Restorative Practices and Policy
September 17, 2019 9:27 AM   Subscribe

“ A decarbonized food system, on the other hand, demands that we build a system on smaller, local scales, shorter supply chains, and ecologically sound principles that are far more robust in the face of literally every single disaster a broken climate can throw at us. But what would it mean to decarbonize food?” Lifecycle Of A Leaf (Current Affairs) Supply management, absent from discussions for decades, is now back in policy proposals. Can it help to pay people what it actually costs to produce food? (Civil Eats) Reckless farming is destroying the planet (CNN) “The report rejects the idea that subsidies are needed to supply cheap food. It found that the cost of the damage currently caused by agriculture is greater than the value of the food produced. New assessments in the report found producing healthy, sustainable food would actually cut food prices, as the condition of the land improves.” (The Guardian) Pod Damn America talks to a leftist pig farmer about agricultural co-ops and why every organic farmer is on food stamps . (1:27:00)
posted by The Whelk (10 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Embedded in these dire articles are helpful suggestions to implement farming practices designed to create healthy soil, grow healthful food, and ameliorate global climate change. Not gonna happen though. It's just a journalistic tradition to toss in optimistic scenarios.
posted by kozad at 9:36 AM on September 17, 2019

::sigh:: Every environmental thread someone gotta race to be the first to take their self-congratulatory apocalyptic dump all over it. Congrats kozad, you're today's winner.

PS: The bonus round is when the doomsayers shake their heads at us and say they're just "being realistic".
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 10:13 AM on September 17, 2019 [13 favorites]

Pod Damn America talks to a leftist pig farmer about agricultural co-ops and why every organic farmer is on food stamps

Speaking as a leftist farmer, that PDA ep is painfully accurate; operating within capitalism forces a lot of cognitive dissonance and dishonesty into small-scale sustainable agriculture. It's demoralizing to realize just how counter-revolutionary your attempt to escape the odious machine has become when staying afloat means dependence on poorly-paid or unpaid labor to provide luxury products for the rich.

Anyway I'm burnt-out enough by for-profit farming that now I'm ready to try and find a few dirt-commies to form a legit agricultural cooperative, inquiries go in the bucket under the big cottonwood
posted by Rust Moranis at 10:50 AM on September 17, 2019 [9 favorites]

"No till, companion planting with weeds" enriches the soil and manages pests. Good to include farm animals too.
People scale farms not industrial ag monocultures.
posted by Mesaverdian at 12:38 PM on September 17, 2019

Two points.
1. If you watch The Biggest Little Farm, there is an underlying message that is very important to remember. Life is resilient. If you start doing things that support life, it comes back quickly.
2. Lots of people, in many different areas of endeavor, realize that the economic structure we're under is really borked. it looks like we're starting to look at those underlying structural problems in a way that seems new to me. Climate change is urgent, and more people every day are coming around.

I don't think optimism is quite the right stance, but I do think it's important to realize that we are capable of a lot, there is still sufficient complexity for environments to recover, and why not get busy?
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 12:51 PM on September 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

Thanks whelk, an increasing number of farms here are going this route. Maybe not massive but quite common in the 200 to 400 hectare range. Also increasing scepticism about glyphosate etc, and growing openness re carbon. It's still a struggle tho' as our government will not allow farmers to claim carbon credits from improving their soil.
posted by unearthed at 1:17 PM on September 17, 2019

Also 'traditional/conventional' animal farmers here are getting increasingly aggressive (just displaced denial really) re increases in veganism, while cropping farmers are getting happier, LOT of new research here on peas, sunflowers, barley and many more.

Does anyone here know of the Land Institute, Salinas, KS? They're doing a lot to change farming in a good direction.

NZ estimates for ecol damage from big Ag equal foreign earnings from big Ag.
posted by unearthed at 1:25 PM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

"the cost of the damage currently caused by agriculture is greater than the value of the food produced."

If this was true, we'd be better off if there were no food. That's true only if you put a pretty low value on 7+ billion people not starving to death.

It is theoretically possible for the cost of the damage of agriculture to be greater than the cost of food (though I'm skeptical). But the value of the food is much great than the cost. My lunch of rice and lentils (does that buy me any credibility?) cost me about $2. If necessary, I would pay hundreds of dollars a day for food, as I have a lot of money and put a pretty big value on not starving.

That all may sound nitpicky, but there's a truly important point: It's crucially important to make sure that food is cheap - not for me, but for the 800 million people who are malnourished, and for the many others who would be if prices went up.

Some policies (less meat eating) should reduce prices. Others would raise costs. That doesn't mean they are not worth doing, just that the costs will have to be borne by those of us who are able to help. Having a stable climate is nice, and in many cases will help prevent starvation; the burden of climate change will fall on the same people who are at risk of starvation today.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:26 PM on September 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

The US has a massive food surplus, last I checked. Enough food isn't the issue. Distributing the food is.
posted by Ahniya at 12:06 AM on September 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've just found the paper about enviro costs of NZ dairy farming -

New Zealand Dairy Farming: Milking Our Environment for All Its Worth - Enviro. Man. 2015 56 3 - I can't find a non-paywalled version but the abstract is good enough e.g. "At the higher end, the estimated cost of some environmental externalities surpasses the 2012 dairy export revenue of NZ$11.6 billion"

I have noticed some farm topic searched have seemed odd recently and am currently reading The New Biological Economy: How New Zealanders are Creating Value from the Land where Fonterra (dominant NZ dairy processor) is described as instrumental in the Chicago-based Global Dairy Platform, with Google as an eager player helping "build a dialogue with groups supporting a similar interest to that of dairying to increase trust in dairy's relevance story". Building a dialogue hmmm
posted by unearthed at 4:26 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

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