When UC Davis first announced the World Food Center concept a few years ago, it argued it was a way to “promote innovative, sustainable and equitable food systems.”
“The renewed program intends to work on local, national and global scales to support scientific research, extension and policy developments at UC Davis that address these goals,” Kent J. Bradford, the newly appointed interim director of the World Food Center, said last year.
The idea then is to provide a program that can support scientific research which improves food systems.
In the meantime, one of the big challenges faced by the world is finding a way to shift the way energy is used away from fossil fuels – which create heat and electricity and also release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change.
One of the goals of UC Davis is take their world class record for research on climate change and help create “a sustainable, equitable 21st-century economy, with new jobs across multiple sectors and new definitions of health and abundance for people, ecosystems and the planet.
“UC Davis is uniquely equipped to accelerate groundbreaking science and practical interventions that will benefit all.”
One of the goals of economic development here in Davis is a process of technology transfer – where research conducted at the university can be utilized and transferred into the private sector to create innovative new uses.
That is one of the reasons why, in 2013 and 2014, I supported the concept of an innovation center for Davis – finding ways to take the work performed at UC Davis and translating it into the private sector.
But what we have learned from the time of the Studio 30 report onward is that Davis lacks the available commercially zoned property to do this. The Studio 30 report as well as the Innovation Park Task recommended Davis take about 200 acres on its periphery and use that land for creating an innovation center capable of the type of economic development that can develop food research and green technology.
Critics keep pointing out that proponents of the Aggie Research Campus “claim” to be “concerned about local contributions to global warming, but are willing to ‘overlook’ a 4,340-parking space, peripheral freeway-oriented development on prime farmland.”
We keep hearing that this is going to be a peripheral and freeway-oriented development on prime farmland, but we do not hear the rest of the picture.
From a land use perspective, I find it ironic that some of these same people would be willing to support the research campus without housing on the site – even though the project without housing would actually produce far more in the way of impacts than the project with housing.
I would think they would want to support more housing on the site, which means more people are living on site and driving less. But that is not the case.
In general, while I am in favor of more development than I was in 2006 when I started the Vanguard and in 2010, I really do not support much in the way of peripheral development and, as this weekend’s piece laid out, we really do not have a lot of space to go outward anyway.
But I think a lot of critics are missing a crucial point here. While I do believe we need to reduce our VMT and carbon footprint locally in order to have the moral authority to act globally, I think some are fooling themselves into believing that acting locally is sufficient to start turning the ship around that is climate change.
It is not. It is going to take drastic action on a global level.
I had this conversation back in 2013 and 2014 as I was first contemplating support of innovation parks. At the time, I was largely opposed to building anything on agricultural land.
But it was pointed out by several people that we can preserve our agricultural land locally, but the real fight for food justice and against hunger and starvation were taking place globally, not locally. And the biggest impact we can have locally is utilizing UC Davis’ research and global muscle.
In short, we can fight locally to preserve our few acres of agricultural land. We can reduce our local carbon footprint. And it is like stopping a drop of toxic leak into the ocean that is being poisoned on a global and unprecedented scale.
Our biggest contribution to this fight would be to focus, as Barry Broome suggested last year, on our core efficiencies – matching the values of the residents of Davis.
We can fight to save a few acres of ag land or we can help invest in the technology in terms of clean tech, green tech, and agricultural technology that can develop better crops and methods to help feed starving people around the world.
Technology that can help produce cleaner burning technologies, with ways to propel automobiles that burn cleanly and do not produce carbon emissions.
In short, whatever local impact that we have from encroachment on farmland or in terms of traffic will potentially be dwarfed by the benefit of such new technology.
Some will undoubtedly object here. We can’t be sure that this kind of technology can be created. We might simply be enriching wealthy investors without helping the poor.
I agree. There are no guarantees. But we are also well past the point of playing it safe.
We are not going to solve climate change by limiting VMT in Davis, but we could reduce it by developing the technology to grow food more efficiently and effectively in third world countries, or by producing green technology that helps reduce our GHG around the world.
—David M. Greenwald reporting