business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to my FaceTime video yesterday about the impact of climate change on the making of parmesan cheese, MNB fave Beatrice Orlandini wrote to me from Italy:

Sorry, me again; you know I always have to punctuate when you refer to anything Italian.

Talking about the drought (horrible) affecting northern Italy "one of the places where Parmesan comes from"…

You make me cringe.

Parmigiano Reggiano (THE one and only so-called Parmesan) can come from only 3 provinces of the region of Emilia-Romagna: Parma (Parmigiano = Parmesan), Reggio Emilia (Reggiano) and Modena.

So it's not "one of the places", it's THE place.

We also have Grana Padano, similar, milder, ages less, also regulated by a Consortium, like Parmigiano Reggiano, but is produced in a much wider area, spanning from Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto and a part of Emilia-Romagna.

All the territory of the Val Padana (Po Valley).

I suggest you come over and I'll be more than happy to give you a grand tour of our cheeses and our great unrivaled products.

We may have lousy governments, but we still have the best food!

I'm sorry I made you cringe with my imprecision … but I thank you for correcting me.

Mi dispiace molto.  Really.

MNB reader Bob Wheatley also responded to the story:

The elephant in the room: our food system in a major contributor to emissions and climate impact. Agriculture contributes nearly 30% of greenhouse gases to the environment. If we don’t de-carbonize how we create food, it will be impossible to reach the Paris Accords 1.5 degree Celsius benchmark to prevent irreversible climate change.

Here's the kicker – the top three contributors of emissions from the food system are 1) beef, 2) lamb and wait for it – 3) cheese.

Cheese for all its wonderful goodness isn’t sustainable. How? Cows. The billions of cows on earth are four-legged Methane makers, a gas 82 times more toxic to the environment than carbon dioxide.

What’s coming: cheese made using precision fermentation technology that precisely replicates dairy casein, the primary protein in cheese making, only without the cow.

You can have your authentic parmesan but without the carbon impacts and supply chain vulnerabilities from overly hot Italian summers. Stay tuned.

People have yet to fully understand the connection between food and climate impact. Big story that needs telling.

This email from MNB reader Sarah Davis on a different subject:

Regarding your FaceTime about San Francisco, this all could be said about Portland, too. People see the headlines about protests and homelessness and assume that’s the whole picture. Thanks for bringing a reality check.

Yesterday we took note of an Axios report on how "the number of gas stations has been in steady decline for decades," and the likelihood that a combination of factors - volatile prices, the growing popularity of electric vehicles -  "will squeeze them even further."

I commented:

This trend is occurring at the same time a a half-dozen smaller California cities have decided to ban the building of new gas stations, with the premise being that such building represents an investment in technology facing obsolescence.  (Such a ban also is being suggested in Los Angeles, but isn't likely to be approved anytime soon.)

Internal combustion engines aren't going away anytime soon, but we're certainly pointed in that direction.  Smart public policy looks to the future, and I would think that it will make sense for many of these independent gas stations to start thinking about what their futures are going to look like too.  The one thing they do not want to do is stay in the buggy whip business for too long.

One MNB reader responded:

A decision that should be made solely by the people making the investment.

And from another reader:

Seems like this should be market based as opposed to towns regulating.  Otherwise ban printing presses as hard copy newspapers and magazines decline, ban brick and mortar stores as on line shopping increases,  ban new housing as mortgage rates increase, ban swimming pools as water becomes more scarce, etc.   Where does the politics stop and free enterprise begin?

I think it is entirely legitimate for communities to make public policy decisions consistent with the kind of infrastructure leaders believe we are going to need for the future.  Communities buy properties and turn them into public parks and recreation areas because they deem them important to residents' future.  Planning and zoning boards are there to make sure that developers' plans are consistent with communities' strategic visions and to limit growth that could hurt a town or city.   Some communities mandate that a certain percentage of new housing units have to be put aside for people who might not be able to afford to live there otherwise - like local teachers and other public employees.

Some of the examples you cite are extreme and not really germane to the conversation, I think.  Though I can see a town saying that a new shopping center cannot be built if there is another one in town with lots of vacancies because of the impact of e-commerce.