Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Re-solarizing Farming

Michael Pollan (Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at UC Berkeley) talks about* the need to change agricultural practices in the context of changing energy and environmental realities. Highlights:

  • After automobiles, agriculture is the largest carbon emitter in the US
  • Policy changes in the '70s took the closed nutrient loop solution to farming - small multicrop farms with animals on them - and divided it into two enormous problems - giant fossil fuel fed farms, and cattle feedlots that are animal waste producing factories.
  • In the coming expensive-energy era, this industrial farming model is going to be unfeasible, and more people are going to have to return to farming in the US. For this to happen, the status of agriculture needs to be elevated.
Michael Pollan also wrote an open letter on the same theme to the president-elect a while ago.

On a similar note, watch this TED Talk by Mark Bittman:

Compared to US agriculture practices, developing world farming is far more sustainable and at the right scale. However, to improve the long term survival of small farming, we need to act now. Improving the profitability by reducing material and labor costs, and improving stability by enhancing biodiversity will prove to be the key factors.

* Hat-tip to Rachel Nisselson bringing the Michael Pollan interview to my attention.



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