If we don’t do something about it, human greed will drive our civilization to extinction.
Sobering words, but it has happened before. Look back in history when past generations, heedless or unaware of the fact that some of the precious minerals in the Earth’s crust were finite, squandered them with no thought for the future. American dentist Dr.Weston Price, writing in the 1930’s refers to “the rise and fall of many of the past civilizations that recorded a progressive rise while civilizations were using the accumulated nutrition in the top soil…..followed by a progressive decline while the same civilizations were reaping the results of the destruction of these essential ultimate sources of life.”
FUTURE GENERATIONS ROBBED
Weston Price pointed out that previous generations have continuously taken more of their share of the minerals that were available in the soil and did so without returning them. “ Thus they have handicapped, to a serious extent, the succeeding generations, since it is so difficult to replenish the minerals and since it is practically impossible to accumulate another layer of top soil in less than a period of many hundred years.” Weston Price gave data indicating a relationship, even in the 1930's, between progressive soil depletion and heart disease.
PEAK PHOSPHOROUS: THE REAL FEAR
Phosphorous, for example, is an element required by every living thing on Earth. All the crops we eat depend on it to produce healthy cells, yet, according to Weston Price, in some areas in the USA there was only ever enough phosphorous in the top seven inches of agricultural land for approximately fifty crops of high-yield wheat or one hundred crops of moderate yield. Other grains made similar demands on the land. There is no reason to believe this situation was any different in Europe.
THREAT OF STARVATION
Jeremy Grantham writing in ‘Nature’ ( Nov. 2012) warns that there is an impending shortage of both phosphorus (phosphate) and potassium (potash). These two elements cannot be made and cannot be substituted. Like any mined material, they are finite resources. Their use must be drastically reduced in the next 20–40 years or we will begin to starve.
The vitamin and protein content of plants has been shown to be directly related to the availability of soil minerals and other nutriments. A programme that does not include maintaining this balance between population and soil productivity must inevitably lead to degeneration.
INCREASE IN DEFICIENCY DISEASES
The price we are having to pay decades later is in the increase in diseases that are caused by deficiencies. Soils that were once naturally rich in minerals are now depleted and intensive farming has accelerated this depletion. Dr. Joel Wallach claims that “degenerative diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, bone spurs, kidney stones, muscular dystrophy, carpal tunnel syndrome, cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease, and the list could go on, are either directly or indirectly related to mineral deficiencies.”
Wallach believes that taking supplements of minerals and vitamins is the only solution if we wish to avoid the diseases to which many of us will inevitably fall victim as we grow old. He observes that for optimum health, humans need a total of more than 90 different vitamins, minerals and trace elements every day. This could normally be achieved by eating a wide variety of different foods that have been grown in good, naturally composted soil but, as has been shown, modern soils are so depleted that it has become increasingly difficult to do so.
BRING BACK MIXED FARMS
In his book ‘An Agricultural Testament, written in the 1940’s, Sir Albert Howard warned of impending disaster after farmers abandoned the old and well tried principles of mixed farming in favour of artificial manures.. Until the mid-20th century, farmers maintained phosphorus levels in the soil by composting plant waste or spreading phosphorus-rich manure. Sir Albert wrote 'This slow poisoning of the life of the soil by artificial manures is one of the greatest calamities which has befallen agriculture and mankind...' He pointed to 'the steady growth of disease in crops, animals and mankind. The spraying machine was called in to protect the plant; vaccines and serums the animal…The population, fed on improperly grown food, has to be bolstered up by an expensive system of patent medicines, panel doctors, dispensaries, hospitals and convalescent homes."
ENCOURAGE COMMUNITY FARMS
Sir Albert stressed that the importance of the connection between a fertile soil and healthy crops, healthy animals and healthy human beings must be made more widely known. He urged communities with sufficient land of their own, to feed themselves by producing their own vegetables, fruit, milk and milk products, cereals and meat, thereby demonstrating the beneficial results of fresh food raised on fertile soil.
An excellent example is to be found in the village of Martin in Hampshire. It is one of the first in England to defy the power of the supermarkets by achieving communal self-sufficiency in food. Under the name of Futurefarms, it produces 45 types of vegetables in just two fields in the village. Within the fields, two acres are set aside for rearing free-range pigs while chicken runs are moved regularly across the bigger field and the rest of the land is grazed by sheep. Another, Whitmuir Community Farm near Edinburgh is being set up; the first in Scotland.
FEEDING THE WORLD - GREED AND PROFIT
Agricultural land is being unnaturally forced to produce increasing amounts of food under the guise of ‘feeding the world’ but is greed and more profit for the food industry the motive rather than concern for our fellow beings? Defenders of intensive farming systems will say this is the only way to feed the world. Others claim that globally, enough food is produced to feed everyone yet it is claimed that 2.3 million children still die of hunger every year. There are two major issues that must be tackled; the distribution of food and food waste.
SHAMEFUL WASTE OF FOOD
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (ImechE) 2010 reports “Today, we produce about four billion metric tonnes of food per annum. Yet due to poor practices in harvesting, storage and transportation, as well as market and consumer wastage, it is estimated that 30–50% (or 1.2–2 billion tonnes) of all food produced never reaches a human stomach.” The report goes on to say that major supermarkets, in meeting consumer expectations, will often reject entire crops of perfectly edible fruit and vegetables at the farm because they do not meet exacting marketing standards for their physical characteristics, such as size and appearance. Up to 30% of the UK’s vegetable crop is never harvested as a result of such practices. Globally, retailers generate 1.6 million tonnes of food waste annually in this way. Furthermore, the report adds “this figure does not reflect the fact that large amounts of land, energy, fertilisers and water have also been lost in the production of foodstuffs which simply end up as waste. This level of wastage is a tragedy that cannot continue if we are to succeed in the challenge of sustainably meeting our future food demands.” In the UK, the IMechE reports that 7 million tonnes of food valued at about £10 billion is thrown away from homes every year.
SO WHAT CAN BE DONE? BETTER USE OF LAND IS IMPERATIVE
It is clear that genetically modified (GM) crops treated with glyphosate will only destroy what is left of fertile land. Dr.Mercola in his website newsletter (25.4.15) reveals that researchers have found 'commonly used herbicides actually promote antibiotic resistance by priming pathogens to more readily become resistant to antibiotics. This includes Roundup, which was shown to increase the antibiotic-resistance of E. coli and Salmonella.' Not only that, but the World Health Organization now admits that glyphosate, the main component of Roundup, is a probable carcinogen. Therefore growing food organically and a return to mixed farming, as advised by Sir Albert Howard, is the obvious way forward thus ensuring improvement of soil fertility.
Using the simple practice of rotational grazing,understood by generations of farmers before the industrial era, Joel Salatin, an American farmer, who farms organically, has shown the way. Each year, on just one hundred acres of pasture, Polyface Farm produces about twenty tons of beef, fifteen tons of pork, ten thousand chickens, twelve hundred turkeys, a thousand rabbits and more than four hundred thousand eggs. Of course no pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used. The animals are reared out in the fields and all waste is recycled naturally with the result that year on year the pastures become ever more fertile as essential minerals and trace minerals are returned to the land. This system provides a secure food supply in a truly sustainable way fit to feed a growing population. There need to be many more farms such as Salatin’s in the UK. With government backing to help young farmers get started it would all be possible.
Put a stop to supermarkets selling perishable food 3 for the price of 2, which just creates even more waste.
Make people aware of food waste by putting up posters advising people not to buy more than they reasonably need. Each time a food item is thrown away unnecessarily bear in mind that someone somewhere in the world may be starving.
Weston Price. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Page 417.
Sir Albert Howard. An Agricultural Testament. Page 227
Food. Waste not, want not.
‘Nature’ November 2012
Futurefarms : http://www.futurefarms.org.uk/
Graham Harvey. The Carbon Fields. ISBN 978-0-9560707-0-8.