Food, Farms, Forests, and Fracking: Connecting the Dots

Picture: Zarateman (CC)

Picture: Zarateman (CC)

Ronnie Cummins and Zack Kaldveer write at Common Dreams:

If ever there was a time for activist networks and the body politic to cooperate and unite forces, it’s now. Global warming, driven in large part by the reckless business-as-usual practices of multi-billion-dollar fossil fuel and agribusiness corporations, has brought us to the brink of a global calamity.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution in the atmosphere has now reached 400 ppm of carbon dioxide (CO2), the highest level since our hunter and gatherer ancestors evolved 200,000 years ago. We are now facing, even though millions are still in denial, the most serious existential threat that humans have ever encountered. Through ignorance and greed, through unsustainable land use and abuse, through reckless deforestation, through unsustainable food, farming and ranching practices, and through overconsumption of fossil fuels, we have overloaded the atmosphere with dangerous levels of greenhouse gases: CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and black soot.

If we look back 150 years, before the advent of modern energy-intensive agriculture, the industrial revolution, desertification and massive deforestation, there was once twice as much carbon matter or CO2 sequestered in the soil as there is right now. So where is this carbon that used to be in our soils, forests, farmlands, grasslands and wetlands? An alarming amount of GHG is up in our atmosphere right now, heating up the planet, melting the polar icecaps, and disrupting the traditional climate patterns that have enabled modern agricultural (post hunter-gatherer) civilizations to raise food, obtain water, and survive over the past 10,000 years.

Besides overloading the atmosphere, a dangerous portion of this GHG pollution has supersaturated the oceans, causing elevated temperatures and acidity to kill off coral reefs and plankton, in effect undermining the entire web of marine life. Scientists warn that these continued business-as-usual practices will, once atmospheric GHG pollution rises to 450 ppm and above, detonate runaway global warming and literally exterminate most life on earth.

So why is there 50-80 percent less carbon naturally sequestered in the plants, trees and soil relative to 150 years ago? Why are levels of methane (50-100 times more damaging per unit than CO2) and nitrous oxide (200 times more climate-disrupting per unit than CO2) steadily increasing? For starters, farmers and corporate agribusiness have ploughed up billions of acres of prairies and rangelands, destroying the deep-rooted perennial prairie grasses that sequestered billions of tons of greenhouse gases. In addition, in North America, European settlers slaughtered the vast herds of buffalo, 60 million animals, whose traditional migratory “mob” grazing preserved and maintained the perennial grasses. “Modern” agriculurists planted vast monocrops of grain and cotton, most often leaving the land completely bare between harvests. We drained the natural wetlands. Starting after the Second World War and accelerating ever since, we have allowed farmers to pour billions of tons of chemical fertilizer (the major source of nitrous oxide pollution) and pesticides on the soil, killing its natural capacity to stimulate plant growth and sequester carbon. Last but not least, we have allowed giant timber companies and now agribusiness multinationals to whack down a large portion of the world’s forests, especially the tropical rainforests, the lungs of the planet.

A continuation of industrial farming, ranching and forestry practices is a recipe for disaster, not only for humans but for every living organism. It’s not just the coal plants heating up the planet and creating climate chaos. It’s not just the gas-guzzling cars. It’s not just our poorly designed and badly insulated buildings and our overuse of heating systems, electrical appliances and air conditioning. Severe climate change is a direct result of what we eat every day and how we farm and confine and feed farm animals. We’ve got to get back to the traditional ways of organic farming, ranching, animal husbandry, cooking, and eating, and launch a global crash program of reforestation if want not just our children and grandchildren, but our species to survive.

Powerful, potentially world-changing grassroots movements are still for the most part working separately. If we want to solve the climate crisis, anti-GMO consumers, anti-fracking forces, the climate movement, alternative food and farming activists, animal welfare advocates, forest, wildlife and marine life conservationists, and the natural health community must connect the dots between our related issues. We must unite and create a powerful synergy between our public education and campaign efforts. Before it’s too late.

Read more here.

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  • Simon Valentine

    thank you G.G.

    a technology paradigm shift is in order
    requisitioning “find a new way to feed people en masse”

    land must return to grass and trees
    there is not enough land to sustain population as-is given current methods of “fancy natural farming”

    A) get people off the planet into a viable exo-terrestrial habitat
    B) advance technology scenario “fancy natural farming”
    C) advance climate-change reversal research and development
    D) (in lieu with C) advance terraforming technology
    E) advance interstellar technology
    F) survive
    G) sociopolitical awareness movement to whack-a-mole on climate violat[ors, ions]

    *edit*
    both masters and slaves
    freeloaders and legits
    will not survive ‘the single unit’

  • BuzzCoastin

    anyone who comments on this
    who is not growing at least some of their food
    should shut the F up and do something

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