It’s time to pull the world back
from the brink — we can do it!
We live in interesting times, don’t we? We’re currently witnessing a convergence of problems that threaten life as we know it, not to mention our sanity. I say our sanity, as sometimes it can feel that the societal changes needed are on such a scale, and our embedded infrastructure is so established and inflexible, that we can feel like a helpless, captive audience — just along for the roller coaster ride (where the roller coaster is being maintained by a crew focused only on short-term gain…). Those of us with children fear for their future. Indeed, we wonder what life will be like for ourselves over the coming few years, let alone the next couple of decades.
But at the same time as we’re having apocalyptic visions, we’re also seeing a heightened awareness of, and desire for, solutions, and an eagerness and sense of urgency to implement them.
Several weeks ago I shared the good news of a three-year study by 400 scientists and agricultural experts from around the world that produced a report — by far the largest and most significant of its kind — calling for a major shift in how we produce and distribute food. As you will be aware, agricultural activities are the biggest contributor to climate change and to environmental degradation in general, and I would also add that centralised industrial agriculture is the biggest cause of our social and economic woes as well. The IAASTD report states, in detail, that which anyone with a half-decent understanding of natural systems should already know — that working with nature is more productive than working against it, and that supporting small scale farming systems and relocalising economies are holistic solutions to a great many problems: from climate change to peak oil to water shortages and contamination to soil erosion and contamination to personal health, as well as social issues such as poverty, unemployment, crime, food shortages, despair and terrorism.
As it happens, just as this report was released, a new book — titled Food Futures Now — is hot off the press. Like the IAASTD report, this is an in-depth study of farming practices and social needs worldwide, and comes to almost identical conclusions. But, in comparison, Food Futures Now is far more readable and is loaded with interesting case studies and examples.
Food Futures Now was recently launched to, and by, dignitaries at the House of Commons in London, and is a must read for anyone that likes to eat. The book is rich in ‘feel good’ but scientifically documented sustainable-farming-trumps-conventional-farming success stories. It also well and truly pulls the pin on Big Agribusiness, showing how the Green Revolution has strained topsoils, waterways, our climate and social structures until they’re, predictably, where they are at now — complete breaking point. It’s a great book to send to friends and family that have been duped by the lies and manipulations of Big Biotech and proponents of chemical-based farming systems.
Among the book’s findings:
- The largest single study in the world in Ethiopia shows composting gives 30 percent more crop yields than chemical fertilizers
- Scientists, too, find organic out yields conventional agriculture by a factor of 1.3, and green manure alone could provide all nitrogen needs
- Local farmers in Sahel defied the dire predictions of scientists and policy-makers by greening the desert and creating a haven of trees (see also)
- Organic urban agriculture feeds Cuba without fossil fuels
- Organic agriculture and localised food systems mitigate 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and save one-sixth of energy consumption
- Anaerobic digestion of farm and food wastes in zero-emission food and energy farms could boost total energy savings to 49.7 percent and greenhouse gas savings to 54 percent
- Cleaner, safer environment, greater biodiversity, more nutritious healthier foods
- Higher income and independence for farmers, more employment opportunities
- Regenerate local economies, revitalize local, indigenous knowledge, create social wealth
With the United Nations having declared 2008 ‘The Year of Global Food Crisis’, this book, along with the IAASTD report, constitutes a blueprint for agriculture that citizens and policymakers everywhere should be finding encouragement in, and giving heed to.
I’ve read a pre-release copy of Food Futures Now and have found it to be an inspiring, highly readable and up-to-date publication — more than worthy of shelling out a few shekels to read. Scroll down on this page to see the a synopsis and heading for each chapter to get an idea of its scope. You can order either a hard copy or a downloadable PDF. There are several other books in the list that you may want to add to your cart as well.
Lead author, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho (the book is by several experts), is director of the not-for-profit Institute of Science in Society, who are “dedicated to providing critical and accessible scientific information to the public and to promoting social accountability and ecological sustainability in science.” I first ran across Dr. Mae-Wan Ho’s work about ten or so years ago, when I read her groundbreaking Genetic Engineering: Dream or Nightmare? The Brave New World of Bad Science and Big Business, regarded as a “a worthy successor to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.” The work of Dr. Ho and her colleagues in educating the public and policymakers about the implications of monocultures and genetically modified crops has arguably been a linchpin factor in helping keep GMOs out of Europe — and is particularly relevant as Dr. Ho is actually a geneticist and biophysicist herself.
Sustainable farming offers far more than merely healthy food, clean water and fertile soil building — it also offers localised equality that brings with it the potential for peace and low-carbon prosperity. And, again, it offers huge potential in CO2 sequestration — where carbon, rather than being a ‘pollutant’, actually serves its original purpose of building soils and soil life and feeding people and wildlife.
There is a future of health and sustainability within reach, if we’d only just catch the vision and aspire to it. There are obstacles in the way, of course — notably big industry that can’t bear the thought of people being able to provide for their own needs, independent of their energy-intensive ‘services’ — but if enough of us vote with our forks (both table and garden), we can begin to turn the tide.
Are you tired of being scared of what you eat? Are you worried about the implications of the entire planet’s food and water supplies being controlled by a few enormous corporations? Are you concerned about climate change and political instability? Read the book, share it with others, take encouragement and head out on the path with a future.
Postscript: For good measure, I’m putting a clip below, produced by completely different people who also come to the same conclusions. It’s great to see this convergence of solutions.