17 April 2023
Every time I walk through the neighborhood on recycling day and see all the Amazon boxes out there, I curse Jeff Bezos for making delivery so convenient! While all the purchases (and, if we’re honest, many things we don’t really need) create tons of waste, at least he is offsetting some of the fossil fuels required for delivery, with a fleet of electric vans.
Still, I was surprised to read in the Cornell Chronicle about the $9.9 million that the Bezos Earth Fund granted to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (my alma mater) to support a virtual livestock fencing project for subsistence farmers in developing countries. Surprised, because I had no idea that Bezos had committed to spending $10 billion on fighting climate change and protecting nature (but less surprised, because it's really just good business sense)!
We know that livestock production is highly inefficient when it comes to environmental inputs, taking up nearly 80% of agricultural land while only producing 20% of the calories for the world. What I didn’t know was that the environmental impact of livestock farming could be reduced with a cow version of the “invisible fence”, to prevent overgrazing, protect water sources and reduce conflict with humans.
In the United States, meat is cheap, because we don’t pay for the externalities of its production – inhumane conditions for animals, greenhouse gas emissions, water and air pollution, and biodiversity loss (we are taking out a loan on our future health). But in developing nations, where nutrition of any kind is in short supply, animal agriculture provides income, fertilizer and a safety net for food when crops fail, or war erupts.
Like nutrition in general, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. I know what we can do here, though:
Much as I hate to admit it, I support at least one mission of Jeff Bezos:
“We must transform how we deliver healthy and diverse food to a growing population, using less land and drastically reducing emissions. The Bezos Earth Fund is committing $1 billion to help transform food and agricultural systems to support healthy lives without degrading the planet.”
What are your thoughts on Amazon (the company and the rainforest), animal agriculture, climate action or diet? I’d love to hear from you. In honor of Earth Week, for every message I receive April 14-22, Green Bites will donate a tree through the Eden Reforestation Project.