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 Science Classroom: Nature as Model

In an essay published in the Winter 2012-2013 issue of Edible Wasatch I attempt to outline the most fundamental of Nature's phenomena, processes, and emergent properties that support life on Earth. What follows are two paragraphs from that essay that explain one of the three phenomena. 

"Sun", a page from Fred Montague's hand-drawn artist book,  Garden Grace . © Fred Montague

"Sun", a page from Fred Montague's hand-drawn artist book, Garden Grace. © Fred Montague

"The first is sunlight.  It warms the Earth, evaporates water, causes winds, and powers, directly or indirectly, almost all of us Earth organisms. This energy is free, reliable, and reasonably well-distributed over most of the planet's surface.  Solar power defined our development as a species. And despite our obsession with all sorts of things to burn, react or blow up for bursts of energy (to provide speed, convenience, comfort, or thrills), sunlight still makes up about 99% of all of the energy that flows through the Earth's natural and human-built systems.  Nature's model for sustainability is sunshine-- the same sunshine that spills from the sky over the garden, even in winter."

"With respect to energy in general, and solar radiation in particular, the Earth is an open system.  Energy flows. On balance, all of the energy flowing into the Earth-atmosphere system must rather quickly be re-radiated into space, or else the Earth's temperature will increase.  For stability, 'energy in' must equal 'energy out.' If we impede the flow of heat energy away from the Earth (by enhancing the atmosphere's 'greenhouse effect'), then some of the re-radiated energy (heat) is retained, and the planet warms.  If you've ever been in a closed greenhouse on a summer's day, you know what I'm talking about.  Nature's model with respect to a greenhouse or to the Earth: maintain the normal energy flow to maintain the normal temperature. And in most cases-- especially where organisms or societies are adapted to 'normal,' normal is better than abnormal."  

Read the entire essay at www.edibleWasatch.com