By David Schmidt
Reprinted from: Animal Ag
I am in Seattle this week attending the Waste to Worth conference. A great conference and a beautiful city!!
Part of the sponsorship of this conference is through this Animal Ag and Climate Change Project. As such, many of the lectures and keynotes have been highlighting the interconnectedness between climate and animal agriculture. (We are recording the sessions and even doing a little extra video taping of some of the key messages. I will let you know when they are available to all of you.)
Bottom line is that I have been surrounded by people (researchers, educators, technical service providers, and farmers) who, among other things, are very concerned about extreme variability in weather and the impacts of this variability on agriculture/livestock and poultry.
One presentation that hit home for me was a about sustainability by Marty Matlock (one of the keynote speakers). He said that scientists must focus more on communication rather than just presenting data, and that this communication needs to start with finding shared values with our audience. I think we all intuitively know this but we don’t always do what we know is best. As scientists we present our data – expecting the “truth” of our data to be enough to change behaviors or opinions.
Some values I think we all share are food security, water availability and profitability in farming. If in our conversation with others we begin finding these shared values – and some specifics of these values based on local issues, farm types, etc. we can then have a very positive dialogue on what kinds of things we all can all do to protect these shared values. We each bring ideas (and data) to the table and find solutions.
Such a conversation might lead to a discussion about reducing water use, reducing energy, reducing production risks, or increasing farm efficiencies. All of these “solutions” offer positive economics to the farmers or community members. And by the way, these same solutions may also reduce the carbon and environmental footprint of agriculture.
Here is another little piece of trivia from the conference. There was an optional tour for the attendees that went to the Taylor Shellfish Farms in the Samish Bay area near Seattle to check out some of the pollution issues in the Bay area. I did not attend the tour but saw some awesome photos of geoducks (saltwater clams) and learned that the farming of these clams was nearly eliminated due to a change in ocean pH – going from 8.2 to 8.1. This was just a good reminder to me how sensitive our natural ecosystems are. In the natural ecosystem, small changes can have big impacts.
Always Considering Climate — David
David Schmidt MS. PE is a researcher and educator in the Department of Bioproducts and Bioysystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota and regional project coordinator for the project Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate, a national project of the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center and funded by the USDA National