Food and agriculture

In todays world the understanding of how agriculture affects our personal and planetary well-being is a pertinent awareness. Thanks to this awareness, more and more people are making healthier decisions for themselves and the planet. My goal in writing this paper is to give a basic outline of the global impact of our diets and to offer resources that assist us to refine of our daily dietary practices.

Land degredation PNGThe impact that the agro-food and fishing industries have on the planet and our health are staggering; they are the leading cause of environmental degradation, pollution, and global warming: rapidly growing
problems that are cataclysm bound. All of this added with the negative health implications associated with eating chemical sprayed, genetically modified foods, reveal how important it is for us to adopt more solution based agriculture methods and eating habits.

Fortunately revolutionary farming practices known as ‘Permaculture’, and ‘bio-dynamics’ are beginning to surface all over the world.

Permaculture’ and ‘Bio-dynamics’ are the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally
productive ecosystems with the stability, diversity, and resilience of natural ecosystems.
sabines-place-permaculturePNG

The philosophy behind these methods is one of       working with nature to create an optimal  environment for an ecosystem to flourish in a balanced and interconnected way. When these practices are done correctly they kick-start and recreate a natural order that not only restores the ecosystem, but also provides better yields and higher quality food products than traditional methods.

“Profit is not a goal it is a natural result of a healthy operation”

Click the link to watch a great documentary: Evolution of ecological consciousness 

Transformation of Industry

Agriculture and fishing industries have changed dramatically over the last few hundred years. In colonial America 90 % of the population’s livelihood was agriculture while today only 2 % percent of the population are farm and ranch families. After world war one large commercial fishing operations began to use sonar technology to detect fish and in the 1920’s agriculture became increasingly mechanized. New technologies such as the tractor and combine harvester gradually replaced many farm hands and larger more business-oriented firms replaced more and more small family farms.

CAPesticideSprayingThe transformation of the agriculture industry didn’t stop with heavy machinery. The use of
chemical fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, GMO’s, as well as growth hormones and antibiotics used in livestock (to name a few) are now common elements of commercial agricultural practice. Today, despite the vast superiority of natural farming methods, commercial agriculture seems more interested in petrochemicals and genetic engineering than in learning how to work in balance with the natural processes of nature. As a result the health of the planet and its people are in jeopardy.

In the last decade there has been an influx of books, articles,and documentaries spanning topics from agricultural effects on global-warming to the poor quality of fast food products. While the deep severity of these issues still remains less than common knowledge, the considerable buzz surrounding the implications of GMO’s and biotechnology is beginning to create the kind of public awareness necessary for us take this information mainstream.

So what exactly are these industries doing?

Conventional Agriculture

Do to corporate alliances between chemical and agriculture companies, crooked political agendas and various other reasons discussed in the links below, many destructive farming methods are an everyday practice of conventional agriculture. Conventional farms often mono-crop (grow only one kind of crop) on large land areas, a method that imbalances the lands ecology by considerably decreasing the diversity of the natural ecosystem. This depletes the soil, degrades the land and eliminates biological controls that naturally balance levels of pests and disease. This is why industrial agriculture is so dependent on chemical pesticides and other synthetic means. Today over 50% of all agricultural land is severely affected by soil degradation.

The Dead Zonesuse of pesticides has been getting worse because the pests have developed immunities that require farms to use even more toxic chemicals. These chemicals not only poison the soil and the people that eat the food, but they are poisoning rivers, lakes and oceans creating inhabitable conditions known as “dead Zones” for aquatic life around the world.

An astounding 19% of the world’s fossil fuels are being used in large-scale agriculture operations, the 2nd most after the automotive industry. These fuels are used to operate heavy machinery and extensive irrigation systems that often pump water out of reservoirs faster than can be replaced. This along with the heavy use of petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides has created an irresponsible dependency on oil; a diminishing resource managed by one of the most destructive industries in the world.

All this is only the tip of the iceberg, for more info follow the links at the end of this article/blog.

Documentaries: Click the links below to view great documentaries on the topics above.

Fresh 2009 (agriculture documentary ) Food INC 2008 (about food industry and agriculture)

King corn 2007   (about the corn industry)

2 good information resources to check out: The ecologist.org (online eco magazine)

Natural news.com (online health/food information resource)

Fishing industry

Eighty percent of the world’s fish are already fully exploited or in decline, and 90% of all predatory fish: tuna, sharks, swordfish, cod, halibut etc. are completely gone. With 90 million tons of fish being
pulled from our oceans each year the quality of aquatic ecosystems is nose-diving at
catastrophic Bottom trawlingspeeds, especially because for every pound of fish caught, 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded. A harvesting method called bottom trawling: the oceans equivalent to clear cutting, drag huge heavy nets that way several tons each over the sea floor destroying everything there in the process. Deep sea coral, sponges and other sea life are being wiped out daily. It is estimated that 650,000 whales and dolphins each year are killed this way.

For more info click on the links below:

Documentaries: Click the links below to view great documentaries on the topics above.

End of the line 2009 (documentary on oceanic environments) Troubled waters 2015 (documentary on effects of overfishing)

Articles: Article in the guardian (wasteful fisheries)

Animal Agriculture

Fecal-Contamination_Watermark-with-Credit-to-USDA_1When we begin to look at animal agriculture things really get scary. Do to the amount of resources required to raise animals, along with the severely toxic levels of waste produced by the industry; animal agriculture is arguably the most environmentally damaging industry in the world.

Animal Agriculture takes up 45% of the entire worlds land-space and is alone responsible for 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, 80-90 % of US water consumption, and 91% of Amazon destruction. It is also the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction in the world and this is only a small fraction of the statistics.Sick Cows on factory farm

With every pound of beef requiring an astonishing 2,500 gallons of freshwater to be produced how is it that we are ignorantly gobbling down cheeseburgers like there is no tomorrow? Well… If we keep going at this rate, soon there will be no tomorrow.

According to Dr Richard Oppenlander, an environmental researcher, world hunger project advisor, and author of “Comfortably Unaware” if we stopped the use of all fossil fuel today, without the energy sector even factored in the equation, we would still exceed the scientifically defined upper limit for greenhouse gas emissions by year 2030 because of the animal agriculture industry alone. Scientists believe that this would render the planet inhabitable for human life… The phrase “What you eat may kill you” has more than just one meaning to it and its time we open our eyes and learn when to close our mouths.

Documentaries: Click the links below to view great documentaries on the topics above.

Cowspiracy 2014 (documentary on factory farming and cattle industry)

A Delicate Balance 2008 (documentary on animal agriculture)

How is this allowed to happen?

Unfortunately despite all the scientific data in front of us, the influence of special interestShady politicsgroups that profit from fishing and conventional agricultural methods have gridlocked the political and legal systems. A spaghetti wire entanglement of shady politics, lawyer trickery and media manipulation is preventing the kind of agricultural reform necessary to re–aim our iceberg bound trajectory.

Documentaries: Click the links below to view great documentaries on the topics above.

War on health 2012  (politics of the food/supplement industry)

The world according to Monsanto 2009 (truth about monsanto)

Article: Politics of meat PBS article

Our Part

We cannot wait for someone else to save the day. The solution is in our hands: the hands of the everyday consumers responsible for creating the demand of goods.

It is quite simple, if industry is driven by profit, then as long as we keep giving these industries economic incentive they will continue to commit these atrocities. This means it is up to us; we are the ones that choose where our money is spent and what companies to support. ContemptuouslyDog_sweeping_his_own_poop pointing our fingers only creates more problems. This mess we are in is just as much our responsibility as it is the corporations that we are supporting.

It is up to us to inform ourselves about the products we are using, to make the conscious decision of which companies we are supporting, and to stop letting special interest groups decide for us what we will eat and how it will be produced.

Every dollar we spend is an investment towards the future of the planet therefore we must educate ourselves and choose to invest in the solution rather than the problem.

Personal Challenges

The wall that most of us hit is that we don’t think we have the time or money to change our ways. Many of us are already “too busy” as it is. To transform all our food purchasing habits seems like too much to take on.

One might say “Learning how to discern sustainable companies with high quality products from tricky companies with deceptive marketing ploys is a nightmare. I don’t have the time to research every single brand I use and even if I did, the price of organic food is still too high; besides, preparing all my own meals takes too much time; it is easier to just eat out and not pay attention to it.”

People making foodWhile all of these points may be valid, many of us are not aware of all the resources available that can help us make this shift. Fortunately much groundwork has already been done and the solutions are relatively simple and easy. Many convenient and affordable solutions can be applied quickly with out much disruption to our busy schedules. Here are 5 tips to help make it easier, cheaper and less time consuming to start playing your part in the solution.

Solutions (solution resource links at end of article!)

1) Quickly and easily improve your food selection

-Avoid mass-produced products and large franchise chains.

-Save hours of research with this simple rule of thumb-

List_of_corporate_food_conglomeratesThe chances are if it is mass-produced then corners are being cut. Virtually every mega-corporation in the world associated with our food is ecologically destructive and has poor quality standards. With ‘Profit first’ as their modus operandi, these mega-corps have left no room in their budget for health concerns or sustainability. The majority of restaurants (like some 95%) obtain their products from one of several of these major wholesale suppliers; therefore, weather your eating out or buying your food in the store, a safe rule of thumb is:

‘Stay away from large franchise chains, and commercial brand names’.

Farm_to_table_logo

Choose restaurants that boast things like farm to table, local organic, and sustainable practice. Ask questions; is it organic, local, non-GMO? etc. Regardless of their culinary expertise, if ecological awareness is not part of their emmo, you can almost certainly bet that their practices and suppliers are not up to par with our standards. One or two organic items on the menu won’t cut it; you want to look for fully organic eateries. This rule doesn’t ensure that 100% of the time you will make the best choice, but it is a quick and easy way to start making an immediate difference.

Click link for resource on food selection: buying food (allot is geared towards meat, which I recommend cutting down on, but there is still allot of helpful info here)

Click link for resources on restaurant choices: restaurant selection (I don’t vouch for all restaurants on this site but it is a good place to start)

2) Save money

By growing your own foods, buying in bulk and/or wild harvestingFarmers Market_food_stand

You can save loads of money on high-grade organic produce by buying direct from farmers or growing your own food.

Farmers Markets-

You can often find good deals at local farmers markets and community co-ops and getting to know the community there is always a helpful way to stay informed of money saving resources.

Click link to find a local farmers market: Local Farmers Market

kids holding fresh farm vegetables

 

Crop Sharing-

Chances are there is one if not several local crop sharing groups in your area where you can purchase high quality organic, or even bio-dynamic food directly off of a farm for a price comparable to lower grade store bought produce.

Click link to find local CSA crop sharing: CSA Crop Sharing

Buying in bulk-

By teaming with like-minded individuals it is easy to make large orders directly from farms and save on all sorts of things. In fact there may be groups in your area with a system already set up for this, ask around at a local co-op or farmers market about bulk discount buying groups.

Click Link To Find Local Co-op: Local Co-op

Wild Harvesting-

Keep your eyes open for springs fruit trees, edible greens, and berry bushes in your area.Picking wild blackberries Take a local herb-walk class or google ‘edible plants’ in your area. You’d be surprised how much food you may be able to wild-harvest in your own neighborhood.  There are blackberry bushes close to my house where we have picked a gallon of blackberries in under a half hour, thats well over 100 dollars worth in the store!  With all the edible greens, fig trees, apple trees, plum trees, and prickly pear cactus in our neighborhood (just to name a few), nature provides us with an abundance of free goodies, and we live in the desert!

Click here to find free local spring water: spring water

Click these links to read helpful articles for saving money: Green health budget

Save money on organic food

Growing your own food:

Growing At Home-

Urban_home_garden

-By planting a few pots around the house, in less time than it takes to go the market, you can have fresh organic produce for almost nothing; the cost of seeds is minuscule compared to buying it in the store.

Community Farms-

More and more organic community farms are being started and every year it is becoming easier to share garden space with other locals to plant your own produce. Save tons of money by growing Permaculture_community_gardenyour most expensive favorites in a community garden.


Permaculture Networks-

There are hundreds of permaculture projects throughout the country and thousands around the world. The chances are high that one is in your area; these projects are almost always looking for more people to join the team and spread the love. Many of the people there are happy to share knowledge, resources and low cost food options.

Click Links For Permaculture and biodynamic info and resources:

Permaculture resources,  

Bio-dynamic resources

3) Save time

By working together with your community-

Go to local co-ops and farmers markets. You will find that these places have a community of like-minded individuals that share healthy and environmentally friendly values. By developing relationships with others who share these values, you will pick up on priceless resources, tips and tricks to help you efficiently manage these healthy lifestyle changes.

For now here are some helpful tricks to get you started:

Food Swap:

A simple gathering with like-minded community can save  Food_in_tupperware_and_Bottles_at_gathering
you allot of time. By hosting or attending a meal swap you can cut all your weekly dinner preparation down to one meal, Just make 7X the portions you would normally use and trade the other six portions for meals prepared by other community members. It’s a great way to save time, add complex variety to your diet and get turned onto new recipes!

 

Your own frozen meals:                                                                                              

Another trick for saving time is to make your own frozen meals. This is great for things like soups, lasagnas and pizzas etc. Pretty much anything you see in the frozen section you can do yourself, except yours will taste amazing and be super healthy! Just simply package and freeze it yourself, then all you need to do is heat it up when you’re hungry. This way in just one day you can prepare weeks worth of meals to be quickly and easily made ready on demand.

4) Cut down drastically on animal products

-By cutting down on your intake of animal products you will make an immediate and considerable contribution to the environment and in most cases your health too.

dead baby cow in dairy farm
For the record: I do not consider myself a vegan, nor do I see anything inherently immoral with consuming animal products that have been humanely cultivated. What I do see as immoral are the politics, procedures, and environmental neglect throughout animal agriculture and the fishing industry.

While it is true that free range farms that raise organic, hormone free, grass fed/ vegetarian feed animals are much more humane, the fact remains that our consumption of meat is way too high for these methods to be even close to sustainable.<a href="http://patrickhaize important source.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Free-Range-.png”>cows grazing on free range pasture

Do to the extra acreage it takes to raise free-range animals; it would take all of north and South America’s landmass to be cleared for cattle grazing just to supply the beef consumed by the U.S. Alone. Therefore the only obvious option available is to drastically cut down or even eliminate our meat intake, especially because if we are eating meat it should be humanely cultivated.

Every day that the average human can avoid eating animal products they save 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq. feet of forestland and 20 LBS CO2 equivalent. Simply cutting down our intake of animal products is an easy and quick way to make a big difference.


List_of_nuts_and_seeds_with_protein“ But how will I get enough protein!?”

Seems to be the most common concern for the average meat eater who’s considering lowering their consumption. Little do
most people know: there is more bioavailable protein in raw seeds and nuts such as cashews and hemp seeds than in cooked meats.

Cooking changes the molecular structure of animal proteins often rendering it unusable by the body. In most cases over half of the bioavailable protein in cooked meat is lost and even more in pasteurized dairy. Dairy, meat and fish as the only viable source of protein is a long time myth perpetuated by the dairy meat and fish and industries.

Myths about meat protein:

Click these links for articles on protein and meat: Meat Myth (article),  Protein Myth (article),  Protein Myth 2 (article)

Meat alternatives: Helpful alternatives– (though I stay away from soy products do to common toxicity)

Meat Alternative Technology

(Again, I’m not a vegan, I’m just environmentally practical)

5) Don’t be fooled by labels, stickers or seals, and learn to read between the lines.

Buzzwords like “Healthy” and “Natural”
Lady_and_baby_reading_food_labelor “high-grade” often found on food labels mean nothing. These descriptions are legally regarded as the “opinion” of the company and are not empirically correct by any means. Just because a label has a pretty picture or a natural sounding name doesn’t mean it is healthy or sustainable so don’t get caught up in the hype.

Though USDA organic is better than typical conventional, there are still many loopholes available for companies that have this sticker and just because it is “organic” does not mean it is highly Non_gmo_usda_organic_stampsustainable. In fact many farmers with higher quality practices don’t have the sticker because of the cost required for certification. It is good to look for certifications like Organic, Non-GMO, Bio-dynamic, Tru-ganic, etc. But it is even better to analyze the items more deeply.

Where do they source their ingredients? How big of an operation do they have going? Is it feasible to do what they do sustainably? Where are the majority of their products being sold?

Learn where the product comes from and try to get a read on the personal values of the people that run the company. Of course this is always much easier when the company is local and relatively small hence the encouragement to shop at farmers markets and local co-ops. The best quality assurance you can get is from reaching out to your local community farms and permaculture fellowships and connecting with farmhands that know their stuff.

  Click this link for Article on reading labels  Click link for Article on Organic deception 

Resources and links:

Links To Documentaries And Videos: 

Evolution of ecological consciousness 

Bio-dynamic farming, 

Greening the desert

Green gold

Bill Mollison- in grave danger of falling food

Food resources:

For everyday groceries online https://thrivemarket.com/

For seeds, seaweeds, seasonings, and oils this is a good site: https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/catalog/herbs

You can buy bulk if you get a wholesale account here: http://ultimatesuperfoods.com/

General Info resources:

http://www.theecologist.org/

 http://www.naturalnews.com/

http://www.treehugger.com/

 http://herohealthroom.com/

Author Michael Pollan has several excellent books:

http://michaelpollan.com/

I hope this information and these resources are helpful, please contact me with any more helpful links to provide readers.

-Patrick Haize

Bearded Patrick Haize with white hat and shirt email list Pic

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