[NAFEX] realism when looking at inputs

fuwa fuwa usagi fuwafuwausagi at muchomail.com
Sun Jun 14 14:11:11 EDT 2009

I got an e-mail asking me to elaborate on my comment of:

My only comment on organic growers is I just wish more would open up  
their eyes to what they are really doing and accurately assess the  
inputs and outputs.  Sometimes things are not as we think they are.

I’ll try and answer this I a manner that does not bring the list down in flames, but this goes back to comments and jokes I have made about global warming, organic production, and sustainable agriculture.

Simply put too many people rely on very narrow and often deliberately biased reports of the results of so called research on a topic.  One that may be less explosive to use as an example is the public transportation mantra being good for the environment nonsense.    A close examination of the data used to promote the environmental aspect of this argument reveals that assumptions regarding capacity and that the operational expenses were linear.   In other words the data does not model reality; it does not take into account partially filled cars, the additional fuel needed to pull a train that starts and stops frequently etc, etc.  In fact a lot of studies have simply extrapolated the data used for freight trains and then selectively applied them to urban transportation.  Other popular studies have analogous issues.    It is not as clear as napkin feel good logic would have you believe.  

Okay so now cut to organic and intensive growing etc.  Simply add up the inputs before you determine that it is sustainable or good for the environment.  For instance I mulch my strawberries with newspaper and dried, chopped leaves.  I can’t begin to calculate the environment impact in terms of the newspaper (but as we get more electronic in terms of information dissemination I may find it a very real cost), cutting down a tree, transporting it, milling it, turning it into paper, inking, cutting, distributing, etc, etc…and all of a sudden my cheap, labor saving weed  blocker is not so cheap and so environmental.  What about those leaves?  Well here is the thing, I am a sloth, I admit it.  There is no way I am actually going to go around raking, chopping, and bagging leaves, but my neighbors do.  They also fertilize the lawn, under the trees probably because they are constantly removing nutrients from the soil and have to return it in the form of Scott’s fertilizer.  Now it makes nice mulch for me, but lets see they burn calories that do not come for free to rake the leaves, not to mention what they burn spreading the fertilizer under the trees, oh and those little fertilizer tree spikes, then they burn a bunch of gasoline with their lawn mover chopping up the leaves, and then bag it, all so I can have some nice mulch for my strawberry patch.  Oh and those leaves, well I use about ½ bag per 4x4 strawberry square…it takes about 8 bags of regular leaves to create on bag of the chopped leaves I steal, I mean recycle – LOL.  So my little strawberry patch uses the equivalent of 32 bags of leaves and 8 Sunday newspaper to conserve moisture and keep the weeds down.  

Is that sustainable?  Is it really friendly for the environment?  Look at the inputs?  How much environmental impact was there simply in getting the calories my neighbor burnt in order to inadvertently mulch my garden?  Oh and what about the plants?  My came from Nourse Nursery.  What were the inputs to those plants?  
How about those free woodchips from the city?  Let see the wind knocks tree limbs down, tree clean-up crews are dispatched, they carry that wood all over the city burning unneeded fuel because the labor to go back and forth costs more than the fuel and maintenance to haul around tons of wood, the wood is then chipped, burning more fossil fuels, trucked to a public place for free wood chips where it is picked up by hundreds of folks who use their autos to fill buckets up with mulch and maybe make 5-10 trips to get that free mulch so they can spread it on their organic garden and get all snobby about how concerned they are abut the earth at the BBQ on someone’s Chem-Lawn treated yard on Sunday.  

And it goes on and on.  Anyways that is what I meant by assessing the inputs.  Sure there are benign practices, but the reality is unless you live way out there, where you can borrow from nature to get the inputs you need to sustain your high intensity gardening and eco-friendly practices, my guess is you are really just fooling your self rather than having to cope with cognitive dissonance. 

Anyways, this was meant as food for thought.  Time to go work in my organic garden.  


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