My new book Deep Agroecology: Farms, Food, and Our Future is available globally through amazon.com
We will define our destiny by the ways we farm, and the ways we eat.
Back in the 1980s, perhaps earlier, Trauger Groh articulated that foundational idea. An agrarian adept and a CSA farm pioneer, Trauger (1932-2016) was my coauthor for both Farms of Tomorrow, and Farms of Tomorrow Revisited. His ideas made an enduring impression on me, and many others.
I felt then and I feel today that the point is irrefutable. Farms and food are the foundation of our corrupted present. They also embody the practical promise of a wholly balanced and healthy destiny on earth for human beings, animals, and plants.
Because we are at a critical stage of our group life on Earth, I wanted to emphasize this foundational idea again. That’s one key reason that motivated me to write another book, Deep Agroecology: Farms, Food, and Our Future.
After over 40 years of engagement with farms, food, and the escalating climate crisis, I regard agroecology as our best set of tools for tending land and animals, for feeding ourselves wisely, and for making an intelligent, strategic effort to stabilize the deteriorating environment…
The rest of my blog is live now at Mother Earth News.
“Agroecology is the future of farming, and its principles cannot be practiced soon enough. Agroecology is a major global force or movement that’s going to be gaining recognition and increasing credibility.” —John Ikerd, agricultural economist
As I came to appreciate while learning about agroecology, the subject has depth, breadth, and sophistication. Agroecology offers a penetrating critique of the status quo for farms and food, and also a far-reaching, environmentally enlightened, justice-based vision of better ways to care for land, plants, animals, and people.
Rather than a mechanistic formula for domination of nature to produce profits for a small group of investors, the core ideas of agroecology arise naturally from living, rhythmic, biological appreciation of the world and the life that inhabits the world. Consequently, the global movement toward agroecology has the capacity to recognize and to employ systems that bring human needs into right relation with the needs of the natural world.
As University of Nebraska-Lincoln Professor Charles A Francis noted in Agroecology: The Ecology of Food Systems, food systems are vast and fragile. They exist in the multiple and interacting matrices of our increasingly complex national and global cultures.
Agroecology recognizes farms as ecosystems embedded in broader landscapes and social settings, with which they interact continually and significantly.
By way of introduction Francis writes: “We define agroecology as the integrative study of the ecology of the entire food system, encompassing ecological, economic, and social dimensions.”
In consilience (or convergence) these many disciplines yield vantage points for studying the food system, for developing a broader set of criteria for evaluation beyond monetary profitability, and for transforming the farm and food system in a manifestly healthy way.
Agroecology is an umbrella concept that has been refined in recent decades, developed, and made ready for wide global implementation. Now is the time. Agroecology embraces organics, biodynamics, permaculture, urban ag, and a host of other sustainable, forward-looking initiatives grounded in justice for people, animals, and the land from which we all draw our sustenance.
This is new territory for many, but it’s natural territory. Farmers cannot enter this territory successfully alone, though. They must be accompanied in various purposeful ways by the communities and households who receive their bounty and who take it into their bodies.
My intention in writing a new book on the topic — Deep Agroecology: Farms, Food, and Our Future — is to explain to a general audience and to students what agroecology already is, and to embed the concepts and practices more purposefully in the public mind. At the same time I saw an opportunity in writing to reach deep into our native roots in the Americas, as well as to add emphasis to subtle dimensions of agroecology, realms of critical mystery.
Another motivation for writing Deep Agroecology was to again make available, as many communicators have done through the millennia, a reminder that inspiriting yourself and then caring actively for the Earth, the sustenance we derive from it, and the communities we are part of, is a high, noble, and heroic calling. It’s especially gallant at this juncture of time and circumstance.
… Based on the multitude of hard realities engendered by corporate chemical agriculture, it’s time to uproot the “get big or get out” farm slogans of Earl Butz and Sonny Perdue, and to supplant those damning words with something both wise and realistic: “Go agroecological or go extinct” …
The rest of my latest blog post is now live on Mother Earth News.
One sultry September about four decades ago, after having been prepared for the quest by true and knowledgeable friends, I sat on a New Hampshire mountaintop for four days and four nights.
Setting out on this first, formal quest, I held wild hopes for metaphysical marvels: clouds parting, maybe, angel voices, maybe, messengers arriving from celestial realms to deliver golden scrolls of wisdom, maybe. Make it so! Something spectacular!
But nothing mysterious or majestic happened at all. As far as I could tell, over those four sunsets and sunrises there was not as much as a quirk in the quantum field. Not that first year.
But that first time something key did unfold…
The rest of my blog post is live now at Mother Earth News.
Deep Agroecology now available for pre-order
Publication date August 1, 2019
As of today – Earth Day 2019 – my new book Deep Agroecology: Farms, Food, and Our Future is available for pre-order.
According with the spirit of Earth Day, we are publishing Deep Agroecology in service to the perennial ideals of healthy, and fulfilled lives for one and all on our home planet, Earth.
A quarter of a century ago, I had the privilege of serving as National Coordinator for Earth Day USA. I partnered with the Seventh Generation Fund to help bring the Council Circles project to hundreds of North American communities. This year I’m happy to mark the day with announcement of a book that once again brings a council circle of wise voices together to offer native and agrarian wisdom ways forward for human beings and for our earth.
The way we tend the land that produces our food, and the way we eat, are the key factors in our physical, moral, and spiritual survival and development in this tumultuous era.
Elizabeth Wolf, my wife and partner, has played an indispensable role in bringing this book to life in a powerful and elegant way. I’ve dedicated the work to her, with love and appreciation.
EBOOK COPY – You may pre-order the eBook version of Deep Agroecology now at this link. Please note that the actual publication and shipping date is August 1, 2019.
SIGNED COPY – August 1 is also the publication date for the print edition. If you’d like to pre-order a copy of the print edition of Deep Agroecology personally inscribed to you by the author, please click on the Buy Now link below, which will take you to PayPal. The cost of the signed print book is $25 plus tax, inclusive of handling and shipping.
Imagine the vast GMO-glyphosate soybean fields of America’s Heartland transformed into a perennial forest with swarms of hazelnut trees, deeply-rooted and thick as lilac bushes, fourteen feet tall, and laden heavy with oil-rich nuts that have a 101 uses.
Imagine the annual harvest of hazelnuts fulfilling a cornucopia of needs: for animal feed, for cooking oil, for fuel, for human food – and for many of the purposes and functions now fulfilled by soy.
How different the landscape. How changed the land itself, and all the creatures which share life upon the land. How profoundly different the environmental impact.
…The rest of my blog on the Million Hazelnut Campaign is at this link on Mother Earth News.
As of this month I have again started blogging for Mother Earth News, the original guide to living wisely upon the earth. It’s good to be back after having turned my attention to book writing for the last couple of years. There’s lots to blog about.
My first blog for Mother is titled Do Not Hit the Snooze Button. It’s about the thousands of wake-up calls that scientists, environmentalists, and nature itself have been ringing out for the last several decades. That ringing is deafening right now, as detailed in the blog. “As scientists from NASA, NOAA, and the UN worded it in January 2019, “We’re no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future. It’s here. It’s now.”
In the context of our turbulent reality, the blog post points out that the sustainable and local food movements are keenly shrewd and resourceful responses that need to be scaled up massively now. The threat that links all these positive, proactive responses are agroecology and deep agroecology. You can read my blog for Mother Earth News here.
Much more to come…
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 is an approach 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.
Last night at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe we heard Pulitzer Prize winning author Elizabeth Kolbert speak about her book, The Sixth Extinction. As expected, the realities she presented were super sobering. She named the five previous extinctions that have occurred on Earth, and their causes. Then she talked at length about the extinction currently well underway, an unprecedented biological annihilation that we human beings are wreaking upon our home planet. “This time,” Kolbert said, “we are the asteroids.”