Episode 33: Factory Farming, Climate Change, Seed Saving, Soil Carbon & Ancient Barley.

This is the World Organic News Podcast for the week ending 19th of September 2016.

Jon Moore reporting!

This week we focus on Climate Change. The blog truth-out.org has a post on the evils of factory farming entitled: Time to Drive Factory-Farmed Food Off the Market. Not only do they point out the need for this form of industrialised production to end, they point out to a way forward:

Quote:

Millions of Americans are rejecting Big Food’s tainted fare, voting with their consumer dollars for healthier, humane, environmental- and climate-friendly foods and products. Our job as consumer advocates is to move organic and regenerative food and farming, including meat, dairy and eggs, from being a niche market to being the dominant force in US and world agriculture. 

End Quote

They way forward is clear. Shortening supply chains, removing, petrochemicals from that supply chain alone will bring massive climate change benefits. The idea and I might add, the reality of shipping Californian oranges across the Pacific to Australia where they are sold at lower prices than fruit grown locally points to the distortions within the system. The highly polluting, diesel used in shipping is reason alone to end this practice. 

The post points to the development of organic and regenerative agriculture as the mainstream production method would remove these distortions. On this distortion, fracking, the process of pumping unknown chemicals into the bedrock to release formally trapped fossil fuels continues to drive the price of oil down which in turn supports the supply chain distortions. If add into the equation, the loss of water quality, think tap water which ignites in the presence of flame, the earthquakes and who knows what else this production method creates and it is time to move from oil based agriculture.

To further this argument, and the point that we have the power to effect change the blog ediblearia  (edible aria) posted a video entitled Unbroken Ground—Revolutions Start From the Bottom. We have the power to effect change when we consciously choose where we spend our food dollars. The major supermarket duopoly here in Australia has markedly increased their organic product range in the last ten years. This is a first step. Once people learn the power of their cash, they can first overthrow the current system and secondly overgrow that system. The message we have been sold since at least the 1960s is that growing your own food places you in the same strata as “subsistence” peasants in the third world. The alternative narrative, and this is the one I’m pushing, is growing your food brings independence, freedom from taxation, ownership of health and is a first step to personal debt reduction. This is as far from the “struggling hand to mouth peasant” idea as it is possible to be.

This dichotomy goes back a long way, especially in the Western World. The democratic freeman, and it was only men who were free then, of the Athenian democracy is in contrast to the Persian “slave” who worked the Monarch’s soil for a bare existence. 

Since the Industrial revolution the vast majority of people have looked upon the city, the factory and abandonment of the fields as a way to prosperity. Once we realise this was nothing but a trap and that we can grow our own food, eat well, live well and do not require debt servitude to be a “citizen”, change is possible. In fact, it’s time we seized back the word citizen and dump the descriptor: consumer.

So, what’s to be done? The blog The New Economy raises the idea that Our best shot at cooling the planet might be right under our feet.

And I quote:

It’s getting hot out there. Every one of the past 14 months has broken the global temperature record. Ice cover in the Arctic sea just hit a new low, at 525,000 square miles less than normal. And apparently we’re not doing much to stop it: according to Professor Kevin Anderson, one of Britain’s leading climate scientists, we’ve already blown our chances of keeping global warming below the “safe” threshold of 1.5 degrees.

End quote

The post goes on to describe the danger of the situation we find ourselves but then suggests:

Quote

Soil is the second biggest reservoir of carbon on the planet, next to the oceans. It holds four times more carbon than all the plants and trees in the world. But human activity like deforestation and industrial farming – with its intensive ploughing, monoculture and heavy use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides – is ruining our soils at breakneck speed, killing the organic materials that they contain. Now 40% of agricultural soil is classed as “degraded” or “seriously degraded”. In fact, industrial farming has so damaged our soils that a third of the world’s farmland has been destroyed in the past four decades.

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Just let that sink in for a moment…

We can effect change, we can do it quickly and each and everyone one of us has the power to push the system in the direction which will heal the biosphere. Never forget, we too are part of that biosphere.

The ways and means of moving from industrialised, fossil fuel driven agriculture are before us: Permaculture, Natural Farming, Grow Biointensive and probably other systems now being done but yet to be written down. 

I’ll include a link to a book written in late nineteenth century in New Jersey entitled: Ten Acres Enough. This is a great starting point as it was written just before the introduction of more widespread use of artificial manures as the book refers to them. 

On a practical level the blog Pajamas, Books, and Chickens has a great post: On Seed Saving. To give us a greater safety net for the transition to regenerative agriculture, one of the tools we need is a broadly based set of open pollinated seed resources. Whilst I have discussed seed banks back in episode 2 and, in particular, the work of Vavilov, we all need to save as many seeds of as many varieties as we can. Many varieties have been lost forever with the Green Revolution as hybridised rice seeds and their accompanying pesticides and herbicides, were foisted on farmers and led to the loss of locally adapted varieties. Remember seed saving is insurance.

We are fortunate to able to access even older genomes and this is an appropriate use of the technology available to us. The blog Ancientfoods describes the sequencing of 6000 year old barley grains. Possibly they are better suited to non chemical production, possibly they contain resistance to rust. We can’t be sure. What we can be sure of though, is once a variety is gone, we will never know.

The take home message for today? Choose where you spend your cash. It sends signals to producers and save open pollinated seeds like your life depends upon it because it just might!

And that brings us to the end of this week’s podcast.

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Any suggestions, feedback or criticisms of the podcast or blog are most welcome. email me at podcast@worldorganicnews.com.

Thank you for listening and I’ll be back in a week.

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