Friday, August 22, 2008

We need sustainable farming...

...not the proliferation of giant agribusiness gmo monocultures into developing countries. China's attempt to "modernize" farming to the American factory farm method under Mao was a humanitarian disaster, and other examples in Africa show that far from knowing it all, modern agriculture knows little of how to farm soils in ways that don't use tilling (plow and furrow) which destroys the topsoil. Instead of embracing sustainable farming and permaculture, agribusiness and people with good intentions but bad education from agribusiness supported agricultural schools are doing far more harm than good in undeveloped nations.

This article discusses several methods of improving topsoil that were "discovered" by agriculturists simply observing sustainable farming practices of various indigenous peoples around the world. Fancy that - people knew how to farm their land before giant agribusiness came!

What western readers need to understand is that for the most part, people in third world nations were not starving until AFTER giant agribusiness came. What they weren't doing before was participating in the consumerist economy - which was unacceptable to the western nations that needed markets for their excess mass manufactured goods at the time. So these transnational corporations set out on a deliberate course of cultural genocide and then got credit for stepping in to "save" these poor starving people who were not starving and only poor by consumerist standards before westerners came.

What the newer agriculturalists have discovered is that the dead soil of giant agribusiness factory farming - soil that has been sterilized and chemicalized to death and has few or no living organisms left alive in it - cannot sustain the food production levels necessary.

Returning to ancient farming techniques, slightly improved for the modern day, works for these soils, as the agriculturalists found.

National Geographic Cover Story on the Global Food & Topsoil Crisis:
Our Good Earth
The future rests on the soil beneath our feet.
By Charles C. Mann

...This kind of compaction [caused by giant petrol-based farm equipment]remains a serious issue — at least in nations where farmers can afford $400,000 harvesters. Unfortunately, compaction is just one, relatively small piece in a mosaic of interrelated problems afflicting soils all over the planet. In the developing world, far more arable land is being lost to human-induced erosion and desertification, directly affecting the lives of 250 million people. In the first comprehensive study of global soil misuse, scientists at the International Soil Reference and Information Centre in the Netherlands estimated in 1991 that humankind has degraded more than 7.5 million square miles of land. Our species, in other words, is rapidly trashing an area the size of the U.S. and Canada combined.

This year food shortages, caused in part by the diminishing quantity and quality of the world's soil (see "Dirt Poor"), have led to riots in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. By 2030, when today's toddlers have toddlers of their own, 8.3 billion people will walk the Earth; to feed them, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates, farmers will have to grow almost 30 percent more grain than they do now. Connoisseurs of human fecklessness will appreciate that even as humankind is ratchetting up its demands on soil, we are destroying it faster than ever before. "Taking the long view, we are running out of dirt," says David R. Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington in Seattle...

...A black revolution might even help combat global warming. Agriculture accounts for more than one-eighth of humankind's production of greenhouse gases. Heavily plowed soil releases carbon dioxide as it exposes once buried organic matter.

...Tull knew the solution: Don't keep plowing in the same path. In fact, farmers are increasingly not using plows at all—a system called no-till farming. But their other machines continue to grow in size and weight. In Europe, soil compaction is thought to affect almost 130,000 square miles of farmland, and one expert suggests that the reduced harvests from compaction cost midwestern farmers in the U.S. $100 million in lost revenue every year.

The ultimate reason that compaction continues to afflict rich nations is the same reason that other forms of soil degradation afflict poor ones: Political and economic institutions are not set up to pay attention to soils. The Chinese officials who are rewarded for getting trees planted without concern about their survival are little different from the farmers in the Midwest who continue to use huge harvesters because they can't afford the labor to run several smaller machines.


I wouldn't say "can't" afford - it's more like "aren't" affording because they can't think outside the factory farming box.

...Next to the compacted road on the Wisconsin farm was a demonstration of horse-drawn plowing. The earth curling up from the moldboard was dark, moist, refulgent—perfect midwestern topsoil. Photographer Jim Richardson got on his belly to capture it. He asked me to hunker down and hold a light. Soon we drew a small, puzzled crowd. Someone explained that we were looking at the soil. "What are they doing that for?" one woman asked loudly. In her voice I could hear the thought: MEGO.

When I told this story over the phone to David Montgomery, the University of Washington geologist, I could almost hear him shaking his head. "With eight billion people, we're going to have to start getting interested in soil," he said. "We're simply not going to be able to keep treating it like dirt."


And continuing to dump more and more toxic chemicals onto it isn't going to help. Smaller fields, crop rotations, companion planting, composting, real manure, cover crops, permaculture, forest-style permaculture, right down to square foot victory gardening are sustainable ways of growing food. Giant monoculture gmo factory agribusiness farms had a brief spike in production, but their day is fast fading. Dead soil leads to inadequate amounts of dead nutritionless food, which ultimately leads to dead people. Here again the "Economies of Scale" turned out to be largely an illusion that is unsustainable over time. Ironically, high quality farming outperforms unsustainable farming - but since the inputs are natural, local, and don't involve transnational corporations, the CEOs will fight to the death to discredit them and prevent large scale implementation.

They don't care if you get sick or ultimately die from eating their genetically altered junk doused with toxins, as long as they make a few bucks off of you first.

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