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2007-2008 Indicators

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The total amount of soy and grain fed to livestock in the US each year could feed everyone on the planet approximately 5 times over. [source]

 
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In 1776, Adam Smith introduced the world to the concept of "the invisible hand" of a free market economy, which describes how the community as a whole benefits from individual agents pursuing their own best interests. In 1991, Michael Jacobs introduced the concept of "the invisible elbow," noting that when we do things with our hands, as beneficial as they may be, we often inadvertently disturb other things with our elbows. The progression of social concern and environmentalism have witnessed the pitfalls of the invisible elbow.

One historical example of this is the Green Revolution, in the post-World War II era, which introduced the standard use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizer, and scientifically bred and selected crops to agriculture in North America and abroad. The intention of this project was to increase agricultural yields and stabilize food supply to feed a growing world population. To a large extent, this program succeeded in achieving its aims, but it also led to problems. DDT, a chemical found to be useful as a pesticide in 1939, was later found to have many extremely negative environmental impacts, as well as chronic toxic affects on humans, and eventually banned for most applications in 1972. Also, the overuse of synthetic fertilizers has contributed to the eutrophication of surface waters and soil degradation.

It is inevitable that environmental problems exist at present that are not fully understood and accounted for, or even in our awareness. Continuing with the food example, one solution to the problems of the Green Revolution are to use organic farming methods. Disregarding the question of whether organic farming can provide enough food for the world's population, the reality of much organic food in Toronto’s food supply is that it is shipped from distant locations, sometimes as far as South America and New Zealand. The environmental impacts of energy and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transportation of organic food are hard to directly compare to the environmental impacts of locally grown food that uses some pesticides and synthetic fertilizer.

Food is just one example of an environmental issue that is not included in our core set of indicators, but is still worth monitoring. Other environmental issues we monitor include the use of deicers on pathways, parking lots, and roads, and green purchasing.

Environmental initiatives are planned on an ongoing basis, and we strongly encourage campus involvement from all students and administrative and academic departments. In general, projects that foster sustainable growth and the reduction of our carbon footprint as a campus are constantly being undertaken. We will continue to search for environmental issues not addressed, and to develop ways to address them.  We would like to have as many people involved in sustainability as possible.

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