Daily Archives: May 27, 2021

Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods on activist pressure

CNBC Television – May 14, 2021

Exxon has faced pressure from shareholders to shake up its board. Activist firm Engine No. 1 has been targeting the oil giant since December and has proposed its own slate of four new directors. Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods joined “Squawk on the Street” to discuss.

U.S. Industrialized Agriculture Is Better for the Environment—and the People, Too

The United States’ industrialized food system moved millions of people out of poverty and is better for the environment, too.

By Ted Nordhaus, Dan Blaustein-Rejto April 18, 2021, 6:00 AM

In some ways, it is not surprising that many of the best fed, most food-secure people in the history of the human species are convinced that the food system is broken. Most have never set foot on a farm or, at least, not on the sort of farm that provides the vast majority of food that people in wealthy nations like the United States consume.

In the popular bourgeois imagination, the idealized farm looks something like the ones that sell produce at local farmers markets. But while small farms like these account for close to half of all U.S. farms, they produce less than 10 percent of total output. The largest farms, by contrast, account for about 50 percent of output, relying on simplified production systems and economies of scale to feed a nation of 330 million people, vanishingly few of whom live anywhere near a farm or want to work in agriculture. It is this central role of large, corporate, and industrial-style farms that critics point to as evidence that the food system needs to be transformed.

But U.S. dependence on large farms is not a conspiracy by big corporations. Without question, the U.S. food system has many problems. But persistent misperceptions about it, most especially among affluent consumers, are a function of its spectacular success, not its failure. Any effort to address social and environmental problems associated with food production in the United States will need to first accommodate itself to the reality that, in a modern and affluent economy, the food system could not be anything other than large-scale, intensive, technological, and industrialized.

In some ways, it is not surprising that many of the best fed, most food-secure people in the history of the human species are convinced that the food system is broken. Most have never set foot on a farm or, at least, not on the sort of farm that provides the vast majority of food that people in wealthy nations like the United States consume.

In the popular bourgeois imagination, the idealized farm looks something like the ones that sell produce at local farmers markets. But while small farms like these account for close to half of all U.S. farms, they produce less than 10 percent of total output. The largest farms, by contrast, account for about 50 percent of output, relying on simplified production systems and economies of scale to feed a nation of 330 million people, vanishingly few of whom live anywhere near a farm or want to work in agriculture. It is this central role of large, corporate, and industrial-style farms that critics point to as evidence that the food system needs to be transformed.

But U.S. dependence on large farms is not a conspiracy by big corporations. Without question, the U.S. food system has many problems. But persistent misperceptions about it, most especially among affluent consumers, are a function of its spectacular success, not its failure. Any effort to address social and environmental problems associated with food production in the United States will need to first accommodate itself to the reality that, in a modern and affluent economy, the food system could not be anything other than large-scale, intensive, technological, and industrialized.

An abandoned tenant house is seen across fields in Hall County, Texas, in June 1938.Library of Congress

Not so long ago, farming was the principal occupation of most Americans. More than 70 percent labored in agriculture in 1800. As late as 1900, some 40 percent of the U.S. labor force still worked on farms. Today, that figure is less than 2 percent.

The consolidation of U.S. agriculture has been underway for more than 150 years. First came irrigation and ploughs, then better seeds and fertilizers, and then tractors and pesticides. With each innovation, farmers were able to produce larger harvests with fewer people and work larger plots of land. Better opportunities drew people to cities, where they could get jobs that provided higher wages and, thereby, produced greater economic surplus—that is, profits and ultimately societal wealth. The large-scale migration of labor from farms to cities pushed farmers to invest even more in labor-saving and productivity-enhancing practices and technologies in a virtuous cycle of urbanization, agricultural intensification, and economic growth that is the hallmark of all affluent societies.

It is not a stretch to say that the United States is wealthy today because most of its people work in manufacturing, services, technology, and other sectors of the economy. In this, the country is not alone. No nation has ever succeeded in moving most of its population out of poverty without most of that population leaving agriculture work.

No nation has ever succeeded in moving most of its population out of poverty without most of that population leaving agriculture work.

That transition often isn’t easy. Millions of Black Americans made the difficult journey from tenant farming in the South to factory work in the North, where they faced new forms of racism even as they escaped the tyranny of sharecropping. More recently, small farmers have struggled to survive as increasingly high agricultural productivity and falling commodity prices tilted the playing field toward large farms. Rural communities have likewise suffered as dramatic improvements in labor productivity have shrunk employment in agriculture.

But over the long term, the living standards and life opportunities offered in the modern knowledge, service, and manufacturing economies have proved vastly greater than anything possible under the agrarian social and economic arrangements that most Americans over the last two centuries happily abandoned—and that too many Americans today romanticize.

Modern life required not only liberating most Americans from agrarian labor but also the development of a food system capable of getting food from farms to the cities where increasing numbers of Americans lived and worked. A food system that lost much of its harvest to pests and spoilage needed to dramatically cut losses even as its bounty needed to travel farther and farther. For this reason, the rise of modern agriculture is as much a story of railways and highways as combines and tractors, refrigeration and grain elevators as pesticides and fertilizer.

The development and growth of feedlots followed a similar path. As the historian Maureen Ogle recounts in her magnificent history of the beef industry, In Meat We Trust, the first feedlots grew out of the stockyards of Chicago and Kansas City in the late 19th century. The most efficient way to get beef to burgeoning markets in America’s cities was to drive cattle to these new rail centers, where they were finished, slaughtered, and then shipped throughout the country by rail. After World War II, beef production and feedlots expanded massively, driven not so much by corporate greed as by rising demand for beef from the United States’ newly prosperous middle class and by a scarcity of labor as ranch hands returning from the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific chose to pursue better economic opportunities in the postwar economy images.

….read more

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See related:

Food-matters,

2021 Global Report on Food Crises – The Food and Agriculture Organization & The World Food Programme


United Nations – May 6, 2021

The stark warning from the 2021 Global Report on Food Crises released on Wednesday revealed that conflict, or economic shocks that are often related to COVID-19 along with extreme weather, are continuing to push millions of people into acute food insecurity.

The number of people facing acute food insecurity and needing urgent life and livelihood-saving assistance has hit a five-year high in 2020 in countries beset by food crises, an annual report launched today by the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC) – an international alliance of the UN, the EU, governmental and non-governmental agencies working to tackle food crises together – has found.

Conflict, economic shocks – including due to COVID-19, extreme weather – pushed at least 155 million people into acute food insecurity in 2020.

“This year’s report that we just published shows a serious increase in the number of people, indeed, affected by acute food insecurity,” said Dominique Burgeon, Director of the FAO’s Office for Emergencies and Resilience.

The report reveals that at least 155 million people experienced acute food insecurity at Crisis or worse levels (IPC/CH Phase 3 or worse) – or equivalent – across 55 countries/territories in 2020 – an increase of around 20 million people from the previous year, and raises a stark warning about a worrisome trend: acute food insecurity has kept up its relentless rise since 2017 – the first edition of the report.

Of these, around 133 000 people were in the most severe phase of acute food insecurity in 2020 – Catastrophe (IPC/CH Phase 5) – in Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen where urgent action was needed to avert widespread death and a collapse of livelihoods.

At least another 28 million people faced Emergency (IPC/CH Phase 4) level of acute food insecurity in 2020 – meaning they were one step away from starvation – across 38 countries/territories where urgent action saved lives and livelihoods, and prevented famine spreading.

Thirty-nine (39) countries/territories have experienced food crises during the five years that the GNAFC has been publishing its annual report; in these countries/territories, the population affected by high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC/CH Phase 3 or worse) increased from 94 to 147 million people between 2016 and 2020.

Additionally, in the 55 food-crisis countries/territories covered by the report, over 75 million children under five were stunted (too short) and over 15 million wasted (too thin) in 2020.

Countries in Africa remained disproportionally affected by acute food insecurity. Close to 98 million people facing acute food insecurity in 2020 – or two out of three – were on the African continent. But other parts of the world have also not been spared, with countries including Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and Haiti among the ten worst food crises last year.

“What strikes is that ten countries and territories were actually on to 103 million of the 155 million people so it means over 65 percent of those in accurate food insecurity, were just in ten countries: the DRC, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, northern Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Zimbabwe and Haiti,” said Burgeon.

The key drivers behind rising acute food insecurity in 2020 were conflict, economic shocks and weather extremes.

“The factors behind it have not changed over several years,” said Arif Husain, WFP’s Chief Economist. “It is still conflict, big time. It is still climate extremes, variables. And it is economic marginalization. But the multiplier effect behind all of this is COVID-19. So, what was already going, you know, up in terms of rising numbers got further and accelerated by COVID-19.”

According to the report, while conflict will remain the major driver of food crises in 2021, COVID-19 and related containment measures and weather extremes will continue to exacerbate acute food insecurity in fragile economies.

“Unfortunately, as we move forward, the outlook is not good. We see that the worsening trend in hanger continues, we project that at least 142 million people expected – continue to expect the crisis level or worst of accurate food insecurity,” said FAO’s Burgeon.

To address these challenges the Global Network will step up efforts to promote resilient agri-food systems that are socially, environmentally and economically sustainable, and will support major events this year such as the UN Food Systems Summit, the Convention on Biodiversity, the G20 Summit, the Climate Change Conference, and the Nutrition for Growth Summit. It will also cooperate with the G7 initiative to avert famine.

Convene a Food Systems Summit Dialogue


UN Food Systems Summit

Apr 9, 2021
Food Systems Summit Dialogues offer a powerful opportunity for people everywhere to have a seat at the table at this milestone UN Summit. Dialogues bring together a diversity of stakeholders, including voices that are seldom heard, and provide an important opportunity for participants to debate, collaborate, and take action towards a better future. They give us the chance to connect, meet new partners, inspire and be inspired.

The ideas, solutions, partnerships and action plans generated in the Dialogues are critical to the Summit’s success. That’s why the Summit needs your input! We encourage you to convene your own #SummitDialogue. In doing so, you can help us build a better future for food systems — a future that is strong, safe, and fair for all.

Find out more: https://www.un.org/en/food-systems-su

We encourage you to convene your own #SummitDialogue. In doing so, you can help us build a better future for food systems — a future that is strong, safe, and fair for all. Find out more: https://www.un.org/en/food-systems-su…

Food Systems Summit | United Nations

https://www.un.org/en/food-systems-summit

Food Systems Summit Dialogues

Food Systems Summit Dialogues offer a powerful opportunity for people everywhere to have a seat at the table at this milestone UN Summit. Dialogues bring together a diversity of stakeholders, including voices that are seldom heard, and provide an important opportunity for participants to debate, collaborate, and take action towards a better future. They give us the chance to connect, meet new partners, inspire and be inspired.

The ideas, solutions, partnerships and action plans generated in the Dialogues are critical to the Summit’s success. That’s why the Summit needs your input! We encourage you to join a Dialogue, or convene your own. In doing so, you can help us build a better future for food systems — a future that is strong, safe, and fair for all.

Types of Dialogues

We invite everyone to consider organizing or participating in one of the three types of Summit Dialogues that will take place before and during the Summit.

All three types of Dialogues provide people with the opportunity to engage in the Summit in a meaningful way. The Dialogues aim to respect a healthy diversity of viewpoints, encourage shared exploration and reveal promising ways of working together.

…(read more).

U.S.-Sponsored Big Agriculture Is Leading to Ecological Collapse

Actually, big isn’t best.

By Matthew R. Sanderson, a social scientist at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, and Stan Cox, a research scholar in ecosphere studies at The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas.

May 17, 2021, 3:02 PM

Today, there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than at any point in the past 3.6 million years. On April 5, atmospheric carbon dioxide exceeded 420 parts per million—marking nearly the halfway point toward doubling the carbon dioxide levels measured prior to the Industrial Revolution, a mere 171 years ago. Even amid a pandemic-induced economic shutdown—during which global annual emissions dropped 7 percent—carbon dioxide and methane levels set records in 2020. The last time Earth held this much carbon dioxide in its atmosphere, sea levels were nearly 80 feet higher and the planet was 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. The catch: Homo sapiens did not yet exist.

Change is in the air. U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines announced climate change is “at the center of the country’s national security and foreign policy.” Business-as-usual is no longer a viable strategy as more institutions consider a future that will look and feel much different. In this context, it is striking to read a recent piece in Foreign Policy arguing “big agriculture is best.”

“Big agriculture is best” cannot be an argument supported by empirical evidence. By now, it is vitally clear that Earth systems—the atmosphere, oceans, soils, and biosphere—are in various phases of collapse, putting nearly one-half of the world’s gross domestic product at risk and undermining the planet’s ability to support life. And big, industrialized agriculture—promoted by U.S. foreign and domestic policy—lies at the heart of the multiple connected crises we are confronting as a species.

The litany of industrial agriculture’s toll is long and diverse. Consider the effects of industrial animal agriculture, for example. As of this writing, animal agriculture accounts for 14.5 percent of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions annually. It is also the source of 60 percent of all nitrous oxide and 50 percent of all methane emissions, which have 36 times and 298 times, respectively, the warming potential of carbon dioxide. As industrial animal agriculture has scaled up, agricultural emissions of methane and nitrous oxide have been going in one direction only: up.

Efforts to scale industrial agriculture are undermining the planet’s capacity to support life at more local scales too. Consider Brazil, home to the Amazon Rainforest, which makes up 40 percent of all remaining rainforest and 25 percent of all terrestrial biodiversity on Earth. Forest loss and species extinctions have only increased as industrial agriculture has scaled up in Brazil. Farmers are burning unprecedented amounts of forest to expand their operations in pursuit of an industrial model. In August 2019, smoke blocked the sun in São Paulo, Brazil, 2,000 miles away from the fires in the state of Amazonas.

In India, the pace of agricultural industrialization is hastening as indicated by rising agricultural production and declining employment in agriculture, which now accounts for less than one-half of India’s workforce. Agriculture has been scaled with all the tools of the Green Revolution: a high-input farming system comprised of genetically modified seeds and accompanying synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. As agriculture has industrialized in India, the use of pesticides and fertilizers has risen as well.

Although it has become more difficult to breathe the air in Brazil, it has become harder to find clean freshwater in India, where pesticide contamination is rising. There, the costs of the industrial agriculture model are plainly ecological and human: Unable to drink the water or pay back the loans they took out to finance their transition to industrial farming, an alarming number of Indian farmers are drinking pesticides instead. Almost a quarter-million Indian farmers have died by suicide since 2000, and 10,281 farmers and farm laborers killed themselves in 2019 alone. In Punjab, the country’s breadbasket, environmental destruction coexists with a raging opioid epidemic ensnaring nearly two-thirds of households in the state.

If the events in Brazil and India sound familiar to U.S. readers, it is because there are analogous stories in the United States—where industrial agriculture is rendering entire landscapes uninhabitable. The U.S. Corn Belt, which spans the region from Ohio to Nebraska, produces 75 percent of the country’s corn, but around 35 percent of the region has completely lost its topsoil. Industrial agriculture has been pursued with special zeal in Iowa, where there are 25 million hogs and 3 million people. There, water from the Raccoon River enters the state capital of Des Moines—home to 550,000 people—with nitrates, phosphorus, and bacteria that have exceeded federal safe water drinking standards.

See related:

Food-matters,

China’s Rush Into Africa, Explained

Johnny Harris

May 21, 2021

Tiny Activist Investor Wins Two Exxon Board Seats

Bloomberg Markets and Finance– May 26, 2021

May.26 — Tiny activist investor Engine No. 1 gained two seats on Exxon Mobil Corp.’s board in a bid to push for climate-change strategies at the oil giant. Bloomberg’s Kevin Crowley reports.

Rare interview with billionaire Elon Musk on his plans to colonize Mars | 60 Minutes Australia

60 Minutes Australia – May 12, 2021

Elon Musk (2015) The story of Elon Musk is almost too incredible to believe. He’s an engineer and entrepreneur worth more than 15 billion dollars. He backs himself and his high-risk ventures, which invariably earn huge profits. First there was PayPal, the way to buy and sell on the internet. Then Tesla, the electric supercar he built. And SpaceX, the rocket company NASA uses – not bad for a 44-year-old guy. As Ross Coutlhart learns, Elon is not stopping there and his next venture is truly out of this world: the colonisation of Mars. If Elon Musk reminds you of Tony Stark – Ironman – you’re right, because he is also the inspiration behind the Hollywood superhero.

Climate activists score wins against Exxon, Shell, and Chevron

Yahoo Finance– May 27, 2021

#Exxon #Shell #Chevron Yahoo Finance’s Julie Hyman, Brian Sozzi, and Myles Udland discuss activist hedge fund Engine 1 snagging two seats on the Exxon Mobile board, Chevron shareholders voting in favor of an activist proposal to cut carbon emissions, and activists in the Netherlands winning a court battle at the Hague which ruled Royal Dutch Shell has to cut emissions. Watch the 2021 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting on YouTube: https://youtu.be/gx-OzwHpM9k