Plus: Bacon blues, ocean critter jitters, burger smog and cattle candies
Climate change may ruin BLTs and loaded baked potatoes
You know Americans may be a little food-obsessed when the only time we get concerned about climate change is when it affects our favorite meals. According to the USDA, this year’s drought is so bad that it’s expected to negatively impact next year’s pork production, reports Mother Jones, meaning that BLTs and pork chops may soon become a luxury item for many Americans. And forget about importing your bacon fix from Europe. Britain’s National Pig Association recently announced that a “world shortage of pork and bacon is now unavoidable” thanks to high pig-feed costs that are causing farmers to reduce their herd sizes. Though the association’s press release doesn’t specifically mention “climate change,” it does allude to “disastrous growing and harvesting weather,” which scientists only expect to get worse with increasing carbon emissions. In other words, if we don’t get our act together soon, it may mean good-bye, baconator®. Hello, tofu maker?
Consumers’ caffeine consumption gives ocean critters the jitters
Many people these days tend to be a little over-caffeinated, and it turns out that all of the sodas, coffee and energy drinks that people consume are having a similarly jittery effect on the world’s oceans, reports National Geographic. Conditions are especially amped up along the Pacific Northwest, home of Starbucks and many a caffeine-fiend, where researchers recently discovered caffeine pollution off of Oregon’s coast. Currently, caffeine’s impact on natural ecosystems is relatively unknown, though at least one researcher has found that the stimulant’s presence in water does tend to stress out mussels. Surely anyone who has knocked back too many cups of black gold can relate. But the problem isn’t just coming from the Pacific Northwest. Caffeine has also been detected in Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay seawater. The presence of caffeine is the oceans isn’t all that surprising though considering that most water treatment facilities typically don’t screen or filter for many pollutants, such as pharmaceuticals, detergents or estrogen-containing birth control pills. But given the growing evidence for elevated levels of human contaminants in the water, they may soon have to, or suffer the caffeinated consequences.
BBQ restaurants and steakhouses causing “burger smog”
By now many people are all-too-aware that a carnivore diet—especially a beef-centric one—takes a significant toll on the Earth’s resources. But recently, researchers found that the environmental damage from meat eating doesn’t stop at the slaughterhouse, reports The Press-Enterprise. When meat is cooked on a grill, grease inevitably drips down and hits the flame, forming soot, a toxic mixture of very fine particles that can nestle themselves deep into your lungs. Soot from diesel emissions can cause asthma, cancer and even death, which is why Earthjustice is working to clean up these toxic trouble-makers. Researchers don’t yet know whether soot from meat has the same toxic effects as diesel, but in the meantime a group of California researchers are working on cleaning up meat soot from restaurants and steakhouses by testing pollution control devices like catalytic converters, which can capture 90 percent of the grill’s smoke. Installing these devices could make a big difference considering that the same mass of particles put out by charbroiling one burger is equal those from an 18-wheeler diesel engine truck driving more than 100 miles on the freeway. Though right now the focus is on cleaning up commercial operations, which broil the most beef, backyard BBQ enthusiasts can green their own grilling by choosing gas grills over charcoal grills, which give off egregious amounts of carbon as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Happy grilling!
Drought forces cows on junk food diets
The dismal corn crop brought on by this year’s record-breaking drought is causing farmers to seek out other cheap sources of starchy, sugary foods to feed their beef and dairy cows, reports Reuters. Currently, the bovine menu includes many foods familiar to those with a love for ice-cream toppings, like cookies, marshmallows and sprinkles. According to the USDA, this summer America’s farmers will yield the smallest corn crop in six years, a testament to the impact that climate change-induced heat and drought has had on the region. And the situation just seems to be getting worse, with recent reports that pests like corn rootworm—which can damage a cornstalk’s ability to absorb water—are experiencing a comeback, just as the corn is at its weakest point. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is occuring ven in fields with corn genetically-modified to produce Bt—a pesticide that’s supposed to kill root worm.