“The future of food – if the biosphere and her humanity are to be sustained – is local, organic, permaculture exchanged without intermediaries.” – Dr. Glen Barry
The global environment is collapsing and dying. For too long we have lived our lives as if nature doesn’t matter and have failed to embrace an ecology ethic. We have treated water, air, land, and oceans as resources to be plundered and as waste dumps. Nothing grows forever – certainly not economies on the back of finite ecological systems – and mass psychosis pretending infinite growth is possible is a death wish.
Such ecological imprudence is now catching up with us, threatening our very daily bread.
Climate change is having profound impacts upon agricultural systems including a lack of regular seasonality. That is, the boundaries between cold and warm, and dry and wet, periods have become highly variable. In much of the world this makes it difficult to know when to grow your food. Knowing when to plant and when to harvest is becoming extremely problematic and this aseasonality is decreasing yields. This climate weirding is the direct result of our haphazard changing of atmospheric chemistry.
Climate change is making it more difficult to grow food the way we have been. Huge swathes of farmland are faced by droughts and floods. Temperate region’s lack of cold weather and snow has meant an increase in agricultural pests. Similarly, factory animal agriculture and fisheries are being hammered from disease, parasites, and decreased feed stocks brought on by abrupt climate change.
Shifting seasonality, and at times even a lack of seasonality, simply exacerbate problems associated with industrial farming. Modern agriculture consumes massive amounts of fossil fuels which cause both warming and are finite. Factory animal farming’s prodigious amounts of fecal waste become even more toxic in the heat. Increasingly toxic GMO Frankenseeds are being peddled in conjunction with a soup of dangerous chemicals as a means to keep production high.
Our increased dependence upon limited genotypes mean that one crop or animal disease could swiftly kill vast amounts of agricultural products ushering in massive price increases and widespread hunger. Soils are eroding and becoming less fertile due to increased industrial intensification.
Any increase in plant growth from increased temperatures and/or carbon dioxide is quickly eliminated as another limiting factor such as water and nutrient availability goes unmet. In many cases rising temperatures simply kill plants. And the food that is grown is often stressed and thus contains fewer nutrients. The end result of climate stressed industrial agriculture is low quality junk foods that are killing our bodies and our planet. Much of the over-developed world is addicted to the sugar and additives found in this industrially produced crap.
As the global food supply becomes more precarious and subject to unexpected extreme weather events, the global population continues to soar, and has now reached approximately 7.5 billion people.
Already nearly one billion people experience chronic hunger, sapping their soul and energy, and providing limited opportunity for a healthy and fulfilling life. Billions of emerging consumers now view steaks and hamburgers as their birthright, with all the attendant medical and ecological costs. In much of the world the cost of food is by far the greatest expenditure, and quality food is increasingly expensive in over-developed nations as well.
The world’s agricultural system is weak and vulnerable to major disruption that will soon result in an international famine of the sort that already ravages numerous nations such as Haiti and Somalia. Abrupt climate change may well be the final straw that ushers in global mass hunger and collapse into the bad sort of anarchy.
It is difficult to communicate the horrors that await us if the globe faces widespread failure of food systems. Suffice it to say that post-modern collapse will utterly strip cosmopolitan consumers of technological vestiges of comfort including variety of high-quality and nutritious food. Rural areas will face a shortage of open-pollinating seed due to seed monopolies, and lack of traditional farming know how. Everyday life will be a struggle to avoid murder, find food, and otherwise meet basic needs. Sadly this is already the reality for a billion people who live in abject poverty, and soon it will be all our fates if we don’t change.
It is increasingly probable that climate change will precipitate a massive crop failure on a global scale. Perhaps America’s wheat and corn crops fail. Or globally a drought persists for years that wrecks the majority of Earth’s foodstocks. Or a super pathogen takes out genetically modified corn. One can expect in our lifetime for periods where the supermarkets are mostly empty and each of us left to persist from what we can raise, exchange, or gather locally.
Imagine the coming horror of starvation in the heartland as formerly petite bourgeoisie experience the depredations of the street people they once ignored.
The solutions are difficult yet known. We must re-localize our agriculture systems. More of our food must be grown in our own bioregion, and exchanged and consumed locally. Much more of our population is going to have to find employment in growing food. Every human being will be called upon to grow an increasing percentage of their own food, and bartering and otherwise exchanging their surplus with those nearby.
The use of fossil fuels must be eliminated from the global food chain. Factory animal feedlots must be eliminated and whatever meat is produced come from time-tested small scale animal husbandry practices (or when desired eliminated).
Monocultures protected with synthetic toxic pesticides and herbicides are literally death traps. We must return to inter-cropping and no-till agriculture that focuses upon maintaining the soil’s structure and fertility. The emphasis must be upon organic food production and permaculture from natural seed stocks, whereby the boundaries between natural ecosystems, tree crops, and food crops are not strictly delineated.
Permaculture is committed to realizing the full potential of righteous land and soil management to benefit the community’s well-being including both high quality food and ecosystems. Increasingly our forest tree crops and traditional garden vegetables will be intermingled, to the extent feasible given a bioregion’s flora, as forests and gardens merge.
In general an agro-ecology ethic requires a profound shift in global consciousness to re-embrace our oneness with nature. Industrial agriculture has viewed natural ecosystems as decadent wastelands that should be destroyed, rather than embracing them as the ecosystem engines that make the biosphere habitable. And which provide the genetic seed stocks and inspiration for constructing semi-natural productive ecosystems.
Continued exponential growth in human populations, particularly as some have so much as many have so little, can only result in global ecological collapse. Human population growth must be limited with urgency through incentives, and educating all girls and boys, including in the use of contraception; or the global environmental system will seek balance far more harshly. And there is no path to food sustainability that does not include reducing military expenditures, a basic income, and more sharing. Fairness is not communism.
In sum, much more work must be done to achieve the balance between natural and semi-natural productive ecosystems necessary to sustain Earth, her humanity, and all creatures. My peer-reviewed science “Terrestrial Ecosystem Loss and Biosphere Collapse” suggests that 2/3 of Earth’s land mass must remain as ecosystems, 2/3 of which must be natural ecosystems (44%), and 1/3 semi-natural permaculture and other productive ecosystems (22%).
Or we face biosphere collapse and the end of being.
The future of food – if the biosphere and her humanity are to be sustained – is local, organic, permaculture exchanged without intermediaries.
EcoInternet is committed to re-localizing, de-toxifying, and making global food systems ecologically sustainable. We are in the process of creating Internet resources which will help fulfill this vision. And we could use your help. More soon on these exciting initiatives.