My video conversation with Brooke Medicine Eagle about The Call of the Land and the accompanying slide show, is freely available now. To learn more about deep agroecology and the possibilities for our food and farms, follow this link.
By Steven McFadden
The U.S. Ambassador to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been using his public office to denounce the clean, sustainable, and socially just initiatives of agroecology while defending the toxic chemicals and processes of industrial agriculture
As detailed in The Hagstrom Report, during a speech last February at the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum, FAO Ambassador Kip E. Tom complained about the agroecology movement for rejecting synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, and also genetically modified organisms (GMOs)…
…He’s correct about agroecology not sharing his core values and assumptions. The production and profit values of multinational ag and chemical corporations have contributed to profound imbalances in the environment, in world climate, and in the health and welfare of human beings and farmed animals. The corporate industrial ag food system that Tom defends has remained determinedly oblivious to the ruination of the sources, and to the chaos of the climate…
The rest of the story is at Mother Earth News.
I’m pleased to share this press release from my publisher (and wife), Liz Wolf of Light and Sound Press:
Lincoln, Nebraska, October 8, 2020—Independent journalist Steven McFadden was named a winner of the 2020 National Indie Excellence Awards (NIEA) for Deep Agroecology: Farms, Food, and Our Future.
Deep Agroecology won the top honor in NIEA’s Environmental category and was named a finalist in the Green Living category. The book, the author’s fifteenth, was published in 2019 by Light and Sound Press.
NIEA was established in 2005 to promote excellence in independent and small-press publishing. Award entrants are judged by book industry experts on the basis of superior content and presentation in the final published product.
“Farms and food are foundational for human society,” McFadden notes. “Right now our civilization is undergoing massive upheaval—from climate chaos and environmental destruction to social injustice, economic uncertainty, and a global pandemic. We must build a new foundation, and that imperative task requires a vision.”
The book offers a vision that weaves together the insights of agrarian science, social justice, indigenous wisdom, quantum physics, and ancient spiritual traditions.
The term “agroecology,” used widely internationally, refers to ecological farming and food processing systems such as organics, biodynamics, and regenerative systems. McFadden’s “deep agroecology” also acknowledges subtle dimensions of light, energy, and spirit.
McFadden writes: “When we are respectfully aware and cooperating intelligently with both gross and subtle life forces to provide food, fiber, and beauty, we are practicing deep agroecology.”
Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet and cofounder of Food First, wrote of the book: “Thank you, Steven McFadden, for rich and moving clarity as you weave for us the many threads of deep agroecology. The vision you capture is not a choice, for in this dire moment for our Earth, it is life’s only possibility forward.”
The New England native is a graduate of Boston University’s journalism program. A lifelong champion of organic and regenerative agriculture, McFadden has written about farming, food, the environment, and North American wisdom teachings for over 40 years as a journalist, author, and blogger.
He is the co-author, with the late Trauger Groh, of the first two books on CSA (community-supported agriculture): Farms of Tomorrow (1990) and Farms of Tomorrow Revisited (1998). He is the author of The Call of the Land: An Agrarian Primer for the 21st Century; Odyssey of the 8th Fire, an online chronicle of a 1995 pilgrimage across the U.S.; and over a dozen other nonfiction titles.
We will be publishing my new book over the course of Summer 2019. To learn more, follow this link to my Chiron Communications website.
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 esteemed British medical journal The Lancet has released two commission reports emphasizing the pivotal role that farms and food play in deteriorating human and environmental health, as well as in the mounting chaos of climate change.
So dire is our current state, the reports argue, that our ongoing survival and welfare as we live on earth requires a radical transformation of the farm and food systems. It will take mass public interest, activity, and direct support to make that happen.
The commissions warned explicitly that this essential transformation will require that consumers demand and pay for food that is raised and distributed in new ways. What you choose to eat, and the way your food is grown, have a direct impact on personal and global health. Our individual choices collectively create the rapidly deteriorating condition of our public health and the earth environment that sustains us. Those are not opinions or illusions, but rather scientific realities which are once again substantiated in these two commission studies.
The two Lancet commission reports were published separately in January, 2019. The first report, Food in the Anthropocene, was authored by 37 scientists from around the world, the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems. The second report was titled The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition and Climate Change: The Lancet Commission Report. That commission report was researched and written by 26 experts from 14 countries.
According to The Global Syndemic report, human beings are actively under threat from three global pandemics, all of them directly linked to the way we eat. Through their operations ‘Big Ag & Food’ corporations are driving global epidemics in obesity, undernutrition, and climate change. All of them threaten human beings. But their interactions create a hazardous impact greater than the sum of one, or two, or more afflictions. In combination, the three pandemics establish a global syndemic. That’s a set of linked health problems involving two or more afflictions that interact synergistically to drive conditions into a danger zone.
The researchers noted that ‘Big Food’ companies, driven by profit and heedless economic expansion, are through their actions inciting this syndemic. Industrial farm operations drive greenhouse gas omissions; meanwhile, paradoxically, people around the world are stricken by undernutrition, obesity, and a host of other diet and environment-related diseases.
The syndemic commission found that pandemics of malnutrition and obesity interact with climate change in a feedback loop. Together they represent an existential threat to humans and the planet. The modern western diet, they wrote, has become highly damaging, and needs a complete overhaul if we are to avoid ecological catastrophe. We need to cut global meat consumption in half, and more than double the volume of whole grains, pulses, nuts, fruit and vegetables we eat, according to the commission.
In conclusion, the syndemic commission report noted that the evidence that our diets are the largest cause of climate change and biodiversity loss is now overwhelming.
Meanwhile, also in the month of January, 2019, the 37 scientists of the separate EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems in 2019 authored their landmark publication, Food in the Anthropocene. These scientists concluded that food is the single strongest lever to improve human health and environmental sustainability.
Food systems have potential to dramatically increase environmental sustainability, they wrote, and to nurture and to improve human health. Our current food systems, however, are fouling ecosystems, and accentuating climate change. Overall the food system is the single largest driver of environmental degradation.
Further, as the commission reported, unhealthy diets now pose a greater risk to morbidity and mortality than unsafe sex, alcohol, drug, and tobacco use combined. Thus, an immense challenge facing humanity is to provide a growing world population with healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Food in the Antropocene commission called for a radical transformation of the global food system. Individual action won’t be enough. We need to act as individuals, and then also actively cooperate on community, national, and global approaches and systems.
deep agroecology, #deepagroecology, deep agroecology, #deepagroecology,