The planet is taking a hit from unsustainable industrial agriculture
By K�llia Ramares
Journal Associate Editor
Dec 1, 2006, 00:46
Fossil Fuels: Oil, Food and the Coming Crisis in Agriculture
By Dale Allen Pfeiffer
New Society Press
125 Pages, Paperback
At just the point when agriculture was running out of
unexploited tillable lands, technological breakthroughs in the 1950s and 1960s
allowed it to continue increasing production through the use of marginal and
depleted lands. This transformation is known as the Green Revolution. The Green
Revolution resulted in the industrialization of agriculture. . . . the Green
Revolution increased the energy flow to agriculture by an average of 50 times
its traditional energy input. . . . In a very real sense, we are eating fossil
fuels. --Dale Allen Pfeiffer, Eating Fossil Fuels, p. 7.
Have you ever
considered how much energy it takes to get food from the farm to your table? Or
how many miles the food has traveled to reach you? These are two of the
questions raised by Dale Allen Pfeiffer in Eating Fossil Fuels, a
ringing indictment of industrial agriculture.
One reason Pfeiffer
condemns industrial agriculture as unsustainable is the imminent arrival of
Peak Oil, i.e. global peak of oil production, which some people believe is
already here. Peak Oil, which Pfeiffer described well in his previous book, The
End of the Oil Age, signals the beginning of the decline of the
petrochemical sources of modern pesticides, fertilizers and mechanized farming.
But, in Eating Fossil Fuels, Pfeiffer goes beyond Peak Oil to condemn
industrial agriculture, and its partner in crime, globalization, for soil
degradation, water degradation, overpopulation, overconsumption, and the
destruction of local agriculture.
Pfeiffer calls for worldwide
agrarian reform based on local, organic farming. The book contrasts the
experiences of Cuba and North Korea, both of which faced sudden loss of energy
supplies as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Cuban example
raises hope that local organic farming can sustain even urban populations,
while North Korea�s emphasis on supplying energy to the military at the expense
of agriculture makes one wonder where the United States is headed as the
effects of energy depletion loom on the horizon.
This short book
contains a valuable 15-page resource guide listing organizations and books
providing information on localized agriculture, permaculture, organics,
ecovillages, and even places to get heirloom seeds. Though the list is largely
made up of organizations in the United States and Canada, there are several
non-North American sources. These include Navdanya, an organization founded by
Dr. Vandana Shiva, which is dedicated to biodiversity conservation and organic
farming in India, The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia, which is
involved in global networking and the training of environmental activists, and
the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), which is
the worldwide umbrella organization for the organic movement. This extensive
resource list is a fine tool for anyone wanting to become an activist in issues
such as food security, permaculture, and the development and preservation of
localized agriculture. Individuals looking to set up their own gardens and make
food choices that are healthier for themselves and the environment can find
useful contacts here. Organizations wishing to expand their networks can also
benefit from the list.
Fuels is an excellent short
introduction to the environmental and food security crises wrought by
industrialized agriculture. Everyone who eats should read it.
� 2006 K�llia Ramares. For fair use only.Journalist K�llia Ramares
lives in Oakland, CA and has a few herbs and vegetables growing on the patio of
her apartment building. Her web site is Radio
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