Temporary Food

Modern, corporate-based industrial agriculture has many critics.  They range from scientists to some politicians, from citizens to some farmers.  Their main concern is that the very tenets that make the operation feasible from the agribusiness point-of-view create conditions that undermine its long-term prospects.   These tenets include 1) corporate efficiency (standardization, economy of scale, large cropping units, fewer farmers, more machines, etc.), 2) maximization of production and profit (intensification, fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, etc.), and 3) corporate control of farm inputs (proprietary seeds, genetically modified crop plants, mandatory customized packages of agrichemical inputs, etc.).

Some of the serious problems that arise from this approach to farming include soil erosion, water pollution, groundwater depletion, freshwater diversions, loss of crop plant diversity, depletion of fossil fuels, loss of local farming knowledge, carbon emissions, loss of natural habitats, and loss of biological diversity.  Please refer to the introduction in my book, Gardening:  An Ecological Approach. (especially page 13).

Humanity faces many challenges.  The “environmental fact sheet” below is offered to provide a sense of perspective about how the current human population of more than seven billion people is seven hundred times the size that could be supported without modern agriculture’s ruthless, profit-driven assault on the planet.

By the late 2050s, about 43 years from now, some demographers estimate a human population of ten billion, more than a thousand times the size that Nature could have sustainably supported. 

What to do:  Learn about the issues. Share what you know. Rethink the ways we grow our food and reform agriculture.  Support small sustainable farms.  Get to know one local grower.  Protect environmental quality.  Restore degraded land.  Conserve critical resources.  Grow a garden.  Share what you grow.


Environmental Commentary: Troublesome Linkages

While looking at this environmental graphic from my currently out-of-print 1992 FoxSense, I am struck by several observations.  Despite 20 years of efforts to address the troublesome linkages that are loaded in the "costs" wagon, most of the environmental impacts of industrialized agriculture have remained troublesome.

A few things have changed.  The sense of abundance depicted by the heavily burdened "crop production" wagon is tempered now by recent and regular weather-related crop disasters and by decreasing carryover grain stocks (our global food reserve).  Complicating the situation is a human population increase of almost two billion people (since 1992) and the increasing diversion of food crops (like corn) to biofuels. 

The "low commodity prices" issue on the "costs" wagon has changed dramatically, with grain prices more than doubling in the last few years.  Rising food prices affect the world's poor disproportionately more since they spend 50 -70% of their meager earnings on food, while people in wealthier countries typically spend 5-15% of their income on food.

You draw the cartoon for 20 years hence.

Troublesome Linkages from FoxSense

Troublesome Linkages from FoxSense