What it is to be a locavore, and why locally grown agriculture is great for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
To be fair, and to not subscribe and add to the misinformation hawked by hoax science and snake oil scientists, we need to be very clear on what locally grown and cultivated agriculture is; in addition, we need to understand the process of how locally grown agriculture is better at reducing carbon footprints for the end consumer (you) as compared to mass monoculture agriculture.
Let’s get started explaining what these terms mean:
What is agriculture first and foremost? Agriculture, simply is the basis of all civilization, and is the humble process of growing food. The truth is – modern agriculture has come so far, and is so technologically advanced (and artificial) since the green revolution of the 1930’s to 1960’s that a farmer in 100 AD in Europe would call it sorcery, magic, or blasphemy.
Agriculture is now, not only used to grow food, but also fuels for biofuels, making land more and more scarce for food used in direct human consumption, and we’re not even mentioning the amount of soybeans grown and other grains used to feed cattle, and other meat producing animals for our consumption.
That’s agriculture. So, what’s mass monoculture? How does it affect you? Simply put, mass monoculture is the process of adapting and reshaping land artificially, mostly using pesticides and fertilizers on an industrial scale, as well as a lot of water to increase the amount of a single species of crop a modern farmer can grow within a given area.
Just imagine wheat fields – they’re an excellent example. Modern wheat fields will spread for miles and miles, till the horizon with no end in sight to feed many hungry mouths many miles away. However – the cost for such monocultures are that the amount of nitrogen based fertilizers used, as well as water drawn from underground water tables, and pesticides simultaneously degrade the land, the air, the soil, and the local biodiversity.
How? Certain pesticides have been found to increase the chances of cancer through exposure to carcinogenic compounds found within them. One such place this has already happened is in rural Punjab, a state in India, which was a major part of the Green Revolution.
Of course – Pesticides also kill off local bugs, birds, and other wildlife as well as denying them an area of natural habitat. Sure – we need food, but at what cost? When the land needs to be reclaimed, there is very little chance that it can be rehabilitated.
Constant usage of nitrogen fertilizers in the soil to maintain crop yields (the amount of crops harvested from a single area) eventually seeps down into the water table to poison water in that area, making it unsafe to drink. This happens and hits rural communities who lack access to piped water especially – since they draw water from the water table directly using wells.
Groundwater – that is, water which flows through rivers, streams, and washed into these natural channels through rain, is also effected directly. Examples?
“According to various surveys in India and Africa, 20-50% of wells contain nitrate levels greater than 50 mg/1 and in some cases as high as several hundred milligrams per litre (Convey and Pretty, 1988)”.
So yes, unfortunately, our existence and consumption of monoculture crops may be a necessary evil, and this is the damage it inflicts. Now, we’re not here to lay the blame or guilt on you, we’re merely here to enlighten, inform and educate so you can know what steps to take to increase your own social responsibility and awareness.
The last part is important, and alarming as well as damaging. Not just because it is damaging right now, but also due to the fact that the system needs to be changed, and bettered, with technology and improved levels and methods of consumption.
This is basically the fact that modern agriculture relies on an entire network of fossil fuel powered logistics and production chains to grow, harvest, maintain, and then process, and finally, deliver and sell the produce to you.
Tractors to plow the fields, ships to ship the produce, freezers on those ships or climate control powered by generators, helicopters to fly over the fields and spray pesticides, large long haul trucks or airplanes tot hen transport the produce to its final retail destination – all these use oil to operate.
Now – this poses two problems, one, climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions. Two, the instability of oil prices in oil producing countries caused deliberately or not causes price shocks, which can affect the price of food production. This is basically affecting food security directly.
Now that we’ve covered in more or less detail what can go wrong and what already has with modern agriculture, let’s hear the case of locally grown agriculture.
To define locally grown agriculture – it must be grown as close as possible to the retail source(that is, where you buy it from), and must be both organically grown and harvested.
What does this mean? Simply put – if you go to an organic store that resells produce from a farmer in the same state after it has been processed and packaged out of state – that doesn’t count.
If you buy from a farmer’s market where said farmer has already used artificial fertilizers and pesticides to keep his crop big and healthy but lives only 2 miles from you, that also doesn’t count.
The key aspects here is to reduce pollution and carbon emissions here. Check if the person you buy produce from uses artificial fertilizers as compared to compost, which is much less harmful compared to artificial nitrogen based fertilizers. Check if they use pesticides or natural bug repellents by alternating their crops and using natural predators, or if they use netting which physically keeps out some pests.
Check how far they come from, to see how much they have to travel to you to sell you their produce, as well as if they do any form of processing that also involves carbon emissions. The les, the better.
That’s how you can reduce carbon emissions. Good places to get such kinds of produce are farmer’s markets, as well as wholesale stores for organic produce. You may not be able to find what you want all year round – but you’ll find that the variation in produce will keep you healthy and provide variety to your diet!