Climate Activists Attacking Fertiliser Use, Mass Produced Food

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Essay by Eric Worrall

“… absent severe reductions in fossil fuel emissions, some places will likely have to give up farming entirely in the near future. …”

Industrial Farming Causes Climate Change. The ‘Slow Food’ Movement Wants to Stop It


Abiennial celebration of international small-scale farmers, breeders, fishers, and food producers just wrapped up in Turin, Italy. Convened by the Slow Food movement, one phrase in particular dominated the Terra Madre Salone del Gusto festival’s long roster of panel discussions and workshops: “Food is the cause of the environmental crisis, but it can also be the solution.”

Food production contributes approximately 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions, making farmers both contributors to, and victims of, climate change. But it doesn’t have to be that way, say proponents of Slow Food, a movement started in Italy 36 years ago that promotes “good, clean and fair food” along with a stronger connection between people and the food they eat. Adopting climate-smart farming practices, and taking a more flexible approach to what is farmed where, will make food production more resilient in the face of climate change. But even then, it may not be enough—absent severe reductions in fossil fuel emissions, some places will likely have to give up farming entirely in the near future.

Improving Resilience

Conventional agriculture seeks to maximize production via large scale farms that rely on monocrops fed by greenhouse gas-emitting fertilizers, protected by biodiversity-damaging pesticides and harvested by fossil fuel-spewing combines and tractors. Industrial farming may be able to produce food cheaply, but it comes with a great environmental cost, says Edward Mukiibi, Slow Food’s new president. The pursuit of profit above all else has resulted in soils so stripped of their nutrients that farmers have no choice but to add increasing amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to maintain production in a downward spiral of additive addiction.

But by focusing on soil health—by letting fields lie fallow, rotating crops, planting hedgerows, or letting cattle churn up the earth and fertilize it with their droppings, among other practices—farmers can improve the quality of their crops, with the added benefit of increased biodiversity and carbon sequestration. That’s the way smallholders used to farm, back when crops were destined for the farmer’s kitchen as much as for the market. These days the practice is called agroecology or regenerative farming, but it’s what Slow Food has been advocating for decades.

Aryn Baker is Time Magazine’s senior international climate and environment correspondent.

Wasn’t the Sri Lankan food catastrophe enough of a lesson on our absolute need for modern agriculture and chemical fertiliser? I used to buy Time Magazine at least a few times per year, the stories were interesting, before they went all in and embraced climate misanthropy.

I have no problem with boutique farms producing delicious food using palaeolithic agricultural techniques for wealthy customers. I’m happy to buy the occasional slice of delicious artisan cheese, or tomatoes or olives grown with love, but it would devastate my finances to have to live off such produce full time. A lot of people simply wouldn’t be able to afford to eat at all.

To feed the world of today we need agricultural mass production, fossil fuel and chemicals, not ignorant theories and disastrous policy choices.

I’ll be at CPAC Australia in Sydney this Saturday and Sunday – I look forward to meeting some of you in person.





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