Where did all the farmland go?
Maybe you’ve noticed this in your own community in the past – a brand new shopping mall opens up right next to your local warehouse superstore, which is around the corner from an identical set of the same. Ever wonder what used to be there? According to newly released statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture covering a 25-year period from 1982-2007, the U.S. has been losing farmland due to development at an alarming rate - more than an acre every minute. This means more than 23 million acres (nearly one million annually) of agricultural land have been developed. Although each state lost significant acreage, the states that lost the most include Texas, California, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina. The states with the highest percentage of land loss include New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Delaware, and New Hampshire.
The implications are disturbing. Farms closest to our urban centers produce an impressive 91% of our fruit and 78% of our vegetables! These farms are also responsible for most of the fresh foods popping up at local farmers markets and direct-to-consumer outlets. At a time when more and more people are placing a higher priority on food security and fresh, locally-produced foods, we might be losing our means to support this kind of healthier eating. These close-in agricultural areas we rely on are the most at-risk for development because of their proximity to cities.
There are two bright spots in this story. There was a slight decline in agricultural land conversion from 2002-2007, and smart growth strategies can help slow the conversion of our farmland to ensure a future supply of agricultural land in America. You can help! EarthShare member charity, American Farmland Trust, is hard at work protecting our nation’s farms and promoting smart growth strategies for our cities and communities. Take action to protect your local farms by following their 7 Ways to Save Farmland, and check out simple steps you can take to help spread the word.
Harnessing the wind – Google style.
This week, Google and partners announced a proposed $5 billion project to create a 350-mile transmission line connecting wind farms along the east coast. This transmission “backbone” would stretch from northern NJ to Norfolk, VA, and is projected to support a capacity of 6,000 megawatts of electricity - the equivalent output of five nuclear reactors!
Construction on the undersea transmission line is slated to begin in 2013 with the first 150 miles scheduled for completion in three years. While the project will likely face some political challenges, it is a promising step for wind power - and according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab, tapping into offshore wind energy could supply 20% of our nation’s electricity needs by 2030.
More good news: The study indicates exciting benefits of potential new offshore wind power development, including the creation of an estimated 43,000 jobs and $200 billion in new economic activity. And how do lower electricity bills sound to you? Before any wind farms are even built, the cable would channel existing cheap supplies of electricity from southern Virginia to northern NJ (where electricity is not cheap), bypassing one of the most congested parts of the North American electric grid and lowering energy costs for northern customers.
While the U.S. is a leader in land-based wind energy, there are currently no major offshore farms in operation. But with Google’s new investment and other offshore proposals charging ahead, it looks like America is in for a major renewable energy boost. Learn more about what EarthShare charities are doing to promote clean energy solutions like wind power -- check out how the Rocky Mountain Institute is working to eliminate fossil fuel use in the electric system by 2050, and get the facts about offshore wind energy from Environmental and Energy Study Institute.
Helping hands for America’s lands.
They came by foot, bike, bus and even kayak. They donned work shirts, hip waders, high boots and hats. And as the temperatures hit 90, they got to work making one of Washington, D.C.’s best kept nature secrets more beautiful.
“Employee groups are at the heart of many of our volunteer events,” said Robb Hampton, director of National Public Lands Day. “It’s a great alternative to a company picnic. It brings employees together to work toward a common goal – keeping a local, state or national park thriving – in a setting that’s a far cry from the fluorescent light hum of the office.”
Now in its 17th year, National Public Lands Day has grown from an 800-person cleanup day to the country’s largest, single-day volunteer effort to clean, repair, and upgrade parks and green spaces. Check out our EarthShare member group Guest Blog post from our friends at the National Environmental Education Foundation -- find out what they’re doing and why your support is so critical!