An Organic Hamburger Won't Save the Earth; DMZ as a Wildlife Sanctuary?

James E. McWilliams on sustainable meat, The Guardian on the DMZ in Korea, The New York Times on solar energy, ClimateWire on the Mississippi Delta, and National Geographic on India's rickshaws

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James E. McWilliams on the myth of sustainable meat Epitomized by the "pink slime" brouhaha, the factory farming both plants and animals has been in the crossfire of both reporters and environmental activists. Seeking greener ways to eat, some choose to eat organic meat. But author James E. McWilliams, in an op-ed in The New York Times, says not so fast. After examining how even organic farms raise animals for slaughter, he argues that there is no such thing as environmentally sustainable meat. Ostensibly organic farms still often use industrial breeds of chicken bred to fatten quickly and, even if the birds waste is used to fertilize farmland, they're fed with imported, industrially-grown grain. And cows? "Grass-grazing cows emit considerably more methane than grain-fed cows," he writes. Additionally, the brute economics of animal farming incentivizes farms to treat animals inhumanely. His conclusion is to personally forgo meat altogether: "it’s not how we produce animal products that ultimately matters. It’s whether we produce them at all."

The Guardian all the Koreas' unlikely wildlife sanctuary Here's proof that a silver lining can be found practically anywhere, even at the perhaps the tensest national border on planet Earth, Korea's Demilitarized Zone. The 400 square miles of breathing room between the feuding cousins on the usually brown Korean Peninsula have become perhaps the world's most unlikely wildlife sanctuary. "That a place so steeped in violence still teems with life seems unimaginable," writes Lisa Brady, a history professor at Boise State University, for The Guardian. "And yet, the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, is home to thousands of species that are extinct or endangered elsewhere on the peninsula." The aww-provoking fauna include rare cranes, black bears, musk deer, spotted seals, and maybe even a believed-to-be extinct tiger species, prompting environmental groups to call for the protection of the DMZ if and when the two Koreas unite. For now, though, the DMZ will have to incongruously double as both a symbol of war and of a greener, more peaceful future.

The New York Times on what's eating solar Today at the intersection of economics and environmentalism, we unfortunately learn that investors' enthusiasm in solar energy can shine as intermittently as, well, the sun itself. The New York Times' Diane Cardwell is reporting today on BrightSource Energy, a firm specializing in newfangled source of energy called solar thermal that's having a tough time competing with suddenly now cheaper sources like natural gas and conventional solar panels. The company's once hot and anticipated IPO had to be shelved as investors become disillusioned, and unfortunately other solar firms aren't faring well on the Street either. Fortunately, though, this may just be a market burp: "The combination of subsidies and government requirements to buy green power created fast-growing markets in the United States and abroad that analysts now say are undergoing a correction, reflected in Wall Street’s lack of enthusiasm."

ClimateWire on the shrinking Mississippi Delta Damming it for hydropower, dredging it for ships, diverting it for farmland irrigation -- all the human uses of the Mississippi River are letting less sentiment settle in the bayou, to the detriment of the people and wildlife that live there. According to Umair Irfan, writing for ClimateWire, a quarter of the Mississippi Delta's land has eroded this past century and " if the process continues unabated, thousands of square kilometers of land will wash into the ocean, with more than $350 billion in losses over the next 20 years." Clearly, the shrinking delta has been an ongoing problem for the Gulf region in the U.S., but it's one only to be exacerbated by rising seas levels and more frequent hurricanes that could be the result of climate change. Solutions include the pumping of sentiment to the Delta to curb land loss, building breakwaters in the ocean, and revamping homes, roads, and utility systems to adapt to rising waters -- each a costly engineering project.

National Geographic on New Delhi's rickshaw woes While there have been hopeful reports on natural gas-powered rickshaws saving developing cities from lung-burning pollution caused by diesel vehicles, National Geographic has a slightly less optimistic report on status of the rickshaw in Delhi, India's second largest metropolis famous for its lung-burning pollution. While a government program has converted the motorized versions of the traditional human-pulled rickshaws from diesel to gas, and the cap on rickshaws was raised from 55,000 to 100,000 last year, the "number of private cars is growing fast and there are fewer rickshaws than needed to meet demand," writes Rebecca Byerly. Part of this has to do with the demands of the city's burgeoning middle class, which sees car ownership as a status symbol. Another part is that the scarcity of rickshaws, due to the government-imposed ceiling, has created a mafia-controlled black market for rickshaw licenses that drives up taxi rates.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.