[permaculture] [Fwd: [SANET-MG] sustainable world]
Lawrence F. London, Jr.
lfl at intrex.net
Mon Aug 8 20:27:13 EDT 2005
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [SANET-MG] sustainable world
Date: Mon, 8 Aug 2005 19:02:19 -0400
From: jcummins <jcummins at UWO.CA>
To: SANET-MG at LISTS.IFAS.UFL.EDU
ISIS Press Release 08/08/05
Sustainable World Coming
/Independent scientists, economists, politicians, and activists met to
share knowledge and ideas for sustainable food systems as the industrial
model is close to collapse. Rhea Gala <mailto:gala at i-sis.org.uk> reports
on the Sustainable World First International Conference/
Independent scientists join forces with global civil society
Independent scientists from four continents joined national politicians
and many interested individuals and groups to discuss strategies for
changing agriculture worldwide to a diversity of locally-based
sustainable systems that can provide food sovereignty and security to
all and protect the earth from the ravages of global warming. This was
the occasion of the Sustainable World Global Initiative's first
International Conference, organised by ISIS, which took place 14-15
July, starting in the UK Parliament in Westminster, London, to a
near-capacity audience that includes people who have come from Scotland,
Wales and Ireland, Belgium, Australia and South Africa.
The need to move away from large-scale high input industrial
monocultures has long been accepted by many people as being essential
for providing livelihoods to the many millions of small farmers in the
South and the relatively few farmers remaining in the North, who are
also responsible for conserving our plant and animal genetic diversity
that have been decimated by decades of industrial monocultures. There is
now an added sense of urgency as the industrial model is showing all the
signs of failing under global warming, and water and oil, on which
industrial monocultures are heavily dependent are both rapidly depleting.
Policies that promote food export and contravene human rights in the
South also exacerbate global warming by adding food miles, or worse,
encouraging “food swaps” – shipment of the same food commodities such as
milk and meat - across the globe. World cereal yields from conventional
industrial agriculture have been decreasing for four years in a row; so
it was highly significant that speakers shared their experience of
sustainable agriculture systems from around the world, which outperform
the industrial model in productivity while restoring autonomy and
responsibility to farmers, and result in greater social participation
within the local community.
But what policy and structural changes are needed to implement truly
sustainable food systems?
The big picture
Dr Mae-Wan Ho, director of ISIS and member of the Independent Science
Panel opened the proceedings by introducing the Sustainable World Global
Initiative. She berated governments and political leaders for their
overwhelming commitment to the prevailing neo-liberal economic model
that underlies social inequity, environmental destruction and global
warming and emphasised that there is a wealth of existing knowledge that
can both provide sufficient food for everyone and ameliorate climate
Chairperson Peter Ainsworth MP introduced Alan Simpson MP who declared
that irreverence, heresy, and the breaking of rules were necessary to
raise awareness in the face of deepening water, energy and food
insecurity. He warned that by 2025, 6bn people will suffer water stress,
causing ‘water wars'; yet decades of overproduction by agribusiness is a
major cause of water depletion.
He advocated the removal of patenting and intellectual property rights
and, instead, to reinstate the public ownership of useful technologies
that save resources. Woking, an English town with a population of around
100 000, for example, currently controls and produces 135% of its energy
from renewable sources. Alan warned strongly against the nuclear option.
He said that there are dissenters in all parties who believe in the
return and development of diverse and sustainable food production and
the right of all countries to meet their own food security needs without
external interference. He spoke in favour of localised sustainable
systems that are connected and informed internationally.
Sue Edwards apologised for Dr Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher's absence
and presented his paper that posed the question ‘What does the word
‘sustainable' mean in the context of food for everyone?' It means that
food must be available to the very poorest person now, and into the
indefinite future. There is currently both plenty of food that is
overeaten by some, and plenty of hunger, even where food is present.
If people were to become the sole inheritors of the Earth, which is
threatened by mass extinctions caused by
capitalization/commercialization of all our resources, then we shall all
be dead, he said. Therefore a more equitable system is urgently needed
that is committed to reducing or at least maintaining populations at a
sustainable level; and at the same time, the devolution of power back to
local communities from which it was usurped. All people need to have the
land to grow the food of their choice . Tewolde warned against GM crops
that represent a further decrease in diversity and an increase in the
privatisation of nature.
Dr Mae-Wan Ho stressed the enormous scope for mitigating global warming
by making our food system sustainable, by halting deforestation,
replanting forests for agroforestry, and harvesting biogas from
agricultural and food wastes that at the same time conserve nutrients
for crops and livestock. She presented a model of sustainable
development – illustrated by a “dream farm” - that depends on maximizing
internal inputs to increase productivity and hence carbon stocks and
sinks, which, she believes, should replace the dominant model of
infinite, unsustainable growth
She showed how the carrying capacity of a piece of land is far from
constant, but depends on the way the land is used. Thus, by maximising
internal input to support diverse productive activities, it increases
the wealth of the local economy and hence the number of people that can
actually be supported .
Michael Meacher MP spoke of the five factors that would force government
to change their policies sooner or probably, much later, unless we put
informed and relentless pressure on them. The factors are: the
dependence of current systems on oil for which demand is exploding;
population movement due to water stress because we have squandered and
polluted our water; the intensity of climate change that will affect us
in many ways, the decrease in biodiversity that undermines our future,
and escalating food miles that will cause gridlock.
Meacher advised the promotion of low input mixed organic agriculture
that saves ten times the energy of industrial holdings, while factoring
in all the external costs of industrially produced food, thus exposing
the lie in the UK government's ‘cheap food' policy. The development of a
sustainable food policy would inform governments while reminding them of
better policies that they pay lip service to but neglect. A new approach
to environmental and social accounting would highlight problems of
overexploitation of people and nature and offer alternatives that would
bring the public on board.
The Common Agricultural Policy
A lively conference dinner was followed by a stimulating discussion
about the Common Agricultural Policy led by Caroline Lucas MEP and
Martin Khor, Director of the Third World Network. It was generally
agreed that the Common Agricultural Policy and the Agreement on
Agriculture at the World Trade Organisation have similar effects on
family farmers in both North and South, but Martin stressed that in the
South, farmers are likely to actually die from losing farming
livelihoods, there being no social welfare payments to fall back on .
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho raised the question of why trade when people's
livelihoods are not assured? Why produce for export before a country is
self-sufficient in food as many Third World countries could be? Isn't
this concentration on trade a case of the tail wagging the dog?
There was general agreement to make policies as fair as possible for
small farmers in the South while working to curb the powers of
Knowledge-based actions for sustainable food systems
Friday brought a crowded agenda: a host of speakers with interesting
experiences to relate.
Peter Bunyard of the /Ecologist /magazine gave a telling account of how
the destruction of the Amazon rainforest affects global weather. The
Amazon plays a crucial role in regulating and stabilizing world climate,
which is thrown of balance when vast areas of rainforest are cleared to
produce soya for animal feed, from which Brazil earns $8bn annually.
The Sahara and Amazon Basins are connected by weather systems that are
the inverse of each other and the circulation is recharged by the
Amazon, which is now failing, turning it into a carbon source instead of
a sink. The oceans are losing the ability to regulate terrestrial
temperature, and that too, will affect climate irreversibly. Sustainable
forest use, which clears only small areas of forest that can renew
themselves over 40 years, also avoids throwing the forest ecosystem out
of balance. Can we return to these ways, perhaps by compensating Brazil
and other countries such as Argentina for lost revenue, or cancelling
their national debt to begin with?
Sue Edwards spoke about sustainable agriculture in Tigray Ethiopia. She
and Tewolde have been working with local communities to build their
knowledge, confidence and independence, in creating local
infrastructures that support food security. They found that compost
applied on crops such as faba bean, finger millet, maize, teff, wheat
and barley, resulted in an increase in yield over chemically fertilized
crops. This occurred from the first season, and also in subsequent
seasons when no compost was added, through soil improvements by previous
composting. Ponds and gullies were made to conserve water, and grass
crops for animal food and thatching proved very successful. This
ecological agriculture adds to local sustainability through decreasing
or eliminating external inputs particularly fertiliser, and increasing
animal, crop and soil biodiversity, water resources, and social and
Erkki Lähde, professor of silviculture from Finland showed how an
industrial forestry model has proved to be counterproductive for over a
century. In this model a forest is clear-cut and a monoculture
replanted, with all economic gain coming at the point of clearance. But
his research shows that natural forest, with many species in a special
“all sizes” distribution, are the most valuable both in biodiversity and
economic terms. Sustainable systems all contain many species of many
young plants with fewer and fewer older individuals. In the case of
trees, standing and fallen dead trees also add to local biodiversity
while the living forest continues to evolve. Individual trees are
selected for cutting in line with a social model that supports multiple
use, more jobs, and which accords with public opinion and mitigates
global warming. This model is diametrically opposed to the current
dominant model that offers low diversity and the easy technical option
of the clear-cut.
Caroline Lucas is concerned that past gains of the EU on environmental
issues could easily be lost due to the pressures of an enlarged EU. This
includes the sliding away of the EU's sustainable development strategy,
and failure to resurrect this strategy at the centre of a new EU agenda.
Industry is pushing for less environmental regulation and for voluntary
agreements only in the new joining countries .
While the EU was set up to help keep peace in Europe, now it is simply
about trade and being the most competitive economy in the world. In the
recent referenda on the EU Constitution, people voted against it because
they are not served by the EU in meaningful ways, they feel the EU is
remote and self-serving. The EU could have seized the moment to put
sustainable development as the new big idea, with economic models that
protect the environment, regulating multinationals and advocating
protective tariffs for poor countries. Europeans would have loved it and
other countries would have followed suit.
Hywel Davies MD of Weston A Price Foundation from Switzerland gave an
account of the relationship between early coronary artery disease and
the lack of nutrient dense food in the western diet. Autopsies on
children who died of accidents showed thickening of tissue inside
arterial muscle laminae due to multiplication of cells and large
deposits of calcium phosphate. These, he said, derived from an excess of
vitamin D and other additives present in large quantities in babies'
feeding formula and many common foods. They contain supplements to
compensate for nutrition removed by food processing, but cause problems
that can only be remedied by understanding the importance of natural
nutrients to our health and well being. For this reason, we must grow
the food that meets these requirements.
David Woodward of the New Economics Foundation described a starting
point for addressing the economic inequalities of our current
agricultural or other neo-liberal trade systems. It showed how people
and the planet can be factored into economics, taking a global view
while narrowing the gap between producer and consumer prices. The
effects of the new economics aim to increase the sustainability of
production while reducing environmental damage.
Jakob von Uexkull president of the World Future Council initiative
described how those in power have lost their way, treating people as
consumers but not as citizens. In the face of corruption, inertia and
cowardice we need an alternative voice to get things changed and
implemented in the interests of a sustainable world.
The World Future Council will work closely with national legislators
from all over the world to develop step-by-step reforms and legislation
to overcome the current “implementation gap”.
Pietro Perrino director of the former Gene Bank of Bari, Italy, one of
the worlds largest, described a forced merger with much smaller
institutions engaged in genetic modification of crops plants. He told a
disturbing tale of how his large germplasm collection is endangered by
the merger. He suspects that with the rise of DNA libraries and a
research agenda that prioritises GM crops, plant genetic resources that
cannot be patented may be an impediment to corporate control; but in any
case they are not valued. He asks whether this ‘problem' has ocurred at
other genebanks around the world, and who should look after these
Joe Cummins, professor of genetics from Canada said that his country
would be the first where farmers legally lose control of their seed.
Terminator technology provides the ultimate control of seeds production
by multinational corporations. Seed with terminator technology was
developed and owned by Monsanto, but that technology (which involved
preventing the embryo in the seed from growing) faced worldwide
criticism and it was withdrawn by Monsanto. .
Now a new generation of GM crops that are based on control of
morphogenesis have spawned a new crop of patents for multinationals,
those GM constructions employ toxins including diptheria toxin or even
ricin to prevent viable seeds from being formed. The genetic
modifications are very likely to persist and spread to crops in the
wider environment. **Whereas sterile seed guarantees sales to companies;
sterile crops have no utility to the farmer, the consumer or the
Dr. Lilian Joensen from Argentina described how corporations in Latin
America have coopted ‘sustainable agriculture' using a façade of
involvement in social programmes. NGOs have collaborated with them, and
propaganda extolling the benefits of free trade have enabled massive
destruction of virgin ecosystems and their conversion to soya
production. Monsanto's Roundup Ready soya is grown on this land, as well
as conventional and certfied organic soya, mainly to feed livestock in
Europe and China.
Soya is the main agricultural source of greenhouse gas. In Paraguay,
peasants are being killed to clear their land for more soya. Latin
American Indgenous and peasant movements are seen as a threat to US
corporate interests. Brazilian Amaggi, the world's main soya producer,
says that small holdings don't have economic viability and industrial
holdings are needed for competition on world markets.
Dr. Julia Wright of the Henry Doubleday Research Association spoke about
Cuba's experience when support from the Soviet Bloc collapsed in the
1990s and most of its fossil fuel resources were lost. The resulting
non-industrial production promoted self sufficiency, human scale
plantations, ecological techniques, and urban rural migration. By 2000
yield had doubled, wages trebled and calories increased by 25%!
A policy of non-foreign land ownership and a non-wasteful culture helped
the transition from fossil fuel dependency. Julia explained that if the
government had been committed to organic agriculture, the gains
especially in food quality would have been much greater.
Ingrid Hartman from Humboldt University, Germany, spoke about the status
of soils and their temporal, spatial and social dimensions. She
described how little we know about soil because their cycles of
development can last from millions of years to only a few months. And
that what we destroy in them through pesticide and fertiliser use causes
a deficit of services in the present, but especially in the future.
Soils have a cultural and historical significance that contribute to
human rights and are vital for our survival, therefore we should protect
them and at least do them the service of making compost to aid renewal.
Hannu Hyvönen, a freelance journalist from northern Finland showed a
fascinating video illustrating how increasing the fruit species grown in
his locality has countered the genetic erosion caused by fifty years of
industrial agriculture and promoted a resurgence of zeal and community
First the old fruit varieties, mostly apple, had to be sought from near
and far before they died out, and grafted to a modern variety. Local
people then participated in selecting the tastiest ones as they have for
centuries, and these were planted from seed in their thousands for
future selection. Old varieties of plum and cherry that thrive near the
Arctic Circle are also being rediscovered and saved.
Lim Li Ching, researcher for the Third World Network, previously with
ISIS, spoke for Elenita Neth Dano who was unable to attend. Lim
described a project for conserving agricultural biodiversity through
participatory plant breeding in the Philippines. In this scheme schools
are conducted within a community near areas of industrial production to
reclaim plant varieties with traits suited to local needs and conditions.
This farmer-led initiative has trained over 1 148 farmers, given them
control over their crops, restored traditional varieties to the farm,
and increased local awareness of environmental issues. Lim also
described a very successful biodynamic system in Mindanao that treats
the farm as a living organism.
Martin Khor of the Third World Network then congratulated ISIS for
bringing the conference to reality against a tide of mainstream thought
that gives credence only to more competition. As it is obvious that
independent farmers can create and develop as many viable and
interesting farming practices as there are independent farms, we must at
all times stress the services that these farmers offer to the
environment as well as the good food that they produce.
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho closed the conference by thanking everyone and quoting
Schwartzenegger, governor of California: “We know the science, we see
the threat, and we know that the time for action is now.”
Schwartzenegger set tough targets for reducing California's emissions of
greenhouse gases to 2000 levels by 2010, to 1990 levels by 2020, and to
80% below 1990 levels by 2050. More than 100 mayors in the United States
have also pledged to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, despite
President George W. Bush's continued refusal to sign up to the Kyoto
All in all, an extremely lively conference with plenty of audience
participation. The breaks were invariably buzzing with activity and energy.
/Thanks to conference sponsors: Fondation pour une Terre Humaine, Third
World Network, Green People, Ecological Society of the Philippines,
International Institute for Sustainable Development, Alara Organic,
Josephine Sikabonyi, Alan Simpson MP, Michael Meacher MP, Caroline Lucas
MEP, //Weston A Price Foundation, HDRA organics and the New Economics
Foundation. See list of sponsors of the Sustainable World Global
Initiative here: /http://www.indsp.org/reg/ISPRegWhoHasSigned.php
/Available conference papers and power points can be viewed at:
More information about the permaculture