With everyone eager to hop on the "go green" bandwagon with the hybrid cars, solar panels, recycling, or whatever, I can't help but wonder why some of this collective energy isn't focused in the direction of one of the biggest global offenders of them all... the food industry!
Most people don't think of the food they eat as being one of the leading causes of... well not to sound overly dramatic but what the hell, global destruction. The truth is though Factory Farming causes more pollution (air, water, soil) and is a far bigger driver in the oil dependency market than our cars or trucks.
So why is it then when such topics of discussion come to the "save the planet" table, putting a stop to this destructive demon that rules our food industry isn't at the top of the list?
From a political standpoint the answer would be money, power, political influence... take your pick! From a social standpoint though, that is the average person, the answer is that most don't realize what it takes to get their grocery store shelves packed with all the prepackaged, pre-made, pre-prepared, ready-to-eat factory foods they demand. And factory farming (or industrial farming) is at the heart of it all. So what is factory farming? In a nutshell it can be summed up as corn, soy, wheat, or any other annual monocrop that against nature's will inhabits probably 90% or more of all farm land in this country. Why is it so bad you ask? It simply isn't natural, just look around at any plot of unmanicured land. When it comes to vegetation (plants, grasses, trees, shrubs...) perennial polyculture or verity rules the land. Nature runs a highly efficient waste free process of give and take, and it only works if verity exists (flourishes); if something takes from the soil (nitrogen for instance) than something must give it back.
Its only when humans and their chauvinistic sense of 'what should be' takes action, that this destructive monoculture becomes the norm. Whether it's the average homeowner trying to maintain his or her "perfect" lawn of only Kentucky blue grass, or the farmer who insists on planting only corn, soy, wheat, or canola for as far as the eye can see, the outcome remains the same and it's a losing battle for both the land and humans. The land needs three key nutrients to flourish and it obtains these naturally through it's give and take process; nitrogen obtained either from such plants as legumes (like clover) or from animal waste due to herbivore's grazing (like cows or sheep) and from birds naturally following behind (like chickens), phosphorus obtained from bone decay, and finally potassium from blood. Unfortunately when humans force this unnatural industrial or factory farming approach to an otherwise perfect system we take out of the equation any sort of polyculture and all grazing animals, leaving behind overly tilled (damaged) and infertile soil. The only answer then becomes routine (and ever increasing) use of pesticides and chemical fertilizer, and it takes an enormous amount of fossil fuel to obtain the billions of tons of fertilizer necessary in order to grow anything from this otherwise dead soil.
It's not just the soil being destroyed by this monoculture approach to farming however, with nearly 70% of the monocrops grown today being used as feed crops to feed all of natures grazers and foragers (cows, chickens, pigs, etc.) that we've forced off the land and into concentration camps or CAFO's, the resulting polluting effects are astonishing.
"Factory farming is responsible for most of the man-made methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere, which contribute to 13.5% of the total greenhouse gas emissions primary from animal waste mismanagement and the overuse of chemical fertilizer. And although livestock only contributes to roughly 9% of the total man-made carbon dioxide emissions, this sector is responsible for 37% of all methane and 65% of all nitrous oxide emissions." Food, Inc. a participant guide by Karl Weber
In natures there is no waste, everything goes back into the soil, but in factory farming all of this waste sits in "manure lagoons" where it pollutes the air (as mentioned above) as well as streams, rivers, and eventually the oceans with its toxic runoff.
So what's the answer? If we are going to take ownership of a piece of land no matter how big or small we must take on a steward's responsibility and do our best to mimic nature's no waste process of give and take. We must stop feeding nature's herbivores grain, and allow them to do the job they were put on this earth to do; graze, forage, and fertilize (naturally). We must stop poisoning the land with pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and GM "Roundup Ready" seed and instead welcome a more natural polyculturalistic approach. We must make it our primary goal to build healthy fertile topsoil instead of raping the land of any last signs of life. We must choose to live sustainably! We must support our local organic sustainable farmers!