Friday, November 16, 2007

I'll Have My Milk Without the Greenhouse Gases, Please

So many of the actions that would protect and heal the climate bring other benefits along with them.

Last night, in a talk on climate change and agriculture in the Northeast (by Vern Grubinger University of Vermont Extension Agent), I learned of another example for this long and growing list.

One of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas pollution in the production of milk is the nitrogen fertilizer applied to the fields that grow the grain fed to cows. It takes fossil fuel to produce this fertilizer, and and excess nitrogen in the soil, under certain conditions, gives rise to nitrous oxide, an extremely potent greenhouse gas.

The cows that make the milk my family drinks, cows owned and cared for by my neighbors, eat mostly grass, and, when they do eat grain, they eat organic grain. And so there it is, a kindness to the atmosphere, on top of all the other blessings - the water that is kept free of nitrogen pollution, the good taste of fresh milk, the peace in a mother's mind that comes from knowing exactly what it is her children pour onto their breakfast cereal.

Nobody is claiming that milk production is a major contributor to climate change, but still, in this story, is a glimmer of a much bigger hope – when we really take on climate change we can do it in smart and beautiful ways, ways that heal the water, and the soil, and the pain in mother's hearts all at the same time.

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