  The Grace Communications Foundation article continues, to argue that “monocultures and factory farms pollute communities and adversely affect public health”. The agricultural industry can be said to suffer a market failure as the external costs of the industry are often not internalized by firms. Factory farms are considered agricultural instead of industrial and are therefore not subject to the regulation that their scale of production (and level of pollution) warrants. Because they employ powerful lobbyists that can sway government agencies responsible for monitoring agricultural practices, industrial farms are often left free to pollute.

salinas-farmOur goal is to reach some level of sustainability that reduces the environmental and economic costs of producing food, while providing enough for the world population. Industrialization has proven some negative as well as positive over the last few decades. The controversy has evolved to show innovative new ways of producing food as well as its destructive consequences for which we must be aware. Consumers and producers have a duty to acknowledge both by internalizing the possible externalities in order to navigate the industry toward higher benefits and lower costs.

by Shaneal Wynter

Citations

Corporatization of the American Food Systemhttp://web.missouri.edu/ikerdj/papers/HBO%20Corporatization%20of%20American%20Food%20System.htm

Foundation, GRACE Communications. “Food Economics.” GRACE Communications Foundation, www.sustainabletable.org/491/food-economics.

Foundation, GRACE Communications. “Industrial Livestock Production.” GRACE Communications Foundation, www.sustainabletable.org/859/industrial-livestock-production

“Fun Farm Facts.” Farmers Feed US – Fun Farm Facts, www.farmersfeedus.org/fun-farm-facts/

“Hidden Costs of Industrial Agriculture.” Union of Concerned Scientists, www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/industrial-agriculture/hidden-costs-of-industrial.html#.WeOLnGiPJPY

Lusk, Jayson. “Opinion | Why Industrial Farms Are Good for the Environment.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/09/25/opinion/sunday/why-industrial-farms-are-good-for-the-environment.html

Taylor, Kate. “These 10 Companies Control Everything You Buy.” Business Insider, Business Insider, Apr. 2017, www.businessinsider.com/10-companies-control-food-industry-2017-3

“World Population Growth.” Our World in Data, https://ourworldindata.org/world-population-growth/

Emissions Trading As Policy

Bloomberg reported that several US states and provinces in Canada are joining forces to create a cap and trade program throughout North America. A program already exists in California with plans for Quebec and Ontario to join it, and an initiative in the northeast led by New York has several new interested states and could possibly join with California’s in the future. This is in spite of the fact that the Trump administration has expressed a desire to remove many pollution controls and ease restrictions on emitters.

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Source: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/what-would-it-really-cost-reduce-carbon-emissions

As we know, emissions trading as policy can be an effective tool to reduce pollution. Using market mechanisms, government and financially incentivize companies to emit less. In simple terms, the government places a cap on emissions and distributes “credits” that allow companies to emit. The government allows companies to buy and sell these credits on the open market. What this should mean is that companies that able to efficiently and cheaply reduce emissions will have a financial incentive to do so, and sell any extra credits they have to companies who cannot as cheaply reduce emissions. The government will have essentially created a new market, one which results in lower overall emissions. Depending on the type of emissions and the location of the program, the government has a number of options for implementing the program. The government can also calculate the proper level of overall emissions that maximizes efficiency while minimizing social cost.

On an international level, parties that have signed onto the Kyoto protocol may trade units to other countries that need additional units. However, since not all nations (most significantly and notably the United States) participate in the carbon market internationally, the markets aren’t as efficient or effective as they could be. Though emissions rates are slightly falling in the US, under the Paris Accord emissions rates should be falling faster to avoid the worst impacts from climate change. So several states have taken the solution into their own hands and have begun creating emissions trading locally.

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Source: https://www.carbonbrief.org/what-global-co2-emissions-2016-mean-climate-change

 

California’s cap and trade program began in 2013. The state hands out or auctions off emissions permits. If a company needs more, they may purchase them. This program, among other things, is part of an ambitious goal to cut emissions in California to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Since Donald Trump was elected president and withdrew from the Paris accords, California has announced it will strengthen the program. One challenge is showing directly how the program is reducing emissions, and the state issues reports that show emissions levels. One report showed emissions at the companies under the program fell 4% in two years.

In the Northeast, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) unites 9 states in creating an emissions market. Each state has enacted legislation that creates the program in each state statutorily, and tracks emissions from each state. Credits may be traded across state lines. It was reported in Bloomberg that Virginia and Pennsylvania have expressed interest in joining, further expanding the market. If the California market joined with Quebec and Ontario to unite with the RGGI, the market would expand across a huge portion of North America’s economy. It may also boost interest in a national plan.

RGGI
Power sector emissions v. GDP in the area covered by RGGI region (Source: RGGI)

Meanwhile, on the federal level, legislators have not given up all hope. Two Democrats in the senate hope to enact legislation that would create a carbon tax, $49 per ton. Though not the same as a cap and trade, the legislators feel this has possible bipartisan appeal. The money earned from the tax would be used to fund a large tax cut on corporations, thereby possibly obtaining conservative support. Another criticism of the effort is the increase in energy prices that would be passed onto the consumer. This effort is still largely considered a long shot.

The pushback against the federal government’s effort to fight emissions reductions has united several states in an effort to reduce overall emissions. This effort is not only crossing state lines, but international lines with Canadian provinces. These policies, in combination with other efforts to reduce emissions, may indeed counteract or pressure the federal government into action on reducing emissions.

By Carl Wojciechowski

  1. Martin, Chris, and Joe Ryan. “Cap-and-Trade Is Catching On in the Trump Era.” com, Bloomberg, 20 Sept. 2017, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-20/state-efforts-boost-cap-and-trade-as-trump-pushes-for-more-coal.
  2. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Emissions Trading, United Nations, 1 Feb. 2013, unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/mechanisms/emissions_trading/items/2731.php
  3. Fehrenbacher, Katie. “Climate Goals: inside California’s Effort to Overhaul Its Ambitious Emissions Plan.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 20 June 2017, theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jun/20/california-climate-change-emissions-program-cap-trade.
  4. https://www.rggi.org/design/overview
  5. Friedman, Lisa. “Some Democrats See Tax Overhaul as a Path to Taxing Carbon.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Aug. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/17/climate/carbon-tax-reform-climate-change.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FCap%2Band%2BTrade.