Deep Agroecology 2020: Wise, Noble, Gallant

December 28, 2019

“Agroecology is the future of farming, and its principles cannot be practiced soon enough. Agroecology is a major global force or movement that’s going to be gaining recognition and increasing credibility.”  —John Ikerd, agricultural economist

As I came to appreciate while learning about agroecology, the subject has depth, breadth, and sophistication. Agroecology offers a penetrating critique of the status quo for farms and food, and also a far-reaching, environmentally enlightened, justice-based vision of better ways to care for land, plants, animals, and people.

Rather than a mechanistic formula for domination of nature to produce profits for a small group of investors, the core ideas of agroecology arise naturally from living, rhythmic, biological appreciation of the world and the life that inhabits the world. Consequently, the global movement toward agroecology has the capacity to recognize and to employ systems that bring human needs into right relation with the needs of the natural world.

As University of Nebraska–Lincoln Professor Charles A Francis noted in Agroecology: The Ecology of Food Systems, food systems are vast and fragile. They exist in the multiple and interacting matrices of our increasingly complex national and global cultures.

Agroecology recognizes farms as ecosystems embedded in broader landscapes and social settings, with which they interact continually and significantly.

By way of introduction, Francis writes: “We define agroecology as the integrative study of the ecology of the entire food system, encompassing ecological, economic, and social dimensions.”

In consilience (or convergence) these many disciplines yield vantage points for studying the food system, for developing a broader set of criteria for evaluation beyond monetary profitability, and for transforming the farm and food system in a manifestly healthy way.

Agroecology is an umbrella concept that has been refined in recent decades, developed, and made ready for wide global implementation. Now is the time. Agroecology embraces organics, biodynamics, permaculture, urban ag, and a host of other sustainable, forward-looking initiatives grounded in justice for people, animals, and the land from which we all draw our sustenance.

Image by M Ameen from Pixabay

This is new territory for many, but it’s natural territory. Farmers cannot enter this territory successfully alone, though. They must be accompanied in various purposeful ways by the communities and households who receive their bounty and who take it into their bodies.

My intention in writing a new book on the topic — Deep Agroecology: Farms, Food, and Our Future — is to explain to a general audience and to students what agroecology already is, and to embed the concepts and practices more purposefully in the public mind. At the same time I saw an opportunity in writing to reach deep into our native roots in the Americas, as well as to add emphasis to subtle dimensions of agroecology, realms of critical mystery.

Another motivation for writing Deep Agroecology was to again make available, as many communicators have done through the millennia, a reminder that inspiriting yourself and then caring actively for the Earth, the sustenance we derive from it, and the communities we are part of, is a high, noble, and heroic calling. It’s especially gallant at this juncture of time and circumstance.


Let us now praise common sense: Agroecology

September 3, 2019

 

The precautionary principle is a simple, common-sense ethical guideline that is a core part of ecology and agroecology. It’s so fundamental to sustainability, and so uncommon in our government today, that it’s worth reaffirming.

The precautionary principle holds that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment that sustains our life, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those promoting the product or the action…

…We’d be wise to bypass government failure to act, and do the uncommon thing, as the late humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935) put it: act with common sense. Act personally, swiftly, and strategically. There are a 1,001 things individuals, families, neighborhoods, and communities can do. Get your search engine going, and then act. The vast archives of Mother Earth News, and the Pathways resource page open up some of the possibilities…

The rest of my blog post is now available on Mother Earth News.

 

 

 

 


Walk Agroecological Paths Toward Food Security

August 15, 2019

 

Yet another massive UN report has been researched, written, and cast into the ceaselessly churning ocean of Internet information. There the report may well sink into oblivion, as so often happens with critical news…

…But these well-researched collections of facts and expert insight scream to be recognized, remembered, and acted upon. “Wake up,” the world’s scientists are saying. Arise and take action now for food security…

…Climate change will continue to generate more and more intense floods, drought, storms, and other types of extreme weather. Going to the heart of the matter, The New York Times headlined its story on the report Climate Change Threatens World’s Food Supply...

…There are hundreds of ways to respond wisely to this hard news…

The complete text of my blog post appears on the pages of Mother Earth News.


Face it: Farms, Food, and Our Future

May 19, 2019

Our farms, food, and future are woven together, dynamically enmeshed in this turbulent era. They form a matrix of potential concerning the key matters of climate change, pollution, diet, physical health, mental health, economic status, and our overall sense of well being.

These key matters come to the fore in Deep Agroecology, the book I’ve now finished writing. Through the winter and spring several astute readers have critiqued beta versions of the manuscript. Now an editor’s pen has been skillfully brought to bear upon the work. There are still more steps to climb before the presses roll. We will publish before summer is through. If you wish to learn more or to pre-order the book just follow the link.

 

 


Extreme Weather & Food Shocks Compel Climate-Emergency Plans

February 9, 2019

At this point most of us need look no further than outside our windows to see that climate change is upon us. For me in New Mexico, the alarming sight of a neighborhood emergency out the window came last summer in late July. That’s when a “thousand-year storm” ripped up our yard, overflowed the arroyos, inundated the basement of Santa Fe’s city hall, and washed-out streets around the region. The storm swamped gardens and farm plots aplenty.

From polar vortexes and churning tornados, to the relentless string of hurricanes, floods, and forest conflagrations, the earth changes of climate chaos are raging. To ignore this rampant reality, and to do nothing about it, is to invite peril.

As NASA and NOAA scientists put it this past week, “We’re no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future. It’s here. It’s now.”

In this context, food production is increasingly susceptible to extreme climate and weather events, according to researchers publishing in the journal Nature Sustainability  (January, 2019). They report that the intensifying scale of weather disasters worldwide is related to climate change, and is having a steady, unsettling impact on global food systems and markets. Extreme events are slamming home repeatedly on land and sea.

Consider the news from just the last week:

Five Straight Record-breaking Hot Years – Scientists at NASA reported that the Earth’s average surface temperature in 2018 was the fourth highest in nearly 140 years of record-keeping and a continuation of an unmistakable warming trend. The data confirms the fact that the five warmest years in recorded history have been the last five. Further, 18 of the 19 warmest years have occurred since 2001.

Gigantic Hole in Antarctica – A colossal cavity 2/3 the size of Manhattan has been discovered growing in Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, signaling rapid ice decay. Shocking the scientists who discovered it, the huge hole was found growing at an “explosive rate” according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Ice Shelf Tearing Apart – Also in Antarctica, the Brunt Ice Shelf is tearing itself apart and could create an iceberg the size of Delaware. Scientists say that will happen soon.

Himalayas Melting – At least a third of the ice in the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush will thaw this century as temperatures rise, disrupting river flows vital for growing crops from China to India, for about 1.65 billion human beings.

URGENT WAKE UP CALL
In recognition of the reality that climate change is underway now and already affecting billions of people across the globe, the Club of Rome has sounded an “urgent wake up call,” and published a global Climate Emergency Plan.

Based on their studies, the Club of Rome recognizes that climate change is the most pressing global challenge of our era, a force that constitutes an existential threat to humanity. To avoid further collapse of environmental, economic, social, and political systems, their plan sets out 10 priority actions, such as transforming energy systems, scaling-up technology, and reckoning with overpopulation. Finally, at number 8 on their list, they sound a call for acceleration of “regenerative land use policies.” For farms and food, the principal way they recommend for responding to their urgent call is to “adopt the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) recommendations for 100% Climate Smart Agriculture  (CSA).” That is a critically weak, inadequate, and flawed recommendation.

According to the FAO, climate-smart agriculture is an approach that helps to reorient agriculture to support development and ensure food security in a changing climate. This approach is widely embraced by multinational industrial ag and chemical corporations, but widely criticized otherwise. In September 2015, for example, more than 350 civil society organizations called on national and international decision makers to reject “the dangerous rhetoric of climate smart agriculture.”

While corporate CSA sounds promising, the civil society groups argued, it’s actually greenwashing. Corporate CSA lacks social and environmental safeguards, and fails to prioritize farmers’ voices, knowledge, and rights. It should not be confused with agroecology, which is a global movement toward clean, holistic agriculture, based on principles of ecology, food security, food sovereignty, and food justice.

Long before corporate “CSA” co-opted the acronym, CSA was well-known in agricultural circles as standing for Community Supported Agriculture. That CSA – the original CSA – is but one example of real agroecology. Even in the face of multinational corporate dominance, true agroecological initiatives are continuing to proliferate around the world because strengthening resilience against food shocks by enhancing local food security is not just common sense, it is an imperative requirement of our era.

DEEPLY ROOTED SOUL MOVEMENT
Right now in America and around the world millions of people are actively pursuing many thousands of agroecological pathways forward, from food coops and real CSA farms, to the manifold permutations of urban agriculture, Transition Towns, and countless other creative endeavors to build clean and just local economies, and clean, just local food systems. In the light of climate change realities, millions more of these initiatives are required.

As Gary Nabhan expressed it in the context of his new book Food from the Radical Center, the good food movement is not just an idea. It’s a “deeply rooted soul force at work from coast to coast and north to south.” The Good Food-Local Food movement – whether locally anchored in a CSA, a co-op, a farmers market, or some other form – is civic responsibility driven by acutely realistic economic, environmental, and health concerns.

These agroecological initiatives are some of the pathways I strove to map out in earlier books, such as The Call of the Land, and Awakening Community Intelligence: CSA Farms as 21st Century Cornerstones.

In the first book on the original CSA, Farms of Tomorrow, my co-author Trauger Groh made an eloquent argument. Farming, he reasoned, is not just a business like any other profit-making business, but rather a precondition of all human life on earth, and thus a precondition of all economic activity. “As such,” we emphasized in the book, “farming is everyone’s responsibility, and has likewise to be accessible for everyone. The problems of agriculture and the environment belong not just to farmers, but are the common problems of all people.”

That’s the call to action that I, and thousands of other people, are sounding in the hope that many millions of people, even billions of people, will see and will recognize what is happening, and then take swift, powerful, intelligent, and strategic action through households, communities, and nations to build food security and thereby also help mitigate the unfolding pattern of climate change.


The Way we farm is the key to Our Future

November 25, 2018

You can find Farms of Tomorrow Revisited on amazon.com 

 

The way we farm < >


For many reasons, heed The Call of the Land

November 14, 2018

As of Autumn 2018, I have re-named this blog. The call of the land is stronger than ever, of course, but there are other calls to heed, certainly including the calls arising from the many millions of storm-tossed, displaced, and hungry human beings and animals.

As we reckon with compromised land, air, and water, and as climate chaos intensifies, all of these calls merge into an overpowering chorus. Thus, in keeping with the theme of my latest book – Deep Agroecology: Farms and Food at a Cultural Crossroads (forthcoming in 2019) – I’m adding deep agroecology to this blog’s title. You’ll find a short essay on the subject of deep agroecology by clicking the Deep Call link on this blog’s menu bar.

In the meantime, until the new book is published in 2019, I’ve created a meme (above) to serve as a reminder that as I expressed in an earlier book, The Call of the Land, the call is exceedingly strong and insistent right now. It’s time to respond intelligently and energetically. As I see it, the creative agrarian and agroecological community forms that are emerging in America and around thew world are, for certain, our main chance.


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