Burning Questions
Fellowship Award Winners

Rachel E. Mason

Location: United States
Academic field: Plant and soil science
Award category: PhD Holder

Guidance Memo

  • Title: “Cattle and climate: Why industrial production is not the solution to emissions from beef and dairy farms”
  • Keywords: Beef and dairy production systems. GHG emissions. Science-based communication.
  • DOI: 10.15868/socialsector.36448
  • What We Learned From It:
    • The Guidance Memo provides user-friendly explanation of basic concepts and terminology as well as summaries of current scientific thinking related to GHG emissions of different beef and dairy production systems around the world. It focuses on giving readers a clear understanding of these complex and confusing issues, supplying them with a solid foundation on which to build their case against industrializing cattle production in low- and middle-income countries. For example, it explains the difference between “intensification” and “industrialization”, and why understanding the difference is critically important.
    • It makes suggestions on how to counter certain prevalent arguments in favor of industrialization (e.g. it is often asserted that industrialization is essential in order to reduce GHG emission because non-industrial systems generate too much greenhouse gases and do not produce enough meat and dairy to meet global demands). For instance, it makes the point that farms in low- and middle-income countries that have low climate footprints already exist, and it is quite possible to bring more such farms on board rather than go the route of industrialization.


Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application

  • The Guidance Memo will give more clarity to an important issue that advocates often find confusing, namely, whether or not there is consensus among scientists that industrially-produced cattle in LMICs have more or have less climate change impacts than other production systems. This confusion makes it difficult to voice support for non-industrial systems forcefully and confidently.
  • The Guidance Memo will aim at providing very practical and concrete information (e.g. there will be “talking points” for activists).

What Mason says about the award:
“For the last few years I’ve been thinking more and more about how we can have good food, happy people and animals, and functioning ecosystems, all at the same time. Although I originally trained as an astronomer, I decided to make a radical career change, going back to school to learn as much as possible about sustainable agriculture. The Burning Questions Fellowship links my abilities as a researcher with the needs of people who are doing vital work in the field, and I’m delighted to have this opportunity to help make a difference.” (Rachel Mason)

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