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Another green world
April 29, 2011 9:15 PM   Subscribe

Over the past 50 years, the small coastal plain (campo), some 30 kilometers southwest of the city of Almería, has been intensively developed for agriculture. An estimated 20,000 hecatres of extra-early market produce is grown in greenhouses in the Campo de Dalías, and it accounts for over $1.5 billion in economic activity.

The high albedo of the plastic greenhouses may be responsible for a 0.3ºC annual cooling effect in the region, while the rest of Spain has warmed by the same amount.

Despite this and the economic upswing caused by the produce industry, there are naturally some problems.

Here's a little peek inside.

How big is 20,000 hectares anyway? SO. VERY. BIG. (COMPARE)
posted by Casimir (24 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I grew up on a cattle ranch that was 100,000 acres, so I don't actually think this is all that big.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:26 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


1 hectare == 2.47 acres == 10,000 square meters == a square 100 meters on a side.

100 hectares == 1 square kilometer

20,000 hectares == 200 square kilometers == a square 14 kilometers on a side

(This post has been brought to you by the emergency nerd system. Had this been an actual nerd attack, you'd have been instructed to run in circles, screaming and shouting.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:35 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Vive Jorge Cervantes!
posted by clavdivs at 9:38 PM on April 29, 2011


Compared to DC.
posted by elektrotechnicus at 9:38 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


TL;DR -

The rain in Spain flows mainly on the low mountains and foothills, so on the plain they've actually developed cool hydroponics.
posted by koeselitz at 9:40 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've driven through this region. It's deeply ugly, weird, and sad. All so Tesco can have year-round lettuce.

Fortunately there are plenty of amazing parts of Andalusia that aren't spoiled by intensive farming.
posted by Conductor71 at 10:16 PM on April 29, 2011


14km would be a decent walk. Walking the circumference would take a couple or few days.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:08 PM on April 29, 2011


Also, while it may be ugly, it's very efficient. Those greenhouses make it much easier and cheaper to provide consistently good produce.

To be fair, home garden grown is 10x better-flavoured — but feeds 100x fewer people for the resources required.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:11 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Almeria, oh god.

I spent the summer of 2008 working in Almeria. They have a very cool solar research facility which is a little ways out from the city, just past the fake cowboy town that was used by Sergio Leone for several films (still in tact, teepee and all, visible from the highway - a very sad looking dusty and forgotten tourist attraction). When I flew in, I looked out the window and I just saw big plastic squares covering all the land in all directions. I didn't know what it was at first, and thought "it looks like they just covered everything in plastic." Which is of course, what they have done. It is a little surreal. I mean, there is a plastic layer covering that entire headland, and enveloping several towns.

Almeria used to be the poorest region in Spain, but now it is relatively well off (not counting all those slaves that do the harvesting). The effect of that economic growth is that people have been abandoning old buildings in the city and allowing them to fall into disrepair and building terrible low-quality suburbs and high-rises outside of the city. I think I showed up just as that bubble was bursting.

On the plus side, Almeria is near Cabo de Gata, a nature reserve that will not get the plastic treatment and stay awesome.
posted by molecicco at 12:21 AM on April 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Those greenhouses make it much easier and cheaper to provide consistently good produce.

And the greenhouse gases associated with transporting it all many kilometers away.

(Says a guy living on the Baltic coast who, having just checked the label, can confirm that he unthinkingly bought a package of Spanish tomatoes just last night. They ought to have been priced high enough to make me think thrice about buying like an idiot. "You want tomatoes, fucko? Before the local season? Then pay for the damage done by sending them across the continent.")
posted by pracowity at 1:33 AM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Europe hasn't quite figured out what to do about immigrants yet. The attitude seems to be see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, but we'd prefer our lettuce cheap, thanks.
posted by infini at 3:05 AM on April 30, 2011


While you are enjoying your out of season fruit and vedge in N. Europe have a little think about this: El Ejido, The Law of Profit. Here is an article from Le Monde diplomatique 11 years ago Spanish apartheid, plastic-wrapped. Not a lot has changed, except that the local authorities are fighting back against the critics.
posted by adamvasco at 5:07 AM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks adamvasco, it seems that El Ejido is available on youtube on split videos, french language
posted by elpapacito at 6:49 AM on April 30, 2011


Wow, the street view is even more surreal.
posted by Duug at 7:29 AM on April 30, 2011


Re: the pesticide problem mentioned in the Guardian article, I wonder why they don't use sealed greenhouses w/ filtered air. Surely they could filter out most of the bugs with a sufficiently controlled environment. If you're going to grow food in an artificial environment, you might as well go all the way.
posted by chebucto at 9:27 AM on April 30, 2011


Thanks elpapacito here they are I; II; III; IV; V; VI; They are all in french.
The situation in El Ejido and San Isidro is a a bomb with a slow burning fuse. Like the rest of the country El Ejido is mired in corruption, That's just how it is here today.
And chebucto what you suggest is of course possible but it costs money; The producers won't spend it; regulations are ignored see slave wages, etc above. The supermarket chains are squeezing every cent possible ; Transport costs have risen (diesel Euro 1.30/ litre) The Guardian video linked above will hopefully get a good circulation. The local business owners and politicians are not going to change things.
posted by adamvasco at 9:59 AM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Adam: there's an (almost) perfect parallel in souther Italy, the greenhouse of the country, in which illegal immigrants and even local laborers are being exploited in agricoltural works. It is well known, every now and then a token bust, a lot of political bruahah about immigrants but it's the usual circus.

In the El Ejido video, they have intervied some agricultural enterpreneur..the rethorics is the same all the world, apparently; but the consumer is being heavily gouged too, as farmers may be "suffering" from oligopolistic distribution and all the cost, of course, either shoved to the consumer or disguised in some fashion. Same problem of transport cost, but fuel cost is only a part of the cost rise.
posted by elpapacito at 12:24 PM on April 30, 2011


I have zero sympathy for the producers most of whom are basically peasant farmers who have hit on a get rich quick scheme with no morals attached. They have zero interest in fair wages on working conditions, and because they are reasonably small closed communities the corruption is deeper. There is little will to improve things for their workers as can be seen from the reactions I linked to above.
Here on the Island it's all immigrant labor for picking almonds and potatoes and algarobas. It used to be migrant workers from the mainland now it's nearly all Sub Saharan African and Maghrebi.
The Maghrebis always used to arrive on temporary work visas, it was an established season work force, the same families returning year after year. We have now begun to see pateras arrive on the Island. Algiers is 250 miles due south.
posted by adamvasco at 1:03 PM on April 30, 2011


I'd like to say Canada is different, but a Supreme Court just ruled farm labour can't unionize.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:36 PM on April 30, 2011


Agreed. Regarding slavery and near-slavery in agriculture Canada is not different. And the US is certainly not different.

But when it comes to the environmental impact of transport costs, I am under the impression that the vast majority of the CO2 emissions associated with food comes from its production, with a relatively tiny amount coming from transport (even when it is shipped halfway around the world). But I can't pull up any studies in my first google attempt. Can anyone expand/confirm/counter that claim? I would be interested to know.
posted by molecicco at 2:49 PM on April 30, 2011


"peasant farmers who have hit on a get rich quick scheme with no morals attached."

For a second there I thought of Wall Street. Then of robber barons. Then of Indian land thieves. Then of uranium miners. America is still inspiring "democracy" worldwide!
posted by Twang at 11:00 PM on April 30, 2011


It seems to me the real outrage here is that Europeans/Westerners are uncomfortable dealing with real third world poverty when it's in their face. It's one thing for destitute Africans to be in Africa. Something totally different when they're in Spain struggling through shitty opportunities that simply don't exist back home, and making us all feel guilty (or resentful) about it in the process.

The dilemma here is that ensuring some kind higher living standards for migrant workers comes at the expense of these opportunities. Meaning fewer jobs for migrants, and less prosperity for migrants and their families. As crappy as Almería is for migrants, none of them arrived because things were going just dandy back in the old country. The crap in Almería beats the desperation back home.

Once again, the lack of freedom of movement causes trouble among humanity. Legal barriers creates a dynamic where not only is it difficult to go where there is work, it also makes it difficult to return home when the work dries up, all the while resentment brews up among the natives. It's no different here in the US, where schizophrenic policy and practice demonizes illegal immigrants for taking the opportunities we freely offer them with our dollars.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:00 AM on May 1, 2011


The crap in Almería beats the desperation back home.
No. Europe was the promised land. Streets paved with gold. The reality is that many want to go home. The further reality is that going home costs money and they don't actually have any. On top of that the majority have no papers so they can't leave Spain and if they could, no one else would let them in. It should be noted that during the 2008-09 recession, the Spanish government reduced foreign worker entries, restricted family unification and subsidized the return home of jobless foreigners. However that was for the"legals", those who had papers.
Those in El Ejido and nearby are outside any system.
posted by adamvasco at 11:47 AM on May 1, 2011


No. Europe was the promised land. Streets paved with gold. The reality is that many want to go home.

It's always sold like that, Eldorado. But then it was figured out that clandestine workforce is much more malleable, because they "don't exist". Some of the cost can also be recovered by blackmailing the worker by submering him/her in a sea of debt at home. All of this is covered with rationalizations that nobody was "forced at gunpoint" to come work, and if they don't have enough money to go back, it's entirely their problem. That's modern day slavery.
posted by elpapacito at 3:07 PM on May 1, 2011


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