Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sustainability and Food

Why don't we do more programs like this in the US? Not sure, but here is a link a to a great program put on by BBC called "The Farm of the Future". Aside from having *amazing* videography, this film does an excellent job of explaining exactly what the problem is with the way we produce food now compared with regards to sustainability. I often times have a hard time explaining to folks I come across why I believe it is worth the effort to buy local or buy organic or grow food or plant fruit trees. I can certainly see their point, it is a lot more work than it's worth from any monetary sense or time sense. It is hard to explain that the entire system from seed, to the soil it grows in, to the process of watering it, fertilizing it, harvesting it, transporting it, processing it, transporting it again, marketing it, cooking it and finally eating it are all intimate bed-fellows with petroleum. This video, however, makes it quite clear how dire the situation is and exactly why it can't go on like this. For me, this is all intimately connected to our need for peace and justice in the world as well.

The video also goes a step further to suggest some possible alternatives and provides a glimpse of what food production might look like in the next century. One thing that particularly struck me about the "alternatives" to oil-dependent agriculture is that they truly are very much in their infancy. We can't go back to horse and plow, where do we go from here? Some of the innovative ideas included permaculture and forest gardening with some great interviews of people who are doing this on a small to medium scale. They focused on working with nature to reduce the amount of work necessary to produce food. Ideas included nearly eliminating weeding by creating plant eco-systems, improving the soil starting with the "life" in the soil, the insects and micro organisms and inviting bio-diversity in the garden.

The truth about oil-free agriculture is that there aren't a lot of current large scale examples of oil-free farming. This is very exciting because it is a real opportunity for innovation. Even home-scale agriculture could play a part. Back in the second world war, Americans produced about 40% of our food in "Victory Gardens" in their own yards. There is nothing more local than your own yard! This also re-defines the idea of wealth to a more sustainable model as well. Perhaps the Forest Garden or the vegetable garden may take on more status than the most pristine, dandelion-free green lawn. A fruit-tree may become more a sign of wealth than an Audi. Honestly, we need this. We really need this. If our kids and our grandchildren (and even us for that matter!) are to have a future in which they can drink the water, and eat food and breath the air and not be killed by wars over diminishing land and resources, than we need to redefine the idea of wealth. It can't be how much stuff can you buy anymore. Wealth and success have to be re-defined.