Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cheerios: Little Life Preservers or Little Climate Destroyers

For nearly as long as this blogger has been alive, General Mills has been advertising (touting, if you will) that Cheerios cereal-as part of a healthy, balanced diet-can help to lower cholesterol. TV advertisements focusing on the “heart-healthy little life preservers”, especially through the 1990’s and 2000’s, appealed to a public audience who was becoming ever more aware that good nutritional choices would lessen one’s risk of obesity, diabetes, and various other health challenges. Most television commercials and magazine advertisements took advantage of the imagery. That is, little round cholesterol-reducing “life preservers” floating atop an “ocean” of milk (see picture). Utterly slick marketing if you ask me. After all, nobody wants an unhealthy heart.

But for all the effort that General Mills has given to want to protect you, your heart, and (of course) their sales figures, they seem to have forgotten the impact their heart-healthy promoting business has on the environment in which they do business: the Earth. Recent research from Oxfam and their Behind the Brands campaign has revealed that General Mills, maker of some of your favorite products including Cheerios, doesn’t do nearly enough to help protect us or our home.
For example, the top ten food and beverage companies around the world (of which General Mills is a part) use suppliers who contribute enough greenhouse gases annually through raw agricultural production that emissions equal the same as 40 coal-fired power plants. Yet, General Mills remains silent on setting meaningful goals with their suppliers to address and reduce these emissions through the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). The same basically applies to their supplier’s deforestation policies – mostly non-existent. To be brief, the news doesn’t get any better from there. Check out the full report for more on Oxfam's research (link at the bottom).
From a company that seems to go to a great deal of effort to make me believe that they’re concerned about my heart-health, I'm not feeling like they’re much interested in my longevity or the planet’s.

Oxfam believes that General Mills can and should do more to address their impact on our changing climate:
Step 1: Commit to evaluate and disclose emissions from their supply chains.
Step 2: Commit to set clear targets and actions to reduce these emissions.
Step 3: Speak up on the impact of climate change with their industry partners.
If you believe General Mills should commit to these actions, let them know! Sign the petition and add your voice to the tens of thousands demanding change.
Know and show, Act, and Speak Up. You can do it, General Mills. Be the little life preserver that this planet needs.
Click here to read the full Behind the Brands report, "Standing on the sidelines".

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Climate change: things are heating up

Privilege is often not intuitive to the privileged. Yet, I am fortunate to be aware of my privilege. For example, when I’m thirsty, I walk about 10 feet to my kitchen sink where miles of underground water pipes bring me fresh, clean, and treated water from my municipality. I pay for it, of course. But I’m also privileged to have grown up in a developed country where I had access to education so that I could one day have a job that allows me to pay my monthly water bill. Billions of people worldwide have lived their entire lives in a state of water scarcity – they have never had access like I’ve had access. I am privileged to have never gone a full day in my life where my water source (and thusly, my life or my livelihood) was at risk or not knowing when/where my next drink of that delicious H20 would come from.

And yet, I get the feeling like there’s a change coming. A quick online search displays a dizzying array of recent articles on climate change – most of them attributable to the “buzz” created around the White House’s release of the U.S. National Climate Assessment last week. This report paints a very serious picture of what a United States of America could look like when grappling with some of more terrible effects of climate change. The report “highlights” 12 major areas of impact – one of which is our water supply. Just a few snippets from the report:
                “Short-term (seasonal or shorter) droughts are expected to intensify in most U.S. regions. Longer-term droughts are expected to intensify in large areas of the Southwest, southern Great Plains, and Southeast.” (pg. 42)
                “The annual maximum number of consecutive dry days (less than 0.01 inches of rain) is projected to increase, especially in the western and southern part of the nation, negatively affecting crop and animal production.” (pg. 47)
                “Increased warming, drought, and insect outbreaks, all caused by or linked to climate change, have increased wildfires and impacts to people and ecosystems in the Southwest.” (pg. 78)
It’s a very sobering reality that we, as a species, expect to face these hardships in coming years. Worse yet, these are the impacts to a developed country that has the infrastructure to respond and counteract (at least, temporarily) to crisis. What about developing nations? What about the countries that have already faced years of drought or floods? What about the hardships that poor communities face – those who are one negative natural event (maybe even a minor one) away from the complete loss of their way of life.
Climate change is real. And it's devastating to people and communities all across the globe. Worst of all, it hits poor communities first and with a greater severity. They lack the resources and education to properly adapt to a changing climate. That’s where Oxfam steps in – helping to provide those tools with the ultimate goal of empowerment. There’s this great story of a gardener in the Philippines named Josephine Alad-Ad. She’s had to adapt to severely unpredictable weather events (floods, droughts, landslides) and with the help of Oxfam’s Climate Resiliency Field Schools, she’s been able to do that – altering what she grows so the crops require less water and how she grows it so more water is conserved. It’s yet another way that Oxfam works to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice.