Myth busting – Part 12
Summary: Connect together the bigger picture
It is my hope that this series of posts have demonstrated several things.
1: Global warming, the factors contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, and the factors affecting our most precious carbon sinks, are not as simple as many mainstream media reports would have us believe.
2: It’s all a bit more complicated than ‘cars and power stations are melting the ice caps, we’re all doomed’.
3: The solutions are also somewhat more complicated than ‘buy a few electric cars and build some wind turbines and we’ll all be OK’.
4: Electric cars, well, still need electricity, and wind turbines use a vast amount of concrete to stay upright. If you really want to ‘go green’ try getting a job closer to home. Using no car at all because you walk to work, that’s the ultimate green transport. Even if we stopped running cars completely and burning fossil fuel in power stations right now today, the pollutants in the atmosphere would take the entire 21st century to clear, and all that time, the effects of global warming would persist.
5: Some of the factors involved in global warming, major factors, are seemingly innocuous things that the mainstream media rarely seem to cover, like fluffy white clouds and freshly ploughed fields. We do not look at a picture of a ploughed field and instantly think ‘oh look, global warming in progress’.
6: No disrespect intended to the film-makers, and no axe to grind with the vegan movement in general, but the movie Cowspiracy is just plain wrong, it is a ‘dramatised pretend documentary’ or ‘docu-drama’ that uses cherry-picked data and ignores vast amounts of contradictory science.
7: Simply giving up meat and dairy and all becoming vegetarians will do virtually nothing to alleviate our present environmental problems. Converting large amounts of the world’s grasslands to croplands would actually make things worse. If folks give up meat and dairy and start eating more rice and wheat and soybeans, greenhouse gas emissions will likely go up over the next few decades.
8: The problem is industrialised agriculture. Becoming vegan won’t change a thing. It’s our ‘abusive attitude’ to farming in general that needs to change.
Since the industrial revolution began, almost 250 years ago…
What have we done wrong?
- The population explosion. We used industrialised agriculture, and fossil fuel power to boost the human population to unsustainably high numbers in a very short space of time
- We ripped up the trees and ploughed the grasslands to plant wheat, corn and soybeans, and we flooded fertile fields to grow rice
- We dramatically over-fished the oceans, and killed a lot of the world’s fish stocks
- We ripped up the forests to grow maize and soybeans, to make cheap cattle feed, vegetable oils and biomass fuels
- We planted too many monocrops, used too much fertilizer, and polluted many of our rivers and seas
Now we have oceans devoid of fish, grasslands diminished, cattle living in steel pens in CAFOs, ankle deep in their own shit, sick, obese, taking antibiotics. Traces of antibiotics get into cheap meat, and humans are developing ‘antimicrobial resistance’ as a result. Wheat grows on the grasslands, so the people all eat wheat, making them fat, driving metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and causing widespread autoimmune illness because half the human race are not biologically adapted to tolerate eating gluten.
The forests are massively diminished, chopped down to grow maize and soybeans to feed the unhappy sick cows and chickens. The topsoil is depleted, releasing carbon into the atmosphere instead of sequestering it for decades into the future. Rivers are polluted, flows diminished and freshwater fish stocks depleted. The oceans are half-empty, and the lack of oceanic life, and rising seawater acidity, means there is nothing to suck up atmospheric carbon dioxide from all the cars and power stations burning fossil fuels.
While wind, wave, sunshine and tide are ever present, governments have moved too slowly to give businesses tax incentives to develop renewable energy supplies. Still, in 2016 now, only 21% to 22% of world energy production comes from renewable sources. Still only 3% to 5% of transport is powered by any form of clean or renewable energy. Considering that global warming has been on the agenda as a “major international imperative” since 1990, this is a shameful lack of progress in a quarter of a century.
- The air is polluted
- The soil depleted
- The oceans weakened
- The forests weeping
- Animals are widely mistreated
- Humans are overweight, diabetic, stressed out dying of heart disease and riddled with cancer
I think it’s fair to say, we’re in a bit of a mess and not doing as well as we could be.
So animal agriculture IS a problem?
All of this, to some degree, this correlates with what they say in Cowspiracy. Yes, animal agriculture is a massive contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions, but only because of the way it’s being done at the moment!! Industrialised intensive agriculture is not a sustainable way forward for the long term. So Cowspiracy is dead right on one point, present models of intensive animal agriculture are a serious environmental problem…but the movie is wrong to suggest that burping and farting cows are the single biggest factor contributing to global warming! No! And just giving up eating meat is not the answer. No!
Cattle in CAFOs - concentrated animal feeding operations. This is no way to treat other living creatures; this is no way to treat our beautiful planet; and this is no way to ‘make’ our food.
It’s the fields being ploughed to grow all that wheat, maize and soy beans. It’s the intense ploughing, application of artificial fertilizer and intense irrigation that is the problem. The ploughing is releasing tons of carbon from the soil into the atmosphere, and eroding our precious topsoil; the nitrogen fertilizer is increasing nitrous oxide emissions and running off into rivers and seas; and the lack of carbon in topsoil is affecting the water holding capacity of the soil, leading to higher levels of water vapour in the atmosphere.
Forget your silly conspiracy theories
Have you watched Cowspiracy? In the first half of the movie, the guy visits with all these representatives of environmental groups and asks them why they are hitting out at the transport and energy sectors as the ‘fossil fuel bad guys’ and yet they are not tackling meat eating as a source of GHGs. He’s met with lots of cold silence, some awkward looks, which is presented in the movie as some kind of evidence of malpractice or avoidance or conspiracy to protect the meat and dairy companies…
No, it’s just that the film maker has no idea what he’s on about and the environmental groups are politely saying ‘Well that’s your agenda pal, but we don’t agree!’
These representatives of these environmental groups understand that globally, agriculture is actually only responsible for around 10% to 12% of all GHG emissions. They are rightly targeting the bigger emitters.
The real GHG cost of animal agriculture comes from carbon dioxide, not the methane emitted by cattle.
1: Carbon released by ploughing fields
2: Carbon from decaying organic matter that is not left to rot back down where it grew, where it should decompose under the soil, locking carbon away in the topsoil and subsoil for many decades to come
3: The lack of structured organically rich topsoil used to sequester and hold carbon
4: The increased percentage of the world’s water that is circulating in the atmosphere as vapour, because it is not held in organically rich topsoil
5: All that irrigation and ploughing
Moving towards solutions
However, farming animals sustainably would avoid all of this. Let the cows roam on pasture and eat grass, irrigated by rainfall.
Question: So why do farmers grow wheat and maize and soy beans to feed cattle, instead of letting them roam on open pasture?
Answer: Because the grains fatten them up faster. (Just the same as grains do to you!)
Question: Why does the farmer want to fatten the animals faster?
Answer: That makes them grow quicker, so the farmer can get them to market faster, for slaughter, so he can take his profit and start again.
Question: Oh, so what drives that profit-centric way of farming?
Answer: Economics! People want cheaper food…and global warming is the price we are all paying!
And don’t go kidding yourself that this is some kind of ‘greedy farmer gets rich while the planet suffers’ story here. No! Far from it! Farmers are (mostly) poorly paid for the long hours of physically hard work they do.
The ugly economics of food supply
Let’s just explore this for a moment – because this explains how your choices in the shops, are driving forces in global food supply.
Farming is mostly hard work. Farmers have to own and operate large areas of land, they have to manage lots of big, dirty, smelly animals, they have to get up early every morning and work hard outside in all weathers. Annual profits can be wiped out by a turn in the weather, or a disease among their livestock.
Farming also requires specific climatic conditions. For example, we don’t grow bananas here in the UK, because our climate is too cold and wet, we just don’t have enough sunshine. So we import bananas from warm tropical countries like Ecuador and Costa Rica. Brits love eating bananas, in fact it seems that everyone loves eating bananas, as they have now become the most popular fruit on Earth, eaten in vast numbers almost everywhere. In the UK, between us (60 million consumers) we consume around 5 billion bananas every year. That’s a whole lot of bananas, about 100 each for every man, woman and child in the UK!
So let’s say we have a farmer in Costa Rica, running a family-farm growing bananas, and he generates an output of enough bananas to fill the back of his van each week. He knows there are 60 million eager consumers in the UK who want his bananas, but there’s a problem, those consumers are 5,400 miles away across an ocean. He only makes a penny or two on each banana, nothing like enough to cover the cost of shipping those bananas to Europe.
Along come big food companies, they own fleets of trucks and ships and they buy up all the bananas from our little family farmer in Costa Rica and thousands of other little family farmers all over Costa Rica and Ecuador too, and they fill a cargo ship every other week, and send all the bananas to the UK, where they sell them to a large company – a UK supermarket – which has warehouses and trucks and supermarkets, and so the bananas get from our little Costa Rican farmer to the shelves of our local supermarkets right her in sunny old England.
And this is the reality – at one end, thousands, in fact millions, of small farmers around the world growing bananas, coffee beans and pineapples, and at the other end, half a billion European consumers eager to buy the food. In the middle, stand just a handful of big companies, companies that can afford to run fleets of trucks, operate vast warehouses and sail huge ships. It costs millions to collect, transport, and redistribute all that food all over the planet (burning a shit ton of fossil fuel in the process) and all because we want to eat bananas in the UK in winter time.
That handful of big companies in the middle, they are publicly traded profit-making enterprises, their job is to return a profit to their shareholders. Their job is not to protect the environment nor the welfare of small developing world farmers. One farmer goes bust and commits suicide. They don’t care, they have a million more they can buy from.
The banana story is just one example, but you can apply this same economic model to every aspect of food supply. This is why farmers feed grain to cattle, to fatten them up faster, to get them to market, as heavy as possible, as fast as possible. This is why cattle are often raised in confinement and fed grain, grain from fields ploughed over and over, with nitrogen fertilizer applied. This is why animals are mistreated, this is why farming has become mechanised, why hedgerows have been ripped up, trees pulled down, fields have become bigger, it’s all in pursuit of profit – because a handful of companies have come to form a link between millions of farmers and billions of consumers.
- Farmers are mostly working hard and fighting to make a modest income
- Consumers are mostly unaware that their demands for cheap foods, and imports, year round, are driving poor animal husbandry and greenhouse gas emissions
- As long as movies like Cowspiracy continue to propagate misinformation, and while social media provide ‘sound bites’ or scientifically incorrect information presented as ‘mainstream education’ this ignorance will continue
- The agricultural produce aggregators, food processing companies, food distribution companies and supermarkets are the bottleneck where all the profit goes
- Don’t go thinking ‘it’s those fat cat capitalists running the companies, it’s all their fault, not mine’ because the reality is, they are publicly traded companies. ALL publicly traded companies answer to shareholders above all else, even above the customer, this is the nature of capitalism. That means you. You own the shares in those companies, in your pension, in your investments. They are growing their profits for you. It’s pointless to deny this – if you have a private pension, a company pension, if you have savings in a major UK bank or building society, if you have a FTSE tracking fund, if you have bonds, then the chances are, in 99% of cases, you have savings in these very companies and you are giving them money and asking them to return growth for you. Don’t buy into this conspiracy theory bullshit, the truth is we are all complicit in this thing – we all buy bananas in winter, we all have a pension, we are all to blame
- And sadly carbon credits trading isn’t helping that much, because no one is counting the carbon released from fields, and because the food processors, distributors and supermarkets don’t own the land and run the farms, so even if carbon costs at source were costed in, it would only hit the farmers even harder
It’s not a conspiracy, it’s free market economics.
If you want change, stop being a part of this problem!
The answers are all there, and easier than most people think.
We can solve the global warming problem, reverse the human obesity and diabetes epidemics, treat animals more humanely and reduce global poverty all through returning to sustainable agriculture, all by taking some of the industrialisation out of farming and food production, and going back to a time when more people worked in agriculture. We need to de-centralize agriculture, take control away from this handful of companies in the bottle neck in the middle.
We need to re-establish the direct relationship between farmers and local consumers. Consumers can shop for local produce, seasonal produce, buy direct from farmers through farm shops and farmers markets. We have to work with Mother Nature, and do it her way. It’s her planet, not ours, and we have to stop hurting her and work hand-in-hand with her. The best way we can all start on this right now is to grow some of our own food.
I want a world where we eat for the best human health, look after our beautiful planet and treat animals which we raise for food with respect. I am an eco-realist – I care deeply for the Earth and Mother Nature, but I am also realistic about our needs as a species, and I am not lost in idealism. By the time I die, I want to leave the planet in better shape than I found it. I owe that to my children, and their children.
Cowspiracy is pointing the finger at the wrong thing
As I have said, I have no axe to grind with the vegan movement or the makers of Cowspiracy. Large parts of that movie show one side of the present truth. For sure, animal agriculture under the industrial agricultural model is dirty, emits GHGs, is abusive to animals and is terribly wasteful – water, land, trees.
But to point the finger at “eating meat” as the problem is to blame the wrong thing.
It’s industrialised agriculture that is the problem, not eating meat. It’s ALL industrialised agriculture, crops and animals. Large-scale industrialised agriculture IS the problem, not the fact that humans eat other animals. While I support the vegetarian desire to stop mistreating animals, becoming a vegan won’t fix the environmental damage caused by farming. If we stop eating meat and keep eating grains and plants, without changing the industrialised model of agriculture, we won’t solve any problems at all.
All our problems stem from farming that looks like this…
And we can solve a lot of those problems if we stop all that, and make farming look a lot more like…
If we change the agricultural business model, massively and structurally rebuild it from the ground up, then I wholly believe that the planet can feed even as many as 10 billion humans, on plants and animal foods, without polluting the atmosphere and poisoning the oceans.
The real answer is – eat plants and animals. But the plants need to be organic and the animals must be free range and pasture reared, and the fish sustainably caught. In short, it’s Mother Nature’s Diet Core Principle 7 and 8. What is important is that unsustainable farming practices need to stop. Farming needs to be more about loving the land and less about chemicals and machines. Take the industrialisation out of agriculture. We need to stop ploughing so much land, stop trawling in our oceans, and stop using so many chemicals.
The way forward
Worldwide, we must urgently repair and restore topsoil, because we have already reduced fish stocks so low that the oceans are going to take a long time to return to their former abundance. As a carbon sink, topsoil can be turned round quite quickly, much faster than we can restore oceanic fertility. Large herds of ruminants can quickly restore dry semi-arid land and build topsoil fertility, turning dry scrub land into fertile grasslands in just a few years, sometimes under a decade. This needs to be happening urgently, a relatively quick fix while ocean fish-stocks are given time to rebuild.
If we want to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we need to:
- Restore fish stocks through sustainable fishing, ban trawlers and supertrawlers completely, stick to pole and line fishing, smaller scale. If we could see clearly the damage trawling does to the ocean floor, it would never be allowed on land! Never!
- One way the oceans sequester carbon from the atmosphere is through fish poop. Fish consume algae on the surface of the sea, taking in carbon dioxide as they go, and then they poop this out and the deposits sink to depths, taking the carbon down with it. We urgently need a global plan to stop over-fishing and restore fish stocks
- Establish many more large marine reserves, areas where fishing is banned, to encourage fish stocks to replenish, Currently only 1% of the world’s oceans are protected
- Stop fertiliser run off polluting our seas, repair hypoxic areas
- Encourage looking into expanding seaweed farms as a potential way to restore oceanic fertility and create a new major food source
- These actions will, when oxygen and fish return in abundance to our oceans, restore the effectiveness of one of the world’s two biggest carbon sinks, the oceans that cover 71% of our planet
- Restore topsoil. Encourage large scale free range organic farming, use cattle to reverse semi-desertification, free range cattle can restore top soil, while giving humans a protein food alternative to fish, while fish stocks recover
- Regenerative and sustainable farming and free ranging of cattle can be used to restore huge areas of grassland, and this will stop global topsoil erosion and depletion (over recent decades, grasslands are being ploughed into croplands – we must reverse this trend)
- Once we start restoring and rebuilding topsoil globally, this will increase the effectiveness of the world’s other biggest carbon sink, out soil
- Stop and reverse deforestation - stop chopping down trees for land conversion to croplands, to grow soy beans, wheat and corn. We don’t need processed soy (unhealthy) or cheap corn oil (used to make HFCS, High-Fructose Corn Syrup), or maize for cattle feed
- For God’s sake stop with this junk mail business. It’s like the world just isn’t paying attention – for 25 years global warming and deforestation have been major issue son the social and political agenda, yet companies are still out there logging to make cheap pulp and paper, so that other companies can blanket mail out crappy junk mail. Hello? Wake the fuck up! Where have you been for the last 20 or 30 years people? If you are unaware that we have some environmental issues to sort out here, where have you been, living under a rock? Just stop with junk mail already! If I need a new lawnmower, I’ll go to the garden centre and buy one, if I need a conservatory, I’ll call a windows and glass company for a quote. You don’t need to blanket-mail 30,000 homes across my town twice monthly for 6 months to try to get my attention. Shit like that has just got to stop. I personally hold YOU – the company sending the junk mail – responsible. Stop that crap now, you are not winning my business, you are turning me away, and you won’t get my money until you start acting more responsibly
- Growing more trees = soak up more carbon dioxide. We should be making a worldwide effort to increase the number of trees globally, not decrease them
- Create a global tax-free 20-year (or more) boost to carbon neutral technologies such as solar and wave power generation, and bicycles!! Give companies all over the world 20 years or more off paying taxes on renewable energy, organic farming, and similar green technologies. That will be a LOT cheaper than waiting until our atmosphere warms by 2 more degrees than facing the cost of trillions when London, Manhattan, the Netherlands and Bangladesh are all under water
- Cut consuming – we all need to help stop the carbon dioxide emissions in the first place. Buy smaller cars, fewer TVs, opt for quality not quantity in all things, stop consuming so much ‘stuff’. Don’t buy packaged foods, massively reduce the use of plastics, car share, buy organic clothing, recycle – we all need to help do our bit
There are a lot of eco-sceptics out there who say it’s all a pipe dream.
I believe they are wrong.
We have the systems we have today because of economics. Wheat sells for $xx per kilo. Cod sells for $xx per pound. Salmon sells for $xx per pound. Beef sells for $xx per pound. Milk sells for $xx per gallon. Oil sells for $xx per barrel.
- What’s the per-kilo price of clean, productive grassland?
- What’s the per-litre price of clean fresh unpolluted air? When you decide to raise your children in the city, or the country, where is the price of clean air costed in?
- What’s the per-gallon price of oxygen-rich open sea water?
- What’s the per-pound price of bacteria-rich, carbon-rich fertile topsoil?
Right, there are no prices. We can only buy and sell that which accountants put a price on. Businesses are selling goods that have prices, to make a profit, that’s what businesses do. The system won’t change until governments and citizens take control and say ‘We need to price in the quality of our children’s future!’
That example earlier, the bananas – no company would ship five billion bananas per annum to the UK if the cost of pollution was priced in. The air pollution from the diesel engines on the ship. The cost of building that ship. The cost of breaking it down, when it’s 60-year sailing life is over, and someone drives it round to Bay of Bengal and rams it onto the beaches at Chittagong to be broken apart by teenage workers with no health and safety protection.
The environmental, animal, human and social costs of goods are not priced in to our current economic system, and that is the core reason we have the problems we have.
We sell foods on a basis of “cheap calories” and the end result is obesity and diabetes running out of control. We grow food on a basis of “the most calories, as fast as possible, as cheap as possible” and the end result is global topsoil erosion, over-fished oceans, depleted fish stocks, polluted air and dead zones in our oceans.
We urgently need to re-invent agriculture on a global scale to focus on sustainability. Instead of thinking of farming as ‘a career from yesteryear’ or ‘the guy down the road shovelling shit’ we need to rethink farming as the foundation stone of our national health. We need to understand that the local farmer, standing in his muddy wellies ankle-deep in cow shit, can do more for our children’s health over the next 50 years than any suited pharmaceutical executive. Instead of spending money on vitamin pills, protein powders and dietary supplements, we need to be investing in our food supply – real food.
It requires immense social and political will to make this happen.
And the way to push this agenda forward, is to vote with every penny you spend. If we wait for a brave politician to stand up and say all this…we’ll be waiting for the next hundred years. We have to do this using consumer power. Show that you care, show companies and governments the future you want.
- Buy organic
- Buy free range
- Insist on grass-fed
- Grow your own!
- Buy local, support small local farms
- Buy small scale – don’t buy from the big companies. All these huge food companies are the public-facing front end of the global industrial agriculture industry
Let me give you two very basic examples, just basic, I promise!
Example 1 – US croplands and grasslands
I’ll start with the US, because the movie Cowspiracy is all about the US market. In very approximate numbers, in the United States, there are around 650 million acres of forest lands, 550 million acres of grasslands, 450 million acres of crop lands, and national parks and wildlife areas occupy around 300 million acres. Out of that 450 million acres of cropland, there are more than 50 million acres of farmland used just to grow wheat in the United States alone. On top of 50 million acres of wheat, in the US they are growing 96 million acres of corn.
(Compared to the US, in the UK we have roughly eight times the population density of our friends in America. They have a lot more space than us!)
It requires around 2 acres of grasslands to range 1 large cow for 2 years. The cow self-fertilizes the soil, nourishing the soil, and the whole system is organic, requiring no artificial fertilizer. The animal is open pastured, there is no nasty CAFO, no mistreatment of the animal and it produces beef that is grass fed, much better for human health, higher in omega-3 fatty acids, unlike grain-fed beef which is high in omega-6s, which are not good for us. The land can be shared with chickens, some fruit trees and other plants, there is plenty of scope.
1 large cow would feed a family of 6 for 2 years if they ate beef 3 times per week. That’s more beef than most of us want!
There are 330 million people in the United States.
Now obviously, the maths are only a rough illustration, but if the US simply switched from growing wheat to grazing free range cattle, and if folks gave up eating cereals, bread and pasta and ate organic grass-fed beef instead, then 50 million acres of wheat and corn farm converted to managed organic grasslands would provide all the extra pasture needed to ensure the US had more than enough space to raise all beef organically, free ranged, and grass fed. Plenty to cover domestic and export markets.
The switch could put an end to CAFOs, and neutralize a huge proportion of the carbon emissions that the US transport and industrial sector pumps out, as soil fertility increases and more carbon is sequestered. The people would all be eating a healthier, more natural diet. No artificial fertilizer would be used. The topsoil would be enriched, and we could save polluting the Mississippi river and the Gulf of Mexico as a bonus!
It’s only a “theoretical example” and obviously ‘some’ wheat production would still be required and not everyone wants to eat beef every day (me, for example, I rarely eat beef, I much prefer fish or pork) but it demonstrates what can be done if we take the time to learn about working in harmony with Mother Nature and work towards a future in sustainable agriculture for our massive human population.
And this isn’t a wild crazy idea. 300 years ago, those 50 million acres were home to
millions of bison, now there are no bison and just huge wheat and corn farms. So the example isn’t impossible, it’s simply an illustration of reversing the damage we have done, since we moved the land away from how it used to be when Mother Nature was doing it her way.
Example 2 – small scale community farms
Note: I realise that it is not entirely possible (presently) to feed the entire human race all from small-scale community farms, simply because half the human population now live in vast cities. Reversing the trend of people moving from rural land to urban conurbations will take a long time, I understand this. I am not being a Utopian dreamer, merely trying to illustrate than with enough political and social will, trends can be turned around. It’s worth noting that the main driver that has sent people from rural lives to urban centres over the last century or so is the industrialisation of agriculture, as farm workers have been replaced with machines.
Worldwide, there are enough acres of agricultural lands (grasslands and croplands) to feed us all – free range, organic, sustainable.
There are currently 7.3 billion humans, and current estimates suggest population will continue to grow to 8 million in the next decade, and on to 9 billion by 2050 and 10 billion before the end of this century. Personally, I think that if we continue with the industrialised system of agriculture, and population growth, resource wars will likely feature within my lifetime, and certainly within my children’s lifetime.
There are approximately 14 billion acres of agricultural land on Earth in the 21st century. There are many examples of small scale farming, sustainable farming, showing that an acre of land per person is plenty of land to feed people healthy, natural whole foods. Really small-scale farming, like market garden sized farms, where single families run small holdings of 1 to 10 acres, can feed people at a ratio of roughly 2 acres supports 1 family. Larger community farms get even higher yields, and I have read many books and blogs full of examples of farmers feeding people well on a 1-acre-per-person allowance.
There are amazing examples (for instance the amazing work of Will Allen in Milwaukee) where just a few acres can be used to feed an entire community!
But the point is this – we have 14 billion acres of agricultural land on Earth, and then almost as much forest too, and remember we can be using forest lands to produce some food. And then we have the oceans, which when restored can produce vast amounts of fish and seaweed. But there is enough land, there is 2 acres per human, to feed us all, if we can de-industrialise, and de-centralise agriculture and take the corporate profits out and put caring for our health and the environment first.
This is not an unachievable pipedream. In the global South, most farms are small, and most are serving local communities or selling into multi-nationals and getting screwed as they do it. It’s the developed world - it’s us, the wealthy countries - which need to make the biggest changes.
Sustainability for seven billion plus
The inescapable truth is that, under current industrial agricultural systems, there are simply too many people on Earth. Our only hope of sustaining a human population in the seven to ten billion realm without destroying the environment and human health at the same time, is to take vast areas of currently unfertile land and make it fertile. Areas of arid land, semi-desert, rough hill terrain. These areas are hopeless for growing crops and often too steep for tractors to plough, or they are covered in trees, but cows and sheep and pigs can use this land, and make it fertile and productive.
That will take time and investment. Unless we can restructure agricultural markets to reward farmers fairly for their hard work, there is little incentive for such change.
We need to make similar changes to fishing practices. Like farmers, fishermen work hard, it’s often dangerous and dirty and requires time at sea away from home and loved ones. Yet fishermen too are often poorly paid in relation to the effort they put in, while the corporations taking ‘fish products’ to market make vast profits. We need a system that fairly rewards sustainable fishing practices, and protects our oceans from systematic over-fishing driven by industrial greed.
If we eat meat and fish raised responsibly and sustainably, then we have no need to keep tilling so much soil.
The arguments presented in the movie Cowspiracy are wrong. If we all give up meat, then we are going to have to plough even more soil, to grow even more cash crops. Instead of ‘food’ being a thing that moves under its own power, walks around depositing fertilizer and drinking from rainwater pools…instead, we are faced with more ploughing, more tractors hauling fertility and manure, growing more food that requires stripping nutrients from the soil instead of adding them back, and more resource-hungry irrigation. That is not the answer.
Farmers worldwide should be encouraged to engage in no-till and low-till sustainable soil management techniques; the use of nitrogen fertilizer should be discouraged and regenerative agricultural practices should become the norm. This cannot happen and will not happen while farmers are being screwed on price by a handful of food corporations throttling the entire food supply chain in the Western world.
Political power and political will is required, markets need to be restructured, the future of human health and environmental stability is in play here, it’s time – after 30 years of talk – that changes were made. As well as political will, consumer will is required too.
It’s no use pointing the finger at corn and wheat farmers saying “it’s all your fault” if you are still out there eating bread, pasta, rice, cereals and wearing cotton! Turn that finger on yourself!
We need to demand change, we need to vote with our wallets.
Living the Mother Nature’s Diet way
I hope that you have read the last few posts in this series and found it all very interesting. I hope you don’t feel overwhelmed. In fact, I hope you feel inspired! At this point, I hope you are asking “What can I do?!”
It’s all in the 12 Core Principles of Mother Nature’s Diet.
I hope this series of posts has given you some deeper insight into how the 12 Core Principles are formed to benefit not just you, but our beautiful planet Earth too, and the other creatures that we share our home with. Mother Nature’s Diet is my formula to ensure the best of health for me, for you, for wild and farmed animals, and for the whole planet.
The 12 Core Principles
I’ve written thirty thousand words in this series of posts, to explain a few angles of the detailed research and thinking behind Mother Nature’s Diet. I’ve always said that years of thought went in to these 12 Core Principles, that they are thought through in infinite detail to tick all the boxes. I hope you can see that now. This is what’s best for your health, and for the Earth. The best way to live for a sustainable future is all built in to the 12 Core Principles of Mother Nature’s Diet.
- Core Principle 1 – stop eating grains and processed starchy carbs. As if all the health benefits weren’t enough, now you can see why it’s better for the planet as well as being better for you
- Core Principle 2 – stop eating refined sugar. Again, better for you and better for the environment
- Core Principle 3 – stop eating processed food. Get away from the big food processing and food packaging companies, stop eating these unnatural foods that tend to be full of grains, sugar and products derived from corn. Instead eat whole fresh foods, buy local direct from farmers, buy seasonal
- Core Principle 7 – Eat only plants and animals
- Core Principle 8 – Buy organic, grass-fed, pasture reared, free ranged, sustainably caught, responsibly reared animal products
- Buy local and seasonal, avoid imports or at least make sure you buy things like bananas, coffee and tea as Fairtrade products
- Best of all, grow some of your own if you can
- CP 3 - Don’t buy packaged foods in boxes and cans with long use-by dates – this is the end product of a broken system of industrialised food production
- CP 8 - Only buy MSC-approved fish. Pole-and-line caught is the way to go. Buy direct from local fish markets if you can
- CP 8 - Seek out free range meat, look for grass-fed, pasture raised, and organic if possible. Shop at farmers markets and farm shops, get to know your butcher and buy local
Can you see how following these steps, the MND way, addresses all the problems and issues discussed in this series of posts?
- Want to help ‘do you bit’ to stop global warming? MND is the way
- Want to help promote better standards of animal husbandry in farming, help give farmers and fishermen a better deal, support Fairtrade and improve food quality all at the same time? MND is the way
- Want to be healthier and reduce your likelihood of autoimmune and degenerative disease? MND is the way
- Want to restore our healthy oceans? MND is the way
- Want to ensure you live longer, by living the best ‘preventative medicine’ lifestyle you can, to offer protection against obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer? MND is the way
- Want to help reduce animal mistreatment? MND is the way
- Want to make the world a better place for your children? MND is the way
Are you getting the bigger picture now?
Can you see why I call it…
Mother Nature’s Diet
This lifestyle isn’t just for us – it’s for her too. It’s for Mother Nature. This lifestyle is about so much more than just ‘helping you lose a few pounds’ or ‘how to have more energy’, if we can get a few million people living this way, we can create massive positive change on a global scale.
Take action now
Can you do something? Can you ‘save the planet’?
Let’s get one thing right, the planet isn’t at stake here, the planet doesn’t need saving. It’s a 4.5 billion year-old hunk of rock and ice and gas hurtling through the vastness of space at 27,000 miles an hour, spinning wildly around a giant nuclear reactor in the sky. It’s ‘kick arse hard’ and every day Earth fends of radiation, flying meteorites and all manner of crap that would be all too pleased to kill a bunch of silly humans.
Mother Nature has been through it all, primordial soup, dinosaurs and huge meteorite strikes, and she can look after herself.
It’s us that need to be saved. (And some cute fluffy animals along the way too.)
When sea levels rise, we have less habitable land to live on. When climate changes cause more freak weather events, it’s our homes that get washed away. When topsoil, bees, fish and worms are all gone, we won’t be far behind. If we trash the oceans, the topsoil, the air, the bacteria in our soil (and in our guts), the fungi, the insects, the bees, the worms and the animals – we, humans, will all starve to death. You might like to read that again and rethink the whole “stack it high, sell it cheap” model of food production.
I love the environment and all-things-nature, but I’m an eco-realist, not a tree-hugging dreamer. Let’s stop talking about ‘saving the planet’ and start acting to save ourselves. The planet doesn’t really give a shit about us, frankly. Mother Nature has had creatures large and small roaming around on Earth for around 550 million years, that’s a very long time. Human activity only started affecting Earth in the last 10,000 years. In evolutionary terms, that’s the blink of an eye. If we wipe ourselves out through stupidity, and take a million other species with us, the planet will just dust herself off and start again. It’s not that big a deal.
So get over this ‘save the planet’ thing. The planet is fine. We need to save ourselves. Stop cooing over notions of mistreated animals and start caring about the world your children are growing up in.
Can you help?
Yes you can do something.
Let’s just look at the UK – but what applies here, probably applies across most of Europe and North America too, and other developed countries – so we are talking about 2 billion people in the Western world.
There are millions and millions of individual residential homes across Britain which have ornamental lawns front and back and people do nothing with them. If we could grow just one single apple tree on every lawn in the UK, think what that would do to reduce apple imports into the UK over the next 40 years. You can buy an apple tree for twenty quid and plant it on your front lawn, that’s local, seasonal, organic food production right there. It’ll pay for itself in just two or three years, then go on to provide organic food for the rest of your time living in that home.
Across the land we have these back gardens lined with flower beds. Folks screw some trellis to the back fence and grow a clematis up the fence or something else pretty looking. Why not grow raspberry canes? You can buy ready-to-fruit plants for just two or three pounds and they’ll pay you back in fruit in just one season.
This stuff isn’t that hard.
You don’t need an enormous garden to grow some of your own food. I started growing food at home with strawberries in a plastic pot, about twice the size of a football. Who doesn’t have enough space for a couple of plant pots? You can grow herbs in a small trough on your kitchen windowsill.
I know that one person won’t make much difference, but what if ten million people took these actions? That would be ten million more apple trees in the UK, ten million more raspberry canes, 10 million pots of strawberries and ten million troughs of herbs growing. And then what if ten million people in France did the same thing, and Germany, and Spain, lots of other countries too? Across Europe we could see 100 million apple trees and 100 million raspberry canes, all reclaiming power over our food supply away from these big corporations. Impossible? Not at all, it just needs 100 million people to buy and plant one single tree each. It only takes a few quid, and a few minutes of your time. It’s not hard, but it takes will. Folks must want to do this.
Be part of the solution
Seek out your local farmers market, farm shop or farmers honesty box. If you have space, start a vegetable garden at home, get an allotment or get involved with community growing initiatives.
As a society, we have to do these things, and in time, the mass of consumer voices and actions will push change up the political agenda.
We, that is consumers, governments and industries, must all learn to work with Mother Nature - the sea, the sun, the soil, she has it all taken care of; we just have to stop messing it all up. Let the worms, the hooves and the fishes do their job. We must look after the soil, the water and the animals. I believe that if we treat those right, the atmosphere will sort itself out over time, and undo our man-made mess.
In our modern world, we have no more right to keep an animal in a cage than to pollute a river, burn a forest or melt an ice cap. I believe it is important to find sustainable ways forward. I believe we should be searching for a future where the entire human race can work together, get a grip on population growth, establish environmental sustainability as a global imperative, eat for human health and maximum nourishment, without diminishing natural resources, while treating wild and farm animals with respect, and eliminating extreme poverty.
Am I seriously proposing ‘Mother Nature’s Diet is the answer to all the world’s problems’? No of course not. I know lots of clever scientists are working on these issues all over the world, and I am not suggesting that I know any better than any of them. In fact I am quite sure I know less. I’m sure the world needs more than just the MND 12 Core Principles to solve all our environmental problems!
But our governments, our politicians and all those clever science experts that met in Paris at the COP 21 meetings a few months ago have been procrastinating for the last 30+ years and so far made little progress. It may be a truth they don’t like to hear, but so far they have done little good. Climate change has been in discussion since 1952 (yes, 63 years ago!), the term ‘greenhouse effect’ has been appearing in papers since 1957, and a major scientific report in 1971 warned of “inadvertent man-made climate modification” – yet over that half a century, things have only gotten worse, much worse.
Global warming continues; targets are not being met; the Kyoto Protocol is failing so far; after the hugely expensive and important Stern Review in 2007, the present UK government is doing less to tackle climate change than it was before! What was the point in our government spending a lot of time and money commissioning that massive study, which concluded “Take massive action on green issues now, at a cost of billions, or we will be forced into severe action in the future, far worse, at a cost of trillions.” if they then drop numerous green initiatives a few years later?
So what I am suggesting is that the only way change is going to happen, is at the grass roots level – consumer action. Stop waiting for ‘them at the top’ to change how we live, they are too slow. Be the change we want to see – you and me, right now.
Living by the 12 Core Principles of Mother Nature’s Diet is a step in the right direction – for your personal health and for the health of the beautiful and amazing planet that we live on.
If you have enjoyed the last 3 posts in this Myth busting series, and if you are interested in how agriculture can ‘save the planet’ then I would encourage you to learn more. The following links may be of great interest to you.