Agriculture and all it entails is the history of Earth‘s forest loss and ecological diminishment. Human clearance of forests for food, shelter and warmth was the first great global ecological change wrought upon the face of the Earth and continues. Today industrial-style agriculture uses huge amounts of water, energy, and chemicals – replacing natural terrestrial ecosystems with toxic monocultures; while poisoning and displacing local peoples. Farms are large, highly specialized, and run like factories with large inputs of fossil fuels from pesticides, other synthetic chemicals and transportation fuels.
Land degradation — the decline in the quality of soil, water and vegetation — is of profound importance for any serious negotiations upon climate change. A new study finds that 24% of the Earth‘s land is degrading, some of it formerly quite productive. Old forest logging, biofuel and other industrial plantations, urban sprawl, climate change, water diversion and countless other methodical diminishments of intact natural terrestrial ecosystems are to blame. Further, industrial agriculture mines fossil water, while polluting surface water, aquifers, oceans, and the atmosphere.
Large scale biofuel/biomass production – particularly promoting monoculture tree plantations within the context of Copenhagen “solutions” – runs counter to urgently addressing climate change and threatens to cause more deforestation, human rights abuses, and degradation of soil, water and biodiversity. Biofuel/mass/char based upon further expansion of unsustainable, industrial agriculture policies will intensify deforestation, toxic pollution and dependence upon fossil fuel based fertilizers worldwide. All biofuels based upon industrial agricultural practices worsen climate change and ecologically diminish soils and ecosystems, drive food prices up, and force more people worldwide into hunger and malnutrition.
Biofuels – particularly non-crop based second generation -- are not “renewable energy” in any meaningful sense given that soil, water, land and fertilizers are in limited supply. Humans already consume an excessive amount of the energy represented in annual terrestrial biological growth. It is questionable whether Earth can accommodate additional demands upon plants’ primary productivity and still produce food, preserve wild places and maintain ecosystems required to maintain a habitable Earth. Trying is unsustainable land use, and will denude Earth and make a very different planet, hostile and uninhabitable to human life.
It is time to transform agriculture into an ecologically sustainable enterprise, based on systems which can be employed for centuries. To reduce the pressures upon the land and allow forests to undergo succession, we must promote organic, permaculture, low impact agriculture, agro-forest and other agro-ecological systems to meet human food needs, including major reduction in meat consumption. Further, ecologically sustainable agriculture is local; small-scale and family operated; biologically diverse; humane, and socially just. This means opposing biomass energy including cellulosic biofuels and other industrial tree plantations because they are inefficient, and will compete with food production and lead to further land use pressures. And protecting and restoring old forests where they historically occurred is vital as well.
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