Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Victory Garden

Greeting peaksters

  Hope you are enjoying your winter greens!

     I had the chance to attend a local meeting focusing on food related issues   Lots of energetic ideas about community gardens, food preservation, and local food markets. 
      At one point we heard a presentation from a couple of young people who are interested in organic farming. They have got themselves educated, and have on the ground experimenter, but are running into a major problem.  They cant afford land.    Not sure how to bridge the gap.


Here's some info on food price trends and  community gardens


Below Heinberg wonders about industrial ag.


While researching the topic of sustainable agriculture for a paper, high school junior Rhian Moore came across the work of PCI Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg. Rhian reached out to Richard for more information on the topic. Below are Rhian's questions and Richard's brief responses. We think they make for a nice primer of sorts.

Rhian: Is there a correlation between the use of oil and fossil fuels and the imbalance of food (the fact that some countries waste a lot of food while in others, the majority of the people are starving) in the world?

Richard:There are many factors leading to food imbalance: per-capita incomes, soil quality, and rainfall are all important. Globally, the use of fossil fuels per capita correlates fairly well with incomes per capita, and this can be seen as a chicken-or-egg issue: the use of fossil fuels generates wealth (we use oil, for example, to power machinery to do all kinds of work that creates wealth), while wealth is required in order to purchase fossil fuels. The combination of access to fuels and access to technology creates a kind of wealth pump that suctions resources from the environment, transforms them into products, and produces jobs and incomes. Countries that have the wealth pump in place can afford food, even if it’s imported. Of course, a big part of that wealth pump often consists of industrial agriculture: with fuel-fed farm machinery, and fossil-fuel-based fertilizers and chemicals, people can effectively pump food out of the land. In some countries in Africa there is oil, yet the people starve—how can that be? It’s because the oil is exported, with revenues going to a very small clique who control the country. Technology isn’t present to use fuel domestically to create the wealth needed to buy enough food for everyone.

Rhian: What are some monumental steps, especially from policymakers, taken recently to create a more sustainable global food system? What needs to be done in the future?

Richard: I do not know of any monumental steps that have been taken recently—mostly only small ones. Some agencies (such as UNCTAD) are advising localization of the global food system, promotion of organic production, and an end to policies that disadvantage subsistence farmers. However, those recommendations fly in the face of most national policies (including those of the USDA here in America), which promote giant agribusiness and fuel-dependent farming. Probably the most important work is being done by small organizations and independent farmers who are working to build local food systems and who are growing on an ecological model (Permaculture, Biodynamics, Bio-intensive, etc.) that seeks to build topsoil rather than destroying it, using a minimum of fossil fuel inputs.

Rhian: Do you believe there are any positive sides to industrial agriculture that prolong its existence? As for the negative sides, what are the most severe consequences?

Richard: There are two significant advantages to modern industrial agriculture: (1) it produces an enormous amount of food, relatively cheaply; and (2) it is very profitable for seed, chemical, fertilizer, and equipment companies, and for large-scale farmers.

The negatives: (1) it destroys soil and biodiversity; (2) it relies upon depleting, non-renewable resources such as oil and rock phosphate; (3) it contributes to climate change through use of fossil fuels, deforestation, and de-carbonization of the soil; (4) industrial food is often low in nutrients (especially true if the food is highly processed), contributing to the problems of obesity and degenerative disease; and (5) industrial agriculture tends to favor large-scale growers, so that millions of self-sufficient small growers are forced into poverty.

Rhian: You say that in order to take steps toward solving the problem, we need to get more people involved in the process of food production. How is this re-ruralization going to help our situation?

Richard: As oil becomes more expensive, and as we reduce fossil fuel consumption in order to avert catastrophic climate change, we will have to re-localize our food systems and grow more organically. We will also need many more growers, as we currently use oil to substitute for human labor. With more people involved in food production, more people will have a daily interaction with weather, soil, and biodiversity; they will therefore take better care of the environment. We will also process our food less (as that takes energy), and as a result we will eat more nourishing food—and with more exercise and better food our health will improve.

Rhian: What is the role of business in our effort to create a more sustainable global food system?

Richard: Many hundreds of small businesses are already involved. These include organic farms, restaurants that use local and organic foods, food wholesalers and retailers that specialize in local and organic foods, schools that train young farmers in new organic methods, companies that sell organic open-pollinated varieties, companies that sell farm equipment appropriate for use on small organic farms, and so on.

Rhian: How can we take steps to make consumers aware of the consequences of a fossil fuel-dependent agricultural society, and how can they take action?

Richard: The organic food industry does a fairly good job of communicating the issues; unfortunately, organic food is more expensive, and so many people cannot afford to contribute to its social and environmental benefits. Therefore food policy is important. Some cities have school food policies that favor buying food from local producers, even local organic producers. And many schools have school gardens that contribute food to lunch programs. When students understand what it takes to grow food, and feel the benefits of eating minimally-processed foods, they are likely to make food choices that benefit both themselves and the environment.



Supporting Climate-Friendly Food Production

This summer, record temperatures and limited rainfall parched vast areas of U.S. cropland, and with Earth’s surface air temperature projected to rise 0.69 degrees Celsius by 2030, global food production will be even more unpredictable. Although agriculture is a major driver of human-caused climate change, contributing an estimated 25 to 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, when done sustainably it can be an important key to mitigating climate change.

Agroforestry is one practice that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions while adapting to the effects of climate change. (Photo credit: Christensen Fund)
Because of its reliance on healthy soil, adequate water, and a delicate balance of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, farming is the human endeavor most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. But agriculture’s strong interrelationships with both climatic and environmental variables also make it a significant player in reducing climate-altering emissions as well as helping the world adapt to the realities of a warming planet.
The good news is that agriculture can hold an important key to mitigating climate change. Practices such as using animal manure rather than artificial fertilizer, planting trees on farms to reduce soil erosion and sequester carbon, and growing food in cities all hold huge potential for reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the global agricultural sector could potentially reduce and remove 80 to 88 percent of the carbon dioxide that it currently emits. By adopting more-sustainable approaches, small-scale agriculture in developing countries has the potential to contribute 70 percent of agriculture’s global mitigation of climate change. And many of these innovations have the potential to be replicated, adapted, and scaled up for application on larger farms, helping to improve water availability, increase diversity, and improve soil quality, as well as mitigate climate change.
This report, Innovations in Sustainable Agriculture: Supporting Climate-Friendly Food Production, discusses six sustainable approaches to land and water use, in both rural and urban areas, that are helping farmers and other food producers mitigate or adapt to climate change—and often both. They are:
  • Building Soil Fertility: Alternatives to heavy chemical use in agriculture, such as avoiding unnecessary tilling or raising both crops and livestock on the same land, can help to drastically reduce the total amount of energy expended to produce a crop or animal, reducing overall emissions.
  • Agroforestry: Because trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, keeping them on farms whenever possible can help mitigate climate change. Agroforestry also keeps the soil healthier and more resilient by maximizing the amount of organic matter, microorganisms, and moisture held within it. Agroforestry also provides shade for livestock and certain crops, and creates habitats for animals and insects, such as bees, that pollinate many crops.
  • Urban Farming: Growing food in cities can mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions released from the transport, processing, and storage of food destined for urban populations. Urban agriculture also increases the total area of non-paved land in cities, making urban landscapes more resilient to flooding and other weather shocks, while improving the aesthetic value of these landscapes.
  • Cover Cropping/Green Manure: Cover cropping, also known as green manure, is the practice of strategically planting crops that will deliver a range of benefits to a farming system, and often plowing these crops into the soil instead of harvesting their organic matter. Planting cover crops improves soil fertility and moisture by making soil less vulnerable to drought or heat waves. Cover crops also serve as a critical deterrent against pests and diseases that affect crops or livestock, such as corn root worm or Rift Valley fever, particularly as warmer temperatures enable these organisms to survive in environments that were previously too cold for them.
  • Improving Water Conservation and Recycling: Innovations in water conservation, including recycling wastewater in cities, using precise watering techniques such as drip irrigation rather than sprinklers, and catching and storing rainwater, all help to reduce the global strain on already-scarce water resources.
  • Preserving Biodiversity and Indigenous Breeds: Growing diverse and locally adapted indigenous crops, such as yams, quinoa, and cassava, can provide a source of income and improve farmers’ chances of withstanding the effects of climate change, such as heat stress, drought, and the expansion of disease and pest populations. Preserving plant and animal biodiversity also reduces farmers’ overreliance on a small number of commodity crops that make them vulnerable to shifts in global markets.
By tapping into the multitude of climate-friendly farming practices that already exist, agriculture can continue to provide food for the world’s population, as well as be a source of livelihood for the 1.3 billion people who rely on farming for income and sustenance. If agriculture is to play a positive role in the global fight against climate change, however, agricultural practices that mitigate or adapt to climate change will need to receive increased research, attention, and investment in the coming years.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home