This quote from Homer’s Odyssey felt to me to be the right epigram for the conclusion of my freely available, epic, nonfiction saga: Odyssey of the 8th Fire.
The precautionary principle is a simple, common-sense ethical guideline that is a core part of ecology and agroecology. It’s so fundamental to sustainability, and so uncommon in our government today, that it’s worth reaffirming.
The precautionary principle holds that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment that sustains our life, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those promoting the product or the action…
…We’d be wise to bypass government failure to act, and do the uncommon thing, as the late humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935) put it: act with common sense. Act personally, swiftly, and strategically. There are a 1,001 things individuals, families, neighborhoods, and communities can do. Get your search engine going, and then act. The vast archives of Mother Earth News, and the Pathways resource page open up some of the possibilities…
The rest of my blog post is available on Mother Earth News.
Note: My new book is set for publication November 1, 2019
Farms, Food and Our Future
It’s up to you. It’s up to me. It’s up to everyone who has a stake in a stable climate, ample food and fiber, and shelter from the storms — the increasingly savage storms that are Earth’s new normal. We’ve got some mysteries to unravel.
If you are depending on the life-support basics listed above, then answer this: Why did the US Agriculture Department (USDA) attempt to bury America’s action plan for conducting science into climate change so that farmers could be empowered with facts to respond wisely to what’s happening in the world?
The critical 33-page USDA action plan, paid for with our tax dollars, was stuffed somewhere in a bureaucratic closet never to be allowed into public light of day. But thanks to a courageous whistleblower and reporter, the plan was leaked to Politico. As plainly stated, the plan outlines how scientific research can help farmers to understand, to adapt to, and to minimize the increasingly disruptive impact of climate change.
I must concede that “why did the USDA bury the report?” is a dull question to frame as a mystery. At least part of the answer is as plain and pitiful as a flooded farm field…
Read the rest of my blog post on Mother Earth News.
In early July, just as the United Nations (UN) was releasing stun-level, scientific reports about climate changes, food disruptions, and accelerated extinctions, meteorologists reported that the preceding month, June 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. They also reported that for the first time ever in recorded history temperatures in Anchorage, Alaska soared into the 90s, while rising up to 115 degrees F in Paris, France.
As baldly stated in one of the UN reports from the Human Rights Office, if we maintain our economic and agricultural course we are headed for deeper disaster. Going forward on a status quo pathway will have a mighty impact not just on some remote places featured on TV news, but on our backyards, pantries, refrigerators, supermarkets, and our overall way of life. We are, as the report put it, “sleepwalking into catastrophe.”
Note well these parts of the report: Climate change also threatens basic human rights, and democracy itself. Within the next 10 years or so, the report states, climate change will cast tens of millions more human beings into poverty, hunger, and displacement from their homelands…
…Agroecology: A Righteous Response
Although mass media paid minimal attention, on July 5, 2019 The UN’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS) released a notable report, Agroecological and other innovative approaches for sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and nutrition.
The CFS report offers detail on the global food system, which they regard as perched precariously at a crossroads. The report concludes that the food system needs a profound transformation at all levels, including the local level. We face complex, “multidimensional challenges…
…In a paper published in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community, Professor William E. Rees writes: “Based on current trends, the most food-secure populations by the second half of the 21st century will be those populations that have deliberately chosen and planned to re-localize as much of their own food systems as possible.”
My complete blog post is 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.
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.
Our classic book Farms of Tomorrow Revisited continues to support the development of healthy farm & food community linkages.
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.”