Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment
Fisherville, Ontario, Canada
Tel. 416 410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231

Vol. 13, No. 7, September 6, 2008
Honoured Reader Edition


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Starting with this issue Gallon Environment Letter will revert to two issues per month. This is in line with many of the responses to our last reader survey, in which many expressed support for shorter and more frequent issues rather than longer and less frequent issues. Our format will change only slightly: one of the two monthly issues will focus on a theme in the same way as past issues have focussed on asbestos, packaging, toxic chemicals management, or whatever. The second issue of the month will focus more on current issues, with articles analysing current policy directions in Canada and around the world. Book reviews and explorations of longer term aspects of sustainability will be explored in both issues. For the first time we will be introducing a regular print edition of Gallon Environment Letter which will appear monthly and will include most of the content from both electronic issues. More information on the print edition and on upgrades to our electronic issues will appear in

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Our theme in this issue is Biodiversity and Agriculture. Despite increasing interest in Product of Canada food and food safety our national media pay very little attention to what is happening in the food production system. According to a recent OECD review, Canada's food system is adversely impacting biodiversity, only slightly improving its less than satisfactory environmental performance, and increasingly becoming large scale. Many commentators bemoan the fact that so many young people do not know where their food comes from. GL hopes that our summary of the OECD report may help readers and others understand that the agricultural eco-system is not nearly as healthy as it needs to be for sustainability.

It is not only the OECD that is considering the environmental impacts of agriculture. We review a recent report from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. It is not clear that AAFC really wants Canadians to read the report but we give you a synopsis of a report that could be key to Canadian agriculture's involvement in a future GHG emission reduction strategy. Farming can be both an emitter of and a sink for greenhouse gases - the challenge is to get the mix right through sound GHG management.

Intuitively, humans should not eat rare breeds. But when it comes to agriculture the only way to maintain rare breeds might be to eat them. GL tells you why, where, and how. Hurry along to the Rare Breeds Canada website if you want to bid on the auction. Our book review this issue, of Stirring It Up: How to make money and save the world, discusses how Stonyfield Farm grew to become a hugely successful organic yogurt supplier. Read it to understand the key role of the CEYo. After reading the book you will want to try the product. Fortunately you can buy Stonyfield Farm products at some Canadian grocery stores.
Our letter writers continue the theme of degrowth and enhance our efforts to discuss biodiversity. Another book review looks at ethics rather than economics as a pathway to preserve biodiversity. It is back to school time so GL links it all together by looking at a book that was maybe twenty years ahead of its time. And to celebrate our editor's birthday, this issue of GL ends with a link to a song that has been amusing him and others more easily amused for fifty years.
In our next issue we will review a number of current topics, including water in bottles, slow money, controlling agricultural runoff, and dead zones in marine and freshwater environments. In early October our next feature issue will look at the topic of Environment and Intellectual Property, unless, that is, the federal election campaign generates much more environmental and climate change excitement than we are expecting.  


If a group of people broke into your home, ransacked the place, destroyed some of your personal belongings, broke windows and doors, and was caught by police as they left the premises, you could reasonably expect that the courts would send them to jail. If a company does the same thing through an explosion at its plant you can reasonably expect that the managers and owners will get off scot free, even if the evidence indicates that the company had a culture of putting profit before safety.

If someone who knows that they are HIV-positive has intercourse with you without using protection and without telling you that they are HIV-positive, that person can expect to be charged with aggravated sexual assault and will likely face a jail sentence. If a company ships meat products that are known to contain bacteria that can be fatal to people with an already weakened immune system, you can reasonable expect that no charges will be brought against the people who run the company.

The recent Sunrise Propane explosion and the Maple Leaf Foods listeria outbreak are causing Canadians to rethink the way we treat environmental and public health and safety offences. Canadians are extremely tolerant of the hundreds or thousands of deaths that are caused by weather, famine, disease, air crashes, war, and traffic, especially when those deaths happen in other countries and even when they happen as a result of the actions of Canadians. However, a dozen deaths in Canada and some damage to homes and risk from distributed asbestos in Toronto have become national stories that have continued for many days and have spawned calls for massive intervention by government into the management of business. Canadians have zero tolerance for involuntary exposure to risk.

It is time for a national debate on these issues. We cannot have lower taxes and smaller government at the same time as we have more food and industrial inspectors and more government involvement in the running of business. Even politicians eager to win votes are increasingly realizing that it makes no sense for government to assume responsibility for risks over which they have little or no control. More and more of the responsibility for risk and harm reduction will be pushed back to the private sector.

Obviously industry must work much harder to reduce the frequency of harmful events but even with the greatest efforts we will still have occasional industrial plant explosions and infrequent contamination of food products. In such cases the test will increasingly be whether the company worked hard to minimize risk, whether the response was adequate when a problem was found, and whether the company provided adequate information to the public when a problem arose.

On this last aspect, communication with the public, the consensus seems to be that Maple Leaf Foods did well and that Sunrise Propane did very badly. Gallon Environment Letter concurs with these views. Indeed, our view is that the Maple Leaf crisis communications have been exemplary, with our only suggestion being that the communications effort might have been better had more people been engaged as speakers on behalf of the company. For example, in our view a microbiologist would be a better discussant when the questions are about listeria bacteria that a corporate public relations department person.

The lessons for all companies:
If the answer to any of the above is No, then today is not too soon to begin to remedy the deficiency. If all is in place, the risk that you managers and executives will someday face jail is greatly reduced.

Colin Isaacs


Biodiversity is one of the topics of a review of environmental performance in agriculture in OECD countries since the 1990s. The report discusses how different countries measure agriculture performance, suggests suitable indicators and develops methodologies for measurement which could be used at the national, local and farm level and for each country. This publication is part of a series for developing indicators for environmental impacts of agriculture begun in 1998 by the OECD Agriculture Ministers "to foster sustainable development through analysing and measuring the effects on the environment of domestic agricultural and agri-environmental policies and trade." The principal author is Kevin Parris, Senior Economist in the Policies and Environment Division of the OECD Trade and Agriculture Directorate with many other contributors.

Trends in Agricultural Impacts

The report states that key driving forces linked to the state of wild species are:
Agricultural land accounts for 40% of total OECD land use (2002-2004). Overall in the OECD, there has been a decrease in the excess of agricultural nutrients resulting in environmental benefit in reduced environmental pressure on soil, water and air. However, a third of the OECD countries had an increase in nutrient surpluses from 1990 to 2004, primarily due to nitrogen surpluses from livestock intensification. Phosphorus surpluses are decreasing but farm soils have stored phosphorus which will continue to be released over time polluting water.

Pesticide use in the OECD overall has decreased but a third of OECD countries increased their use of pesticides between 1990-1992 and 2001-2003 in terms of active ingredients. Some newer pesticides are considered to be less environmentally harmful but the older ones such as DDT and atrazine remain persistent even though many countries have banned them.

Soil erosion has been stabilized or reduced in areas of moderate to severe erosion due to use of soil conservation practices such as low or no soil tillage, use of green cover in the winter and no cultivation of fragile soils. Yet about a third of OECD countries have over 20% of their total agricultural land classified as risk of moderate to severe water erosion (measured as soil losses of over 11 tonnes/hectare/year). Only three countries have a similar wind erosion risk. Erosion not only affects fertility but increases costs of water treatment, requires dredging of rivers and lakes habitat and also threatens aquatic species directly.

Water use for agriculture in the OECD has increased by 2% of total water use from 1990-1992 to 2001-2003. This damages ecosystems by reducing flow in rivers and wetlands. Governments tend to subsidize irrigation including the energy associated with over-exploitation of water. This provides little incentive for farmers to adopt water efficient technologies or maintain their infrastructure to prevent water waste. In the same time period, water intensity, ie application of water per hectare, decreased by 9%. GL interprets this to mean that the trend is towards more land area in the OECD being irrigated.
Industry has reduced air pollution by a larger amount than more than agriculture. OECD agriculture contributed acid emissions (2% of total), ozone depleting substances (8%) and greenhouse gases (8%). Some countries have applied for Critical Use Exemptions for the ozone-depleting substance methyl bromide. This is a fumigant which while low in cost is harmful to soil biodiversity and human health. Agricultural greenhouse gas emissions decreased in the OECD by 3% from the 1990-1992 Kyoto Protocol base while overall OECD emissions increased by 8%. Over the last 15 years, Canada (and New Zealand and Spain) increased agricultural GHG emissions by 10%.
Ag Biodiversity Intersects with Wild Biodiversity

Agricultural biodiversity is primarily controlled and managed by humans so it "stands in contrast to wild biodiversity which is most valued in situ and as a product of natural evolution." Agricultural biodiversity includes the genes in domesticated plants and livestock species, the wild species of flora and fauna on the farm including soil biodiversity and non-native species. and ecosystem diversity. This is called the agro-ecosystem to contrast it to wild ecosystems because habitats tend to be more limited, components are quite homogeneous and are cultivated.

In 2003, the OECD developed an Agri-Biodiversity Framework showing linkages:
Among the indicators are:
Trends in Biodiversity as Related to Agriculture
Only a few countries in the OECD monitor for agriculture's impact on biodiversity (genetic, wild species and ecosystem diversity):
Conserving Plant Genetic Resources
Countries also have off-farm conservation such as gene banks. More countries are doing in-field conservation because storing genetic plant material is risky as plant material may not grow when a crisis hits while the growing crop continues to generate new genetic resources.
Ag Environmental Management Practices

Although OECD farmers have been adopting environmental farm management, only a third to a half of the countries are monitoring changes in these management practices. While farmers lean towards environmental nutrient and soil management, there is less take up of pest, water and biodiversity management. Organic farming has expanded rapidly but in 2002-2004 was still less than 2% of all of the OECD agricultural land area although individual countries (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Italy and Switzerland) have over 6% of their land area in organic farming. Organic farming uses a lot less agricultural area - under 1% of total agricultural land area in Canada, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and US. Most OECD countries have less than 10% of their agricultural land under some form of biodiversity management planning except for Austria, Ireland and Switzerland.
Complexity of Biodiversity
Because agriculture uses so much land, it is a major factor in effects on wild species especially in some countries such as Australia and Mexico which have "megadiversity" due to being home to many of the world's species.

Few countries assess the services provided to agriculture by wild species such as pollinators, predators, soil biota and microbial species essential to food production but some national biodiversity strategies are beginning to look at these.
Most countries do not do well in monitoring changes in ecosystems especially when farmland is converted from other forms of semi-natural or uncultivated habitats. Even when farmland is converted to other types of habitat such as forests, care must be taken in assessing its biodiversity impacts. The loss of farmed habitat may not be offset if forests are commercial managed rather than allowed to develop naturally. Mountain pastures may be rich biologically compared to monoculture pine forests. Conversion of farmland to urban development is inherently a loss of biodiversity not only to loss of general habitat but because of covering the soil with artificial surfaces.

Sometimes species use other habitat as well as the farmland, for example the cropped area may be used for feeding and the forest for nesting. If the forest habitat changes, the animal may not be able to live in the area even though the farmland is still a good habitat.
The assigning of environmental impacts to agriculture for environmental effects is complex because agriculture is only one of many sectors affecting the environment. Also other changes such as more invasive species may affect biodiversity. Even positive directions may be tempered by negative effects: for example, no-till reduces soil erosion but may lead to greater use of pesticides (herbicides to control the weeds) to make up for the lack of tillage. Many of the linkages between agriculture and biodiversity including soil biodiversity are not fully understood.

OECD. Environmental Performance of Agriculture in OECD Countries since 1990. Paris, France: 2008. [in the search selected as Title put Environmental Performance of Agriculture and click on Go. Find the title in the results and click on the icon Eye to browse or the shopping cart to buy.]


The OECD reviews the agricultural performance since 1990 of each member country Some of the points made in the Canadian review:
Only about 7% of Canada's total land area is suitable for agriculture due to limitations of climate, topography and soil types. About 60% of the farmland is cultivated, 30% pasture and 10% used for other purposes such as woodlots. Some trends are:
Agricultural nutrient surpluses in Canada are among the lowest in the OECD but have shown the highest increase.
The report suggests that it will take a lot of effort to ensure that by 2015 farming overcomes the challenges of nutrient and energy use and that Canada meets its obligations under international agreements such as with the International Joint Commission and the Kyoto Protocol.

[Same source as OECD report above]


A new report from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Better Farming, Better Air explores the role of farms in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide CO2, nitrous oxide N2O and methane CH4. The authors see farms, their fields and pastures, soils and animals as ecosystems. Managing farms better has a profound effect on the air and other ecosystems and can reduce global stresses. Biofuels from agriculture are seen as having potential but that depends on various factors including better technological processes, cost reductions, high petroleum prices, and environmental analysis.
Three Key Greenhouse Gases
Carbon dioxide: large amounts of carbon have been lost from the soils due to decay and removal of harvests and forests but some of that carbon can be restored through practices such as no-till. more planting of perennial hay or pasture crops, avoiding leaving the land bare or unplanted, adding nutrients and manures, restoring grasslands and better grazing techniques.

Methane: When ruminants such as cattle and sheep eat otherwise indigestible materials such as grass and hay, their stomachs ferment it. This is the biggest source of CH4 on Canadian farms. When manure is stored as slurry, methane is formed because the water prevents oxygen being part of the decay.
Methods such as changing to high quality forage, say from hay to alfalfa, use of tannins natural in some forage, help to reduce methane emissions. Other methods such as yeasts and vaccines are also being investigated. For manure, aerating the manure, storing manure at low temperatures, biofilters or capturing the methane for energy are options.

Nitrous oxide: N2O accounts for half the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and is produced by microbes processing nitrogen in soils. Farms add to the nitrogen already in the soil through fertilizers, manures and other additives to improve yields but the nitrogen losses harm the environment and are released into the air, estimated to be 1% of the nitrogen added to the fields.

Methods which add just the right amount of nitrogen so there is no excess beyond the crop demands include adjusting rates of fertilizer application to plant needs, placing fertilizer near plant roots but not too deep in the soil, applying fertilizer more often rather than just once, and using slow release forms. Using manure efficiently means not only less nitrogen from the manure is lost but also less fertilizer is needed. Other practices include use of legumes, cover crops, adjusting tillage intensity.

It takes fossil fuels to make fertilizer so reducing it saves costs and greenhouse gases. Preventing nitrates, ammonia and other nitrogen pollutants from entering the environment is the goal of these better practices. Still the report states, "the nitrogen cycle on farms is still quite leaky; stemming these leaks remains a research priority both to reduce N2O emissions and for many other urgent reasons."
Agricultural Emissions of GHG

In 2005, agriculture produced about 8% or 57 Mt of Canada's total 747 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent or 10% if energy use is counted but this additional 2% is usually allocated to transportation and energy. Agricultural contribution has remained relatively stable from 1995 to 2005 but the distribution of the gases has changed and this may not be good for future reductions. Over the same time frame, larger animal herds (30% increase in the number of beef cattle in the same time period) have increased methane emissions in agriculture by 24% and nitrous oxide emissions have increased by 14% due to more fertilizer use and more manure produced.
It does not seem likely that GHG emissions from agriculture will decrease but emissions per unit of production are decreasing, for example, dairy farmers have decreased methane emissions per kilogram of milk by 13%.

GHGs should not be the sole measure. A farm affects the environment not only by greenhouse gas emissions but in other ways: snow covered fields reflect more sun, cropping practices can affect timing of weather as crop plants transpire water vapour. Summer fallow and irrigation can affect air temperature and precipitation.
Farms are ecosystems because "they are complex assemblages of organisms, interacting with each other and their environment. Seeing farms this way has several benefits: it forces us to take a holistic view; and allows us better to study farms alongside natural systems such as forests, wetlands and lakes."

The report takes the view that a broad ecosystem perspective across time and space is needed because of the complexity of determining the net effect: storing more CO2 in the soil may reduce CO2 in the air but if the practice means more fertilizer is used, then there may be more nitrous oxide released. Cows fed a certain compound may release less methane directly but what is the effect on the manure?

Ecosystem Services
Farms provide food, fibre and fuel. They act as environmental filters cleaning water and waste, offer habitat to humans and other life, and livelihood for rural families. Farms are unlikely to adopt GHG reduction unless these practices also reduce costs, enhance conservation, improve biodiversity. No-till farming is an example of a multiple benefit practice as it not only reduces GHGs but also can reduce erosion, supply nesting habitat due to ground cover and reduce dust storms. But there aren't many examples like no-till so a holistic approach is needed to examine all the ecosystem services, to decide how to value them and to choose among the best of the trade-offs. GHG emissions can be like taking the pulse of the performance of the ecosystem: high nitrous oxide shows too much input for the needs; high methane shows poor use of feed; high CO2 shows inefficient energy use or depletion of carbon stores in soils. GL thinks that the OECD report (see separate article) is better for emphasizing that agri-ecosystems are different from wild ecosystems.

Connecting Consumers to the Land

What happens on farmlands affects everybody and how consumers act in turn affects the land, "The best answers may emerge from a vision restored; from seeing our farmlands not as resources to be spent, but as a home in which we all live, whether we reside there or not." GL generally approves of connecting farm and city but has seen a few farms (both small scale and large scale) which are more like ones run be a slum landlord than a home we would want to live in.
Henry Janzen

There are a number of lead authors, editors and contributors to the report. One of the key editors is Dr. Henry Janzen of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada AAFC, Lethbridge, Alberta has been researching greenhouse gas and soil dynamics, nitrogen management and integrated agricultural systems for many years. At a seminar on soil science at the University of Manitoba, he is described as “distinguished scientist” and "a very engaging scientist to colleagues and students." His name is on a number of research publications used by the OECD report in reference to Canada in particular and sustainable agriculture in general discussed in another article in this issue.
Report for Citizens Not Available to Citizens

The federal Agriculture department announced this report's release August 1. On August 7, GL rooted around their web site for a while sure there must be an electronic copy but the only info was a media contact at the AAFC and apparently as we were told, we considered as media could get a copy but only as a paper copy mailed to us. By August 20, it still hadn't arrived; another call to the ag media department. Yes, it had been taken down personally to the mailroom. It finally arrived, on August 22. It turned out that Canada Post had received the parcel the next day (August 8) with delivery standards to deliver by August 13 but it didn't arrive until August 22. We could all have saved time and the taxpayer's purse to handle and pay for the physical document, packaging and transport for mailing if the document had been made available electronically as well as in paper for those who want it in that format. If the title really is restricted in availability, it contradicts what Marc Fortin, Assistant Deputy Minister, Research Branch, writes in the Foreword, "This book is a valuable addition to the collection of information on the environment that we are proud to make available to the agriculture sector, policy makers and Canadians in general."
The report seems directed at the public as it has been written with lots of simple flow charts, tables and empty spaces but for people a little weak on farm practices, the content still might be somewhat obscure. For example, there is a set of four tantalizing bar graphs of Greenhouse Gases Emission factors but the y axis has a very tiny print - there is an explanation below the four charts but you have to read the whole thing and match each panel to figure out what the units are and to be truthful GL ended up not being very sure. The data on which the bar is based is not written at the top of the bar so there is more work to try to estimate although one example is mentioned: a dairy cow produces about 150 kg. of methane from its gut in a year while a beef cow just about the same size produces only 70 kg. GL thinks that policy makers would need to know how much different farm operations contribute to greenhouse gases, for example how does the size of a hog barn or a cattle feeding affect greenhouse gases, do organic practices reduce emissions or have other ecosystem benefits and so on. Most of the report is not specific data but rather more general analysis of possible options to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from farming for example, physical covering of liquid manure storage, breeding stock for feed conversion with less methane released and practices such as how often manure is removed.

This is an unusual report from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada because it approaches the management of greenhouse gases using concepts such as holistic management and organic matter in the soil is key to fertility that GL's editor more often hears from farmers committed to more ecological practices. On the other hand, some of the recommendations such increasing the rate of growth so that carcass weights at slaughter are bigger, reducing the number of animals needed (and producing less methane), sound like a bigger is better approach that got us into this mess in the first place. It's not clear whether recommendations of "opportunities for agriculture to increase its efficiency" through new crop varieties and animals which produce more meat are promoting genetic engineering or other "technologies" which may have few of the multiple benefits of helping rural communities and many of which get introduced with inadequate evidence of lack of harm to the environment.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Local Food Plus, a non-profit organization in Toronto, Ontario, provides certification which can be obtained by non-organic as well as organic farmers and processors. The organization, founded by Lori Stahlbrand, links food producers with food users such as school boards and hospitals. GL thinks its broader definition of "local" which means produced in Ontario is better than the 100 mile or even worse the 100 kilometre limit which acts as an unnecessary barrier to farmers practising ecological methods but having the one parameter - somewhat longer distance to market - against them.
To become certified under the Local Food Plus label, the applicant must have 900 points out of 1200. Among the definitions of sustainable production systems is "Protect and enhance wildlife habitat and biodiversity on working farm landscapes." A hundred and fifty points are available for biodiversity; the applicant must obtain at least 50% of these points and some actions are mandatory. Among the elements are:
Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


A number of organizations around the world are working to conserve and preserve traditional and endangered livestock breeds. The website for Arche Austria says it isn't only wild animals that are put on the Red List to show they are threatened with extinction. Many threatened breeds of cows, sheep, swine, goats, horses, chickens, ducks, geese and others have characteristics such as low feed requirements, long life, robustness, adaptation to harsh conditions and resistence to disease.
The UK Rare Breed Survival Trust set up its Traditional Breeds Meat Marketing Scheme in 1994 which accredits independent butchers to encourage them to stock and use traditional breeds. The Accredited Butcher often supplies hotels and restaurants usually high priced ones which list meat on their menus as from the rare breeds.
Eating rare breeds may run counter to what most people intuitively think but the group says, "Most farm animals were created to provide traction, milk products, fibre or meat. Only by utilising rare breeds in the most appropriate way for them can we increase numbers. The development of practical commercial uses for rare breeds, to make them attractive to potential users, is one of the most effective methods of conserving them. There is much enjoyment from keeping rare breeds but if it cannot be done profitably, then the breeds become only living museum pieces."
Rare breeds are being used in the UK as living mowers for environmentally sensitive areas such as natural pastures which need to be grazed to prevent them converting to bush and trees. The animals are often lighter than conventional breeds so they do less damage to the ground when it is very wet. They are often adapted to rough pasture so graze on unwanted plants such as gorse, birch, willow scrub, and coarse grasses. in the forests, old breed pigs are prone to rooting which means they can clear the forest floor of invasive shrubs such as bramble and bracken filling the same role as the wild boar used to.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


In Canada, Rare Breeds Canada, a grass-roots organizations, maintains a list of threatened livestock breeds updated to 2007 and works to expand their numbers on farms. These traditional animals contain genes with traits which may reflect centuries of adaptation and may prove invaluable in their own right someday. The traditional breeds may not meet the modern standards, for example the Tamworth pig may not grow as fast as the pigs in hog houses but it rarely gets the diseases those pigs get. Government policies have tended to support high volume, uniformity; farmers who do not meet these do not get access to government subsidies, may not meet the market standards or get access to credit.

Rare Breeds Canada is fundraising through an online auction. Among the "items for sale" are three Getaways:
Rare Breeds Canada. Canada's Livestock and Poultry Conservation List.

Auction at

Gary Hirshberg, CeYo of Stonyfield Farm, a US-based organic yoghurt maker, has written a book to inspire entrepreneurs that there is money in broadening the business operation to envision not only profits but more sustainable practices. He describes not only his own company but others, giving credit even to Wal-Mart but also Newman's Own, Honest Tea (apparently the drink of choice for Barack Obama), Seventh Generation and others. Not that he implies that they are perfect but he describes their environmental innovations.
Hirshberg describes the early years of company development when he and his partner Samuel Kaymen and family were still milking the cows and had practically no time or money for marketing, "In time we discovered that amusingly outrageous behaviour is a sure ticket to free press coverage.... Our market growth was steady and solid. It was also dirt cheap." The tactics were only limited by imagination with a high priority on personalizing the yoghurt and bonding with people behaving in an environmentally responsible way. Free samples were handed out to the Chicago commuter train riders (85,000 containers of yoghurt and spoons) along with coupons that read "We salute your commute; thanks for doing your part to help save the planet." Each campaign was designed for the situation. Houston has no commuter trains, so the coupons read "We support Inflation" to encourage people to properly inflate their tires for fuel savings equivalent to the potential oil production from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The company adopted a slogan, "You just can't fake this stuff" but marketing isn't enough, the yoghurt has to be good and the company has to be committed to the environmental responsibility. People are willing to pay more because the yoghurt is not just a commodity.

Greening Sugar

The Brazilian organic sugar supplier for Stonyfield and others, Leontino Balbo, began to reintroduce biological biodiversity to the monoculture of the sugarcane in 1986 when they began to reforest patches of land to create islands of biodiversity so that native vegetation which once was 5% of the plantation became 14% with wild animals returning to those areas. Pesticides were replaced with natural controls such as fungus to infect leafhoppers and tiny wasps against cane borer. Conventionally cane was first burned and then cut by machete dropping onto the ground and then after collection, having to be washed with hundreds of thousands of gallons of water. A harvesting machine now means the cane is cut green and remains clean. The Native Green Cane Project has a capacity to produce 80,000 tons of organic cane sugar a year.

Single Use Yogurt Cups
In a study done by the University of Michigan in 1999, the size of the small 6 ounce cups had more to do with the environmental impacts than the materials or processes used to make them. Per pound of yoghurt, it takes 27% less energy to make and distribute Stonyfield yoghurt in 32 ounce containers than in the cups. If the company sold only in quart size containers, they would save 25,000 barrels of oil and $1 million in costs. However, Hirshberg writes, "But our customers would have to be on board with the one-size- fits all idea and even I have to admit that thirty-two ounces of our yoghurt is way too much for a brown bag lunch. What works best for our customer has to be our guide - always. ... not every environmentally sound idea is a sound business idea as well." According to the company's Moos releases, in 2007 Stonyfield began a partnership with TerraCycle to turn yoghurt containers into plant containers for sale at major retailers in the US. About 600 schools, churches and community groups participate in the Stonyfield Farm Yoghurt Brigade and for each small and large container collected, the company donates 2 cents or 5 cents respectively to a charitable cause of the collectors' choosing.

Canadian Company Supplies Wastewater Technology
The company engaged a company based in New Brunswick, Canada, ADI Systems, to provide a system for an oxygen-free digester for the huge amount of liquid-waste discharge. The initial price tag was 15% higher than an aerobic plant but used 40% less energy and generated 90% less waste with savings of $3.6 million over ten years. An aerobic system which uses bacteria and oxygen to digest the waste, leaves the water clean enough for return to streams but uses a lot of energy and produces large amounts of sludge which would have to be hauled, "to that mythical place called away."
Mooving on Environmental Practices

Although the multi-national Groupe Danone owns most of the shares now, Stonyfield Farm still continues with the executive team, called "Our Main Moovers", "Gary Hirshberg, who co-founded our company in the early ‘80s, is still our full-time president and "CEYo." Through our Profits for the Planet program, we still give 10% of our profits to environmental causes. Our milk still comes from New England and Midwest dairy farmers through the St. Albans and CROPP cooperatives. We still use the very best environmental practices we can find. And we're still as committed as ever to increasing the number of organic family farms in the world." The Stonyfield brand is also sold in Canada; the company had a booth at the Guelph Organic Conference in January doing what they started with, giving out free organic samples which were tasty.

For those willing to see a positive role for business in sustainability, this book is an exuberant, optimistic plug to make a difference as Hirshberg advises everybody to look into the nearest mirror and "Begin your journey toward a brighter future by making your next commercial activity a consciously sustainable one. Your grandchildren will thank you for stirring it up."

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Subject: Degrowth Conference and More
Dear Mr. Isaacs,
Thank you for having published my letter to you in June's Gallon Environment Letter; it will hopefully stimulate interest in, and provide some thoughts on, degrowth. I wanted to let you know that the degrowth conference proceedings are now available online:
Other proceedings which are also online are the presentations by the speakers who attended the Canadian Pollution Prevention Roundtable that took place in Edmonton in June.

In my letter to you, I had mentioned something called the "Marrakech Process", a UN programme which is led by UN DESA and UNEP. There are two websites (which seems a little redundant to me, but such is what happens in big, bureaucratic institutions, I suppose) that explain what this process is about: and respectively. The reason I am raising this is because I'd like to highlight a very positive turn of events: under the Marrakech Process, there have been international meetings of experts (Marrakech; Costa Rica; and Stockholm), and there have been many regional roundtables (Latin America; Africa; Europe; Asia; etc.) since the Marrakech Process was launched in 2003, but not a single one in North America yet, for a reason that I attribute to the fact that talking about sustainable production and consumption is a bit of a taboo in societies which have pretty much the largest per capita ecological footprints on Earth, and which are governed by conservative governments who do not seem to understand the economic, social and ecological implications of not adopting sustainable production and consumption patterns. In any case, it is the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) that is taking the lead in Canada to prepare for this conference, which will be taking place in November 2008 in Washington, D.C. The One Earth Initiative and My Sustainable Canada have been in touch with DFAIT to offer our support, and we are keen to reach out to other Canadian NGOs as well about the Marrakech Process and this regional meeting. I am not sure of the extent of the change, but the tide does seem to be turning, at least a little bit, with regards to sustainability in Canadian politics.
Another positive turn of events was the recent adoption of the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which was very much based on the work that the David Suzuki Foundation had done: I hope that this act has enough teeth to reduce Canadians' eco-footprints, as reported by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' recent publication, Size Matters: Canada's Ecological Footprint, By Income (
Kind regards from Vancouver,
Emmanuel Prinet.

Emmanuel Prinet, MSc (Plan) One Earth Initiative 1205 - 1255 Main St. Vancouver, BC V6A 4G5 Canada Tel.: +1 604-669-5143

Canadian Pollution Prevention Roundtable. Speaker Presentations. Edmonton, Alberta: June 10, 11 & 12, 2008. [GL notes this is a treasure trove of information from a range of presenters from industry, government and ngos on topics such as biomimicry,  packaging from agri-fibres, renewable diesel demonstration, how small ENGOs influence policies and a presentation by our letter writer Emmanuel Prinet who also has created two videos on sustainable consumption and production.]


            Re: GL V13 N6 July 14, 2008
The Editors

Thanks for the excellent coverage of the biodiversity conundrum particularly as viewed from the mainstream. You might also be interested in the attached somewhat more eccentric perspective. While supporting many of the findings you report, it differs from most other treatments in emphasizing that: a) economic valuation of nature as currently understood and practiced does not protect, and often works against, biodiversity conservation and that; b) since humans consume much of ‘biodiversity’ and are in direct competition with much of the rest, the only effective way of preserving biodiversity is for the human enterprise to cease growing—shrinkage would even be better from the perspective of ecosystem integrity.

Bill Rees aka William E. Rees, PhD, FRSC Professor University of British Columbia School of Community and Regional Planning
6333 Memorial Road Vancouver, BC, CANADA V6T 1Z2 SCARP Website:
            Subject: Environment vs. Food
Dear Colin:
Issue 13:6 of the Gallon Environment Letter is excellent. In my view, second only to climate change, the greatest environmental threat is the need to grow more food. As water becomes more scarce and expensive, farming will be forced to return to more extensive and largely rain-fed approaches. The forecasts in 13:6 noted, correctly, that biodiversity will be lost as marginal areas will be turned into farmland, and pasture into field crops. It is not hard to argue righteously in opposition to SUVs or the ridiculously inefficient modes of transportation that drive our fossil fuel consumption. It is much harder to argue against growing more food.

Alternatives such as ALUS, as discussed in the column by Phil Beard in 13.6, can help, but the major part of the land conversion and biodiversity loss will occur in developing countries where such innovations will be harder to implement and where equity and pro-poor policies are at least as important as efficiency.
None of the foregoing is to intended to imply that the situation is hopeless, but it is to emphasize that environment vs. agriculture poses some very difficult trade-offs. The best source of information on the global situation is the 600-plus page tome entitled "Water for Food; Water for Life: A Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture," which was published for the International Water Management Institute by Earthscan in 2007. The very first chapter is entitled, "Will there be enough water to grow enough food? Yes if . . . "
David B. Brooks Senior Advisor - Fresh Water Friends of the Earth Canada 406 - 180 Metcalfe Street Ottawa, Ontario K2P 1P5 Canada 1-613-299-3833

In Chapter 14 of Gaining Ground edited by David Lavigne (see IFAW: CORPORATE USE OF WILDLIFE AND HABITAT GL V11 N14, December 14, 2006), William Rees (see letter above) writes about four types of diversity: genetic, species, ecosystems and functional, the last being a measure of resilience or the capacity of the life-support ecosystem to deal with stresses and shocks without flipping to something which might not support humans. Humans inherently decrease biodiversity, "People have always had to make trade-offs between biodiversity and other things they needed or wanted, and mostly they have chosen the other things."

He suggests that the ideas of valuing nature won't make much difference to the decision-making processes. Most species don't have what could be considered economic value that anybody can definitively identify and even if they did, humans would still prioritize based on human-centered values so that, "the present value of anticipated economic gains will exceed the total of all use and intrinsic value of biodiversity sacrificed by the development." The only way he sees that humans will avoid fishing the last fish or paving over the last piece of land is to give up on growth, both economic and population and move towards a steady state economy (see STEADY STATE ECONOMY GL V13 N5 June 9, 2008). Rees writes that the economic valuation can never be sustainable but that "self-interested intelligent people" could begin to make the transition, "Ethical and moral arguments alone would be sufficient to halt the arbitrary destruction of biodiversity (And the question of how to commodify the living world would never come up.)
Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Canadian households with school-age children predicted last August they were going to spend an average of just about $400 for clothes, school supplies and shoes, according to a study by POLLARA commissioned by the Retail Council of Canada. This year's estimate hasn't been released yet but a CanWest article by Misty Harris talks about the high expectation of some retailers especially those in electronics for a "surge of customers." Canadians may have lowered consumer confidence in the economy but when it comes to their children, they want them to have lots of stuff, some of it quite expensive. In the US, the expectation is that households with school-age children will spend nearly $600; many will have cheques from the federal government issued expressly for the purpose of getting Americans to spend money to stimulate the economy.

In 1990, Marjorie Lamb, a reporter for Chatelaine magazine wrote 2 Minutes a Day for a Greener Planet, a book which we still enjoy, which has a tip for all the parents about back to school spending: "Before you buy all your new supplies in September, take a few minutes to look for all the leftover supplies from June." Lamb writes that parents who make a ritual of purchasing so much new are failing their kids and the environment, ""How did we learn to discard perfectly good clothes, cars, and household equipment on a yearly basis." She writes that in her household her daughter learned to look around the house for what she still had in June, "Children pick up ideas for ordinary expressions. So let's remember to praise some "good old things" because they're sturdy, reliable, accurate, useful, familiar as well as exclaiming over 'brand new things."

GL sees is a connection here between Bill Rees (see above) suggesting "self-interested intelligent people" could voluntarily define a level of consumption which protects biodiversity as "enough" . The push on just this one issue, Back-to-School Spending. shows how very difficult it is for many people to not buy into the mantra of conspicuous consumption.
When Marjorie Lamb's book was released almost twenty years ago, GL's editor thought it was a little too basic but now in hindsight considering that so many ideas she offered are now being discussed as if they are brand new, for example, reusable bags, drink from the tap, it seems she might have been ahead of her time. Over the last few years, there have been new green consumer books, and GL will discuss some of them now and again.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


We cannot help but wonder if California legislators were thinking of the 1958 song Beep Beep by The Playmates when they passed legislation to establish a committee to study how to ensure that hybrid and electric vehicles make more noise. The idea is that these essentially very quiet vehicles should emit a loud enough noise that they can be heard by visually impaired people about to cross a street. It is amazing that legislators are seeking yet more deliberate noise pollution in already noisy cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. The problem for the blind is real but the solution doesn't seem a good one: maybe giving all blind folks vehicle detectors would be a better option.
If you want to hear the song again, or are not familiar with it because you are younger than GL’s editor, then visit the following link and click on the rotating button labelled Warp (for time warp!):  Warning - it is not specific to the environment except that Cadillacs always have something to do with the environment but should amuse young at heart readers. 
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