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What Everyone Should Know about the Link between Our Food and Fuel Supplies
Food is fuel. It powers us through our daily routines, from breakfast to bedtime. Food is a given easily taken for granted, day in, day out, that gives us no great cause for concern. But it should.
The consumption of food and traditional fossil fuels are inextricably linked. Their production is nearing capacity, and shortages in both are a very real near term possibility. Rising prices at the pump become increased costs (or decreased portions) at the grocery, and the combination effectively shrinks already stretched paychecks for millions of Americans. Without a concerted effort to develop both component and systemic solutions to agricultural and energy shortcomings, we will be faced with a global crisis.
As daunting as the outlook is, there is hope on the horizon. Our goal is to bring together like-minded groups to foster awareness through open dialog and educational outreach, and act as a catalyst for the development and funding of real solutions to the impending food/fuel crisis.
Only by thinking and working together can we cultivate the change that fuels our future as a Sustainable America.
The Food/Fuel Crisis Is Real. And It's Closer Than You Think.
Our global oil system is operating near full capacity. And that can’t last—for our wallets or our stomachs.
As many Americans feel the financial squeeze when they go to the gas pump or to a lesser extent, the grocery store, there is not always a good understanding of the larger forces at work. Supply and demand imbalances exist for the two consumer staples most vital to sustaining daily American life: food and oil. Both industries are currently operating near capacity and forecasts indicate that this situation will only get worse due to increased demand on a relatively fixed supply.
A Voracious Appetite
20,000,000 Barrels of Oil Consumed In The USA-Every Day
Though the food and fuel markets have always been somewhat connected because oil is an input into the agricultural process, this connection has grown as we have begun to turn food into ethanol to supplement our oil supply. The growing imbalances and this connection have several consequences. At best, we can expect higher prices which in turn affect the economically vulnerable the most because they spend the highest share of their income on food and fuel. At worst it could lead to physical shortages, as both markets are volatile; oil because of political upheaval and food due to sensitivity to global weather patterns and drought. The link between these two markets also means that any change in one will alter the other so prices will rise (or fall) in unison.
More Than Our Fair Share?
The U.S. accounts for 24 percent of global consumption, while having only 5 percent of the world's people
GLOBAL CALORIC DEMAND EXPECTED TO GROW BY 50 PERCENT BY 2050
The food market (which includes commodity markets for grains, sugar, dairy, proteins and other key nutritional inputs) is a global market today, similar to the market for oil. Global demand for calories is expected to grow by almost 50 percent over the next 40 years, due to population growth and increases in per-capita consumption.
STOCKPILE-TO-USAGE RATIOS AT LOWEST LEVELS IN 30 YEARS
The challenge of meeting accelerating food demands is a chief concern as a broad range of factors tightens supply and creates an unsustainable relationship between food usage and production. World grain usage has exceeded production in recent years, with a capacity utilization of more than 100 percent, driving stockpile-to-usage ratios of corn and wheat to their lowest global levels in 30 years.
FOOD STAPLE PRICES UP BY 200—300 PERCENT SINCE 2000
The increased cost of essential staple items has a direct impact on the purchasing power of a paycheck. Tight capacity utilization, along with rising demand, have contributed to many main food commodities like sugar, cereals and dairy doubling or tripling in price over the last 10 years.
A connection we can afford to break—Before it breaks us.
This interconnectedness has broad, negative consequences, especially for low-income populations. Tight global supply and disruptions in either market will continue to drive up food and fuel prices. Food, and in many cases, fuel, are non-negotiable expenditures. Price increases on these staple items strain already-tight budgets with little if any leeway because these items make up a much greater proportion of their total income. In 2010, the lowest quintile of earners spent a combined 43 percent of total income on food and gasoline, whereas the top quintile of earners spent only 9 percent on these items.
A Big Bite
The Lowest 20 percent of Earners Spend a Combined 43 percent of Total Income on Food and Gasoline
Beyond affecting the most disadvantaged economically, these price shocks hamper economic growth as a whole. Each of the last six recessions in the U.S going back to 1972 have been preceded by an oil price spike that increased the percentage of consumer spending that was devoted to energy. The unsustainable use of resources responsible for these shocks has significant national security implications and environmental costs as well.
The worst possible outcome is that this tight balance of food and fuel could move beyond higher prices and weakened budgets to something with which U.S. society is currently unfamiliar: actual physical shortages. This would be a massive detriment to social well-being and economic productivity, but when armed with this realization we can view the possibility as a call to action. We must work together, in measures small and large, to break the connection between food and fuel.
Together We Can Shape the Future. Short term goals for long term gains.
The big picture of the Food/Fuel Crisis can seem overwhelming, but with small steps we can foster great change. The challenges we face today will be overcome through increased awareness of the problem and encouraged innovation toward new solutions. Fortunately, the U.S. has the resources, both societally and technologically, to lead the world in developing ideas and infrastructure for sustainable systems. Sustainable America aims to reduce U.S. oil consumption while increasing U.S. food production.
Simple starter ideas for sustainable societal change.
Food For Thought
- Reduce food waste at all levels
- Grow and eat more locally sourced food
- Foster more Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives
- Make more sustainable use of food resources and diversify supplies
Fuel for Change
- Develop and use oil substitutes like Solar Electricity (EV), Natural Gas (NGV), and advanced biofuels
- Encourage shorter commutes or increased rideshare and public transportation use
- Diversify fuel supplies and reduce consumption
- Launch a comprehensive public education campaign on precarious state of food and fuel systems
- Communicate these possible solutions and motivate positive behavior changes for sustainable lifestyles
- Foster new entrepreneurs and investors in sustainable food and energy innovations
- Build human and financial capital in these new fields
- Create jobs through new industries
Get Connected. Connect with Others. Community Building Through Communication.
The first step toward a Sustainable America is an open discourse and common language. Stay up to date and in touch with Sustainable America through our newsletter. Tailor the information you’d like to receive based on the Components of Change most important to you.
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By Tom Duszynski
The coronavirus is certainly scary, but despite the constant reporting on total cases and a climbing death toll, the reality is that the vast majority of people who come down with COVID-19 survive it. Just as the number of cases grows, so does another number: those who have recovered.
In mid-March, the number of patients in the U.S. who had officially recovered from the virus was close to zero. That number is now in the tens of thousands and is climbing every day. But recovering from COVID-19 is more complicated than simply feeling better. Recovery involves biology, epidemiology and a little bit of bureaucracy too.
How does your body fight off COVID-19?<p>Once a person is exposed the coronavirus, the body starts producing <a href="https://www.mblintl.com/products/what-are-antibodies-mbli/" target="_blank">proteins called antibodies to fight the infection</a>. As these <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/27/serological-tests-reveal-immune-coronavirus/" target="_blank">antibodies start to successfully contain the virus</a> and keep it from replicating in the body, symptoms usually begin to lessen and you start to feel better. Eventually, if all goes well, your immune system will completely destroy all of the virus in your system. A person who was infected with and survived a virus with no long-term health effects or disabilities has "recovered."</p><p>On average, a person who is infected with SARS-CoV-2 will feel ill for about seven days from the onset of symptoms. Even after symptoms disappear, there still may be small amounts of the virus in a patient's system, and they should stay <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html" target="_blank">isolated for an additional three days</a> to ensure they have truly <a href="https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/coronavirus-recovery-what-to-know" target="_blank">recovered and are no longer infectious</a>.</p>
What about immunity?<p>In general, once you have recovered from a viral infection, your body will keep cells called lymphocytes in your system. These cells "remember" viruses they've previously seen and can react quickly to fight them off again. If you are exposed to a virus you have already had, your antibodies will likely stop the virus before it starts causing symptoms. <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.5114%2Fceji.2018.77390" target="_blank">You become immune</a>. This is the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK27158/" target="_blank">principle behind many vaccines</a>.</p><p>Unfortunately, immunity isn't perfect. For many viruses, like mumps, immunity can wane over time, leaving you <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160421145747.htm" target="_blank">susceptible to the virus in the future</a>. This is why you need to get revaccinated – those "booster shots" – occasionally: to prompt your immune system to make more antibodies and memory cells.</p><p>Since this coronavirus is so new, scientists still don't know whether people who recover from COVID-19 are <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/faq.html" target="_blank">immune to future infections of the virus</a>. Doctors are finding antibodies in ill and recovered patients, and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/clinical-guidance-management-patients.html" target="_blank">that indicates the development of immunity</a>. But the question remains how long that immunity will last. Other coronaviruses like <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/jmv.25685" target="_blank">SARS and MERS produce an immune response</a> that will protect a person at least for a short time. I would suspect the same is true of SARS-CoV-2, but the research simply hasn't been done yet to say so definitively.</p>
Why have so few people officially recovered in the US?<p>This is a dangerous virus, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is being extremely careful when deciding what it means to recover from COVID-19. Both medical and testing criteria must be met before a person is <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/disposition-in-home-patients.html" target="_blank">officially declared recovered</a>.</p><p>Medically, a person must be fever-free without fever-reducing medications for three consecutive days. They must show an improvement in their other symptoms, including reduced coughing and shortness of breath. And it must be at least seven full days <a href="https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/coronavirus-recovery-what-to-know" target="_blank">since the symptoms began</a>.</p><p>In addition to those requirements, the CDC guidelines say that a person must test negative for the coronavirus twice, with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/care-for-someone.html" target="_blank">tests taken at least 24 hours apart</a>.</p><p>Only then, if both the symptom and testing conditions are met, is a person officially considered recovered by the CDC.</p><p>This second testing requirement is likely why there were so few official recovered cases in the U.S. until late March. Initially, there was a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/health/coronavirus-test-shortages-face-masks-swabs.html" target="_blank">massive shortage of testing in the U.S.</a> So while many people were certainly recovering over the last few weeks, this could not be officially confirmed. As the country enters the height of the pandemic in the coming weeks, focus is still on <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/clinical-criteria.html" target="_blank">testing those who are infected</a>, not those who have likely recovered.</p><p>Many more people are being tested now that states and private companies have begun <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/testing-in-us.html" target="_blank">producing and distributing tests</a>. As <a href="https://www.dispatch.com/news/20200406/coronavirus-in-ohio-from-its-rocky-start-testing-for-covid-19-slowly-ramping-up" target="_blank">the number of available tests increases</a> and the pandemic eventually slows in the country, more testing will be available for those who have appeared to recover. As people who have already recovered are tested, the appearance of any new infections will help researchers learn <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/24/we-need-smart-coronavirus-testing-not-just-more-testing/" target="_blank">how long immunity can be expected to last</a>.</p>
Once a person has recovered, what can they do?<p>Knowing whether or not people are immune to COVID-19 after they recover is going to determine what individuals, communities and society at large can do going forward. If scientists can show that recovered patients are immune to the coronavirus, then a person who has recovered could in theory <a href="https://www.vox.com/2020/3/30/21186822/immunity-to-covid-19-test-coronavirus-rt-pcr-antibody" target="_blank">help support the health care system</a> by caring for those who are infected.</p><p>Once communities pass the peak of the epidemic, the number of new infections will decline, while the number of <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/china-says-passed-peak-coronavirus-epidemic-covid-19-1491863" target="_blank">recovered people will increase</a>. As these trends continue, the risk of transmission will fall. Once the risk of transmission has fallen enough, community-level isolation and social distancing orders will begin to relax and businesses will start to reopen. Based on what other countries have gone through, it will be <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00154-w" target="_blank">months until the risk of transmission is low</a> in the U.S.</p><p>But before any of this can happen, the U.S. and the world need to make it through the peak of this pandemic. Social distancing works to slow the spread of infectious diseases and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/what-you-can-do.html" target="_blank">is working for COVID-19</a>. Many people will <a href="https://www.yalemedicine.org/stories/2019-novel-coronavirus/" target="_blank">need medical help to recover</a>, and social distancing will slow this virus down and give people the best chance to do so.</p>
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
The future for the world's oceans often looks grim. Fisheries are set to collapse by 2048, according to one study, and 8 million tons of plastic pollute the ocean every year, causing considerable damage to delicate marine ecosystems. Yet a new study in Nature offers an alternative, and more optimistic view on the ocean's future: it asserts that the entire marine environment could be substantially rebuilt by 2050, if humanity is able to step up to the challenge.
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By Zulfikar Abbany
Bread has been a source of basic nutrition for centuries, the holy trinity being wheat, maize and rice. It has also been the reason for a lot of innovation in science and technology, from millstones to microbiological investigations into a family of single-cell fungi called Saccharomyces.
Chemical leavening<p>If you like a little heft in your loaf, you will need a leavening agent.</p><p>For those short on time, you can use baking soda. That's a chemical compound of sodium bicarbonate mixed with potassium bitartrate, or cream of tartar.</p><p>Soda breads have their traditions in parts of eastern and central Europe, and in Ireland and Scotland, with Melrose loaves and "farls."</p><p>They can taste a bit bland, though, and are often considered only as an emergency solution on Sundays. No disrespect intended: They taste just fine fresh from the oven.</p><p>Whether it's chemical or more "natural," leavening relies largely on the production of carbon dioxide.</p><p>When you mix an acid, such as vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt or apple cider, with an alkaline compound like baking soda, you get CO2. That CO2 creates bubbles, which in turn capture steam in the oven and allow a bread to rise.</p><p><span></span>But it's better with yeast. Tastes better, too. It just takes more time. </p>
What is yeast?<p>There are yeasts all around us — on grains, in the air, in biofuels. It even lives inside us, but that's not always a good thing.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1090575/pdf/1471-2334-5-22.pdf" target="_blank">Candida yeast</a> can cause infections of the skin, feet, mouth, penis or vagina if it builds up too much in the body.</p><p>One of the most common yeasts, however, is <em>Saccharomyces cerevisiae</em>. That's <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/an-early-beer-archaeologists-tap-ground-at-worlds-oldest-brewery/a-45480731" target="_blank">"brewer's"</a> or "baker's" yeast.</p><p>You can get fresh baker's yeast, often in 42-gram (1.48-ounce) cubes, or as dried yeast (quick action or active, which requires rehydration) in a sachet of 7 grams.</p><p>There's little difference: One is compressed and the other is dehydrated and granulated. But they do the same thing, essentially. </p><p>Some commercial yeast producers add molasses and other nutrients. But natural yeast has plenty of useful nutrients in it anyway, including B group vitamins, so who knows whether it's good or necessary to add them. </p>
How does yeast work?<p>When you mix flour, yeast and water, you set off a veritable chain reaction. Enzymes in the wheat convert starch into sugar. And the yeast creates enzymes of its own to convert those sugars into a form it can absorb.</p><p>The yeast "feeds" on the sugars to create carbon dioxide and alcohol. The yeast burps and farts, releasing gases into the mix, and that creates bubbles to trap CO2. </p><p>It's a vital fermentation process that breaks down the gluten in the flour and helps make your bread more digestible.</p><p>The yeast cells split and reproduce, generating lactic and carbonic acid, raising the temperature and ultimately adding flavor to the mix.</p><p>The longer you leave the yeast to do its thing, the better for your bread. Time is more important than the amount of yeast. </p><p>In fact, that's an enduring question — how much yeast? I'll use 20 grams fresh yeast for 500 grams of flour. Others say that's enough yeast for 1 kilo. If you are converting a dry-yeast recipe to fresh yeast, some bakers advise tripling the weight. So, if a sachet of dried yeast is 7 grams, your fresh yeast is 21 grams.</p><p><span></span>But that also depends on the flours you are using, temperatures in the bowl and the room, and a host of other things. You'll just have to experiment and see. No number of books (and I've read a stack on bread) will help as much as trial and error.</p>
Wild yeast: Sourdough<p>So, good bread needs time. If you have a lot of time, why not move it up a notch and grow wild yeast — a sourdough starter — in your own home?</p><p>A sourdough starter is not to be mistaken (as it often is) for the leaven, or "mother," "sponge," or <em>levain</em>. That's more a second stage, a descendant of the starter. You take a scoop from your starter and add it to another flour and water mixture when you prepare the dough for a new loaf. </p><p>The sourdough process utilizes yeasts naturally present in flour and … yet more time. A longer fermentation process allows a richer lactic acid bacteria <em>lactobacilli</em> or LAB to evolve, and that can be healthy for your gut microbiome.</p><p>It's simple enough to start a sourdough starter. All you need is flour, warm water and time.</p><p>Some suggest equal measures of whole-grain flour and water at 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit), some say room temperature — just don't let the water exceed 40 C or the yeasts will die. Some suggest two parts flour to three parts water. But it's up to you whether you want a drier or wetter starter. You will know only through experimentation. </p><p>Some say you should filter tap water to remove chemicals like fluoride and avoid using water that's boiled and then cooled. Others say that really doesn't matter.</p><p>The main thing is, keep it clean and give it time. Days, weeks, months and years.</p>
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