Can you eat a tree for breakfast?

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This morning I was headed for work when the radio news man announced protesters had scaled the side of the Chicago Board of Trade to the 23rd floor to put up a 50-foot banner protesting Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and Bunge, the big three of the multi-national grain companies.

Apparently the protesters were having some trouble getting their message displayed at first, because the high winds had twisted their banner so no one could read it.

I forgot all about them until I hit this morning's email and learned what the banner was all about:

"Rainforest Action Network Drapes 50-Foot Banner on Chicago's Board of Trade, Calls for End to Agribusiness Expansion in Rainforests Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Cargill called on to stop  trampling human rights and destroying world's rainforests•bCrLf

The news release I got said Rainforest Action Network was launching a campaign to "stop U.S. agribusiness expansion in the rainforests•bCrLf by draping a 50-foot banner on the historic Chicago Board of Trade building at the start of this morning's trading. Calling them the "ABC's of rainforest destruction,•bCrLf RAN singled out agribusiness giants Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge and Cargill for their roles in "destroying tropical rainforests and trampling human rights in South America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.•bCrLf The protesters were later arrested, read more here.  

Yesterday, Rainforest placed a full-page advertisement in the Chicago Tribune accusing the companies of intensifying global warming by having tropical rainforests clear-cut to make way for massive soy and palm oil plantations. The ad can be viewed here

According to the Rainforest news release, ADM, Bunge and Cargill are evil because they buy and sell commodity crops at the Board of Trade, including soybeans, which, along with palm oil, are planted on newly cleared rainforest land. "Growing demand for these crops has caused a spike in deforestation, particularly in Indonesia and Brazil. Home to the world's two largest rainforests, these countries have become the world's 3rd and 4th largest greenhouse gas emitters.•bCrLf

The release goes on to say that U.S. agribusinesses have also been linked to egregious human rights violations on and around industrial soy and palm oil plantations, including displacement of Indigenous and local communities, poor working conditions and, in some cases, slave labor.

Are the greens turning into luddites? Rainforest is among a growing group of environmental advocates who question the value of large-scale commercial biofuels as a green alternative to fossil fuels. Another recent story tells how the Green Party in Australia may keep a new biodiesel plant from opening, read it here.

Environmentalists are good at protesting, for the most part, but they are often short on solutions.

Let's all agree that biofuels have their problems, including a lower energy level than fossil fuels and as yet undetermined impact on carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. But there's no going back to fossil fuels, and anyone who thinks we are is hiding his head in the sand.

No one wants to hurt the rainforests any more than necessary and certainly laws to protect and manage rainforests should be strictly enforced. But future fuel and food needs require complicated solutions. You certainly don't want to burn trees for fuel, and you can't eat a tree for breakfast. As the world's population grows, so does the need for protein, carbohydrates, and yes, fuel.

One solution - at least, a starting point - is for everyone to reduce their carbon footprint, especially in the United States where we use so much more energy than any other developed country. Here is a pretty interesting website to get you thinking about it.

New Green fuels exchange. Biofuels aren't a passing fad. Witness a new marketplace where folks will be buying and selling things like biogas, biodiesel and raw materials like animal fat - even pig manure! When the Green Fuels Exchange (GFEX) launches
on October 15, 2007, it will be the first marketplace in North America for buying and selling green fuels (e.g. biodiesel, biogas) and their raw materials (e.g. vegetable oil, animal fat, bovine and pig manure), allowing producers to get the best price available for potentially valuable agricultural byproducts.

The GFEX will not only allow producers to re-examine the value of agricultural byproducts, it will reduce the the price uncertainty associated with green technology ventures, thereby facilitating an increase in outside investment.



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