[permaculture] How long before ag land is safe?

Elijah Smith elijah at hilobay.com
Mon May 13 17:02:17 EDT 2002

Thanks, everyone, for the thoughtful and varied responses (got all of you at
your post-weekend bests, it seems).  It seemed a little strange to me to not
live on land for 3 years that produced the papayas I buy down at the farmers
market, for the sort of reasons Toby mentions below.  But I needed places to
go for more research and now I have them; I especially appreciate the
pointers to soil testing...


----- Original Message -----
From: "Toby Hemenway" <hemenway at jeffnet.org>
To: <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, May 13, 2002 7:24 AM
Subject: Re: [permaculture] How long before ag land is safe?

> on 5/12/02 8:33 PM, Elijah Smith at elijah at hilobay.com wrote:
> > Our question is - how long before it's
> > "safe" to move in and live on that land?  One guy told us 3 years, which
> > seems excessive - is it?
> On the scale of things to worry about, I'd put moving onto this land at
> low end, unless the chemical-using neighbors are likely to poison you with
> overspray. Though I'm thoroughly organic, the data showing that consuming
> washed, chemically-grown food can poison you or give you cancer are
> shaky-to-nonexistent (the compounds themselves are obviously toxic, but
> been nigh impossible to prove that after they've been processed by soil
> organisms and plants they are a human health hazard; the proven risk is to
> ag workers and the environment).
> I think that living on this land, and eating food grown on it for a year
> three while the residues degrade and leach, won't hurt you enough to
> (or at least, no more than, say, breathing the fumes from gassing up your
> car, or living in a city's polluted air).
> I'm not saying that chemicals are harmless. But I think we get
> about the relative risks posed by certain acts. If the risks are easily
> avoided, then avoid them. But before compromising our lives out of fear
> something might pose a risk, let's weigh the relative risk. We are exposed
> daily to hazards vastly greater than the one Elijah's been warned of. As
> example, we worry about PVC pipe. I understand that just driving in a
> car for a few hours exposes you to huge doses of off-gassing plastic that
> straight into the blood via the lungs, far more than you'd get from a
> lifetime of drinking from PVC pipe. So avoiding one long car ride is
> probably better health care than replacing a house-full of PVC pipe. In
> Elijah's case, living on this land > probably no worse than a eating a few
meals at a non-organic restaurant or
> relative's house. I don't mean to sound cavalier; I'm just putting this in
> perspective.
> Toby
> ______________________________
> For a look at my new book on ecological gardening,
> Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, visit
> http://www.chelseagreen.com/Garden/GaiasGarden.htm
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