[permaculture] Remembering the stakes
rmwj at soonernet.com
Wed Mar 27 10:55:34 EST 2002
Here's a bit of a reminder of the importance of what we are doing in
re permaculture. This comes from the Agribusiness Examiner, which is
one of the most useful sources for agricultural news on the planet.
Invest in rootstock!
Robert Waldrop, Oklahoma City http://www.bettertimesinfo.org
CENTER FOR A LIVABLE FUTURE REPORT:
INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE'S DAMAGING IMPACTS
ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH
BECOMING MORE APPARENT, LIKELY TO INTENSIFY
Industrial agriculture's resource-intensive methods are bringing us
closer to the limits of our ability to produce food and fiber for
everyone in the future, according to a review of food production
methods conducted by the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns
Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The review, appearing in
the May 2002 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, outlines the
environmental and human health problems associated with current food
production practices, and discusses the emerging sustainable
agriculture movement that offers a viable alternative to the dominant
"The bad news is that the way we grow food now cannot be sustained
into the future. Industrial agriculture's damaging impacts on the
environment and public health are becoming more apparent all the time,
and will only intensify if we continue down this path," says lead
author Leo Horrigan, senior research program coordinator at the Center
for a Livable Future at the School. "The good news, though, is that
there are already a lot of success stories out there of people who are
farming in a way that is both ecologically and economically viable."
Horrigan explains that today's conventional or industrial agriculture
is considered unsustainable because it erodes natural resources faster
than the environment can regenerate them, and because it depends
heavily on resources that are nonrenewable, meaning fossil fuels.
Horrigan and his colleagues use examples from around the world to
illustrate their points, but they place emphasis on the United States
food system. Because of its focus on resource-intensive meat
production, the U.S. system represents one of the worst-case examples
of the pitfalls of industrial agriculture. The use of growth-promoting
antibiotics in animal agriculture is thought to be one of the factors
driving the increase in antibiotic resistance disease in
humans. Animal crowding in factory farms and high-speed processing of
food animals have been blamed for an increased incidence of foodborne
The authors say the environmental impacts of industrial agriculture
are many and far-reaching. For example, heavy farm machinery degrades
soil health and poor farming practices deplete soil fertility,
excessive fertilizer and pesticide use pollutes waterways, and
monocropping (growing the same crop over hundreds of acres) diminishes
Not only is the environment damaged by industrial agriculture, but the
health of humans is damaged as well, because of the foods that are
emphasized and the way they are produced. The authors report that the
animal-based diet that prevails in the industrialized world --- and is
on the rise in many developing countries --- is linked to chronic
degenerative conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and
diabetes. These diseases are diminishing the quality of life
for many, and also putting a large burden on our health care system.
Human health is further jeopardized by the heavy use of pesticides,
which are associated with elevated cancer risk and possibly endocrine
disruption and reproductive dysfunction.
"The earth's population currently stands at 6 billion --- a number
estimated by the United Nations to increase to 9.3 billion by the year
2050. As our population grows, so too will the demands we place on the
environment. We simply cannot continue to abuse the environment and
ourselves in such a fashion." says Robert S. Lawrence, MD, Edyth H.
Schoenrich Professor of Preventive Medicine at the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Center for a
One of the goals of the sustainable agriculture movement is to create
farming systems that mitigate or eliminate the environmental harms
that are associated with industrial agriculture. The authors describe
several farming methods that enhance sustainability, but they also
stress that sustainable agriculture is not merely a package of
prescribed methods. It must include a change in mindset whereby
agriculture acknowledges its dependence on a finite natural resource
The problems inherent in industrial agriculture are complex and there
is no single solution, so many people might feel powerless to affect
them. But, according to senior author Polly Walker, MD, associate
director of the Center for a Livable Future, one personal act that can
have a profound impact on these issues is reducing meat consumption.
"To produce one pound of feedlot beef requires about 2,400 gallons of
water and seven pounds of grain," she explains. "The average American
consumes 97 pounds of beef a year. At that rate, even a modest
reduction in meat consumption would substantially reduce the burden on
our natural resources, not to mention the personal health benefits
reaped from less animal fat in the diet."
Contact: Ming Tai or Tim Parsons
paffairs at jhsph.edu
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
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