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.

 

 

 

 


Solve these mysteries. Enlighten yourself.

August 1, 2019

It’s up to you. It’s up to me. It’s up to everyone who has a stake in a stable climate, ample food and fiber, and shelter from the storms — the increasingly savage storms that are Earth’s new normal. We’ve got some mysteries to unravel.

If you are depending on the life-support basics listed above, then answer this: Why did the US Agriculture Department (USDA) attempt to bury America’s action plan for conducting science into climate change so that farmers could be empowered with facts to respond wisely to what’s happening in the world?

The critical 33-page USDA action plan, paid for with our tax dollars, was stuffed somewhere in a bureaucratic closet never to be allowed into public light of day. But thanks to a courageous whistleblower and reporter, the plan was leaked to Politico. As plainly stated, the plan outlines how scientific research can help farmers to understand, to adapt to, and to minimize the increasingly disruptive impact of climate change.

I must concede that “why did the USDA bury the report?” is a dull question to frame as a mystery. At least part of the answer is as plain and pitiful as a flooded farm field…

Read the rest of my blog post on Mother Earth News.

 

 

 


Farms, Food, Climate, and Our Will to Change

April 27, 2019

The way we tend the land that produces our food, and the way we eat, are the key factors in our physical, moral, and spiritual survival and evolution.

My recognition of this fundamental fact is, of course, shared by many people. Among those who see this reality, and who can give the situation eloquent expression, is Jean-Paul Courtens of Roxbury Farm in Kinderhook, NY.

As it happens, CSA and biodynamic farmer Courtens has recently become a grandfather. He mentioned that happy fact publicly in March when he spoke at Dartmouth College as part of the Real Organic Project’s symposium. And then he dug deep into the subject…

A video of his 15-minute talk is available through my full blog on this topic at Mother Earth News. I highly recommend watching and learning…


Climate Change and the Power of Community

October 7, 2015

I wrote out a quick question on a slip of paper, and sent it on to the moderator last night as Bill McKibben of 350.org finished his lecture for the E.N.Thompson Forum in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Bill McKibben. Image from UBC via Creative Commons.

Bill McKibben. Image from UBC via Creative Commons.

“What about the role of industrial agriculture in climate change?” I wrote. A few minutes later the moderator posed the question to McKibben, who had a ready answer.

Industrial agriculture is a factor in global warming, he said, contributing about 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. “That needs to change,” he added.

McKibben said that all through the Holocene Epoch (the last 12,00 years) we human beings have been able to count on the basic stability of habitable conditions that allow agriculture. There have always been good years and bad years in one place or another, but the basic pattern has been stable.

“We can’t count on that any more,” McKibben said. “Climate change is biting harder and faster than we thought…It’s going to impact our ability to grow food.”

As McKibben was speaking the waters were still rising in the epic South Carolina flood catastrophe brought on by the whiplash of Hurricane Joaquin, and 2015 was decidedly on track to be the hottest year in recorded history.

“The disaster in South Carolina is off the charts,” he said, “but that kind of stuff is happening somewhere in the world every day now. And we are just getting started…We’re not going to stop global warming. It’s too late for that. But if we act fast enough and decisively enough, we may slow it enough to survive.”

McKibben said this is a beautiful moment for agriculture because for the first time in 150 years the number of farms is going up, not down. He commented that a lot of young people are seeing that the vocation of sustainable farming can help them address climate change by reducing ag emissions through agroecological approaches and improving the soil health so that it absorbs CO2.

In concluding his lecture McKibben observed that for years we have emphasized the importance of taking individual actions – such as using energy efficient light bulbs, riding bikes, and installing solar panels – as a way of countering climate change. “But that’s not going to do it,” he said. “It’s just not enough to stop climate change. Climate change causes are structural and systemic, and now pose the greatest threat of all time to human life.”

tpHe said climate change is requiring us to come together in a movement. “The power of community is the theme of the year ahead…Community is one of the best manifestations of being a human being. We are social creatures. We derive a great deal of satisfaction in working with each other toward a common end.”

McKibben and 350.org will be in Paris this December with a massive community of activists working toward a common end by sending a message to the world governments meeting for COP21 to try to strike a new global climate agreement. That message will be, “make this a turning point.”

In the aftermath of McKibben’s lecture, no doubt because it is the central topic commanding my attention these days, I saw again how important Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) can be in the context of climate change. CSA creates pathways for all manner and shapes of communities to apply themselves in support of the kind of agroecological healing of the land that will, indeed, make this a turning point. It’s time for Awakening Community Intelligence.


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