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Art Contributing Writers FOOD POLITICS - September 2018 Tuisku "Snow" Kolu

The Real Cost of Industrial Agriculture

The Hungry Ghost

Written by Elizabeth Knight

It has been found that industrial agriculture produces only 30% of our food while using 70% of our resources. While on the other hand, small-scale farmers produce 70% of our food while using only 25% of our resources. This article will show that not only is the dominant method of food production pushed by our culture not efficient, but it actually has many hidden costs.

The Cost of Emissions

While conversations grow around greenhouse gas emissions and the damage that fossil fuels do to our environment, there are still some major players that aren’t being discussed enough. Namely, Industrial Agriculture. In a report done by GRAIN, an international non-profit that supports small farmers, around 44-55 % of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to industrial agriculture.

Emissions come from several steps in food production. From the fertilizers and pesticides used to control crops. From machinery used to farm the land. From the cost of processing and packaging to transport and cooling of products. From the waste of products due to poor food waste management policies, both by governments as well as by grocery stores, restaurants, and consumers.

Then, of course, there is the growing awareness of how many greenhouse gas emissions come from the meat industry. Not only from the farms themselves but also from the destruction of forests and swampland either to house the CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), or to grow monocultures, like corn and soy, that are used to feed them.  

All of this adds up to quite a lot of fossil fuel use, most of which is not actually necessary, and some of which is detrimental, not only to the environment, but also to society.

How Industrial Agriculture Contributes to the Climate Crisis by Klimakollektivet

 

The Costs of Synthetic Fertilizer

The system of Industrial food production is based on specialization, or the establishment of monocultures. Monocultures are when huge areas of land are used to grow only one product, such as corn, wheat, or soy. This system is established because it is easier. A grower uses large farm equipment to plant one type of crop. Then this one crop is fertilized with synthetic, or chemical, fertilizers and maintained with the use of pesticides. While this may serve a short-term goal of producing said crop easier, there are several problems with an industrial approach to the natural ecosystem.

One of the first problems is the cost of fertilizing these types of manufactured ecosystems. The production of synthetic fertilizers relies heavily on the use of fossil fuels, as an ingredient of the fertilizer and as a resource needed to produce the fertilizer. The production of nitrogen fertilizers, for instance, accounts for 3-4% of the global use of fossil fuels. When NO2 fertilizers are put out they immediately release greenhouse gases, as it’s not possible for the soil to absorb all of it at once. This layer of nitrogen fertilizers also prevents the soil from absorbing any other GHGs.

Another side effect of synthetic fertilizer use is the run-off effect. The fertilizer that the soil can’t absorb, which is much of it, runs into nearby waterways. These fertilizers then keep on fertilizing, and in so doing create an imbalance in the growth of algae and seaweeds. This unnatural growth leads to a chain of events which cause oxygen deprivation in the water, killing off any animals who need oxygen to survive. These are appropriately called Dead Zones, and are entirely man-made phenomena.

The industrial agricultural process involves the use of pesticides. Unfortunately, these pesticides don’t only kill the insects which would harm the crops, they kill everything. Every small insect and animal that lives in that area – from the birds, bees, and worms – dies, creating a lifeless environment. This lack of biodiversity means that the soil doesn’t have a good mix of nutrients in it.

This lack of nutrients creates an addiction to, you guessed it, synthetic fertilizers, which contributes to creating the problem in the first place. Like with all addictions, the saddest part is that a tolerance is developed, so more and more fertilizers are required to get the same results. A huge cornfield essentially creates a huge patch of land that is functioning in a way that is entirely alien to how life on earth functions. In other words, this is not a naturally occurring system, and cannot be sustained in the long run.

The Costs of Monocultures

The next step in the fossil fuel heavy journey of food comes with the global dependency on import-export culture. If each region is growing one or two things, which must be shipped around the world to other regions which are growing a different one or two things, a dangerous system is created where no region has food sovereignty.  This is dangerous for a multitude of reasons.

First of all, it means that if something should happen to a particular crop, those growers are completely devastated. We all know the proverb about putting all your eggs in one basket, and that’s essentially what industrial agriculture is pushing. We’ve seen examples of how dangerous this can be in several instances since the onset of monoculture. From, the tragic Potato Famine in Ireland, to the citrus blights which occurred all over the Eastern Americas in the 1980’s. When growers rely on one crop they make themselves considerably more vulnerable.

Secondly, this means that in order for any one region to support itself it is dependent on imports from other regions. The cost of this creates food that is absolutely soaked in fossil fuels. From the cost of processing foods to make them last longer to the cost of packaging and refrigerating them for long journeys, it certainly adds up.  

Another cost is the loss of biodiversity in ways which also affect culture. When small growers must compete with huge operations it makes it much more difficult. This means that every year, around the world, small family farmers are kicked off of their land and displaced. Often these farmers must move to more metropolitan areas and then become purely consumers instead of producers of food. Farmer Displacement can also lead to the splitting up of families, a loss of sense of place or self and cultural identity.  

In the past decades, the world has gone from eating a varied diet, which changed according to region and season, to eating a much more narrow range of plants and animals. In every species of plant or animal that we eat we have reduced the varieties considerable. This means that all sorts of culture and heritage have been lost to monoculture farming. In so doing we have lost our autonomy. When we no longer know where our food really comes from and we cannot decide what we want to eat, we suffer. Both culturally and nutritionally. This year there have been studies citing the loss of nutritional value for crops grown in monoculture and using synthetic fertilizers. Below is a small example of how many species we’ve lost in only 100 years.

The Final Bill

There are plenty of arguments from industrial agriculture lobbyists stating that this method of production is necessary for feeding the world, for feeding our growing population. However, this method of production is short-sighted and unsustainable. It boasts higher yields at lower costs, and yet it still leaves one in eight to go hungry.

The current system of food production doesn’t include in its true costs: high greenhouse gas emissions, loss of soil health, loss of healthy ecosystems, addiction to resource intensive fertilizers and pesticides, loss of biodiversity and loss of food sovereignty.  

In conclusion, it’s time for us to genuinely consider the cost of how we eat. We should demand that our policymakers make policy that is based on science and not funded by multinational corporations that concern themselves more with profits than with consequences. We cannot continue to bend the earth to our industrial ideals. It’s not sustainable and we see more and more research to support this. The Industrial Agricultural system is a relatively new system, and it’s best for us to stop this system before we completely lose the resources to do so. There are viable answers to feeding the world to be found in all sorts of food sovereignty movements, from organizations like Grain to Via Campesina to The African Center for Biosafety. Let’s all educate ourselves about industrial agriculture and the real costs of what we eat so that we can make informed decisions and protect the world we share.  

Art MADNESS - July & August 2018 Tuisku "Snow" Kolu

Cycling Creativity

Written by Tuisku “Snow” Kolu

Creativity can be a kind of madness, taking over your motive and drive whenever or wherever it pleases. This can be problematic when you’re on the road and have limited supplies to express yourself. But the Creative needs to be fed. Limited supplies doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for the Creative, but rather reforms its drive to find a way to express itself. Hence you find yourself painting with a messy brush that is falling apart onto a piece of bark ripped from a tree. For now, your mind can be still from the need to create, but not for long.

Contributing Writers Creative Pieces TWISTED MORALITY - June 2018

GreenWar: Because the Earth is worth the fight!

Photos courtesy of GreenWar

Presentation by Selçuk Balamir, Mathieu Grosche and Shabnam Zeraati

GreenWar – Corporate Identity from GreenWar on Vimeo.

Wars have always caused major destruction and loss. But they have many positive externalities as well. We would not have tin cans if Napoleon had not urged his engineers to invent a way to conserve food. We would not have computers, if the Germans had not wanted to conquer the world. And even the internet was invented by the Pentagon.

So let’s face it: wars are here to stay. It is quite unrealistic to anticipate the end of wars in the 21st century. At the same time however, it is equally impossible to ignore the environmental challenges in front of us: if we expect to keep on fighting throughout this century, we cannot just sit and do nothing about the climate crisis, deforestation, disappearing species and so on.

Our sustainable military development company GreenWar is an innovative brand adopting a unique strategic position in the industry. We see ourselves at the crossroads of arms manufacturing and eco-design. We can help you make environmentally-friendly, energy-conserving, carbon-neutral, ecological conflicts.

But of course this does not mean the end of casualties. Quite the opposite actually! At GreenWar, we see well beyond the simple human criteria. We are in a global ecosystem where each and every being contributes to the cycle of life, where “human loss” equals “unleashing springtime”. Death should not be perceived as a loss, but as an essential part of natural cycles. Cradle-to-grave and all that.

For us “sustainability” means to satisfy the need of the present generation to wage wars, without compromising the need of future generations to wage theirs. At GreenWar, ecology is a war that never ends.

Photos courtesy of GreenWar

Here is our flagship product. Bullet for the Earth is made out of eco-friendly materials and it contains seeds that grow after use. Thus every shot gives a chance to make a tree grow. Would soldiers not be more motivated, if ammunition contained rare plant seeds? After all, they would contribute actively to the cycle of life. Enemies could become trees, a true benefit for all.

Many scenarios are possible; lost bullets, bodies left in battlefields and mass graves might all potentially give life to whole forests. An offshoot can also be sent to the soldier’s family along with his ID tag, making it possible to plant it in one’s garden, keeping the memory alive for generations. The seeds contained in the bullet are of different species. Hence a large variety of forests will take place after every war.

Next year we are launching our new product: seed bombs. Much more effective than individual bullets. Drop one and let a thousand flowers blossom!

Photos courtesy of GreenWar

We run a partnership programme with Monsanto, famous for their terminator seeds, to develop genetically modified seeds specially designed for particular conflict zones. India-Pakistan, Israel-Palestine, the Balkans… you name it. We make it.

We are also pleased to have worked with the Obama administration, which obviously did not impede the  US war efforts, but nonetheless opted for more environmentally-friendly alternatives. I watched Mr. President himself give a little gesture towards Mother Nature: a fighter jet that runs on biofuels. Named the Green Hornet, it was Launched on Earth Day.

Fortunately, the US is not the only one seeking solutions! A few years ago, we were invited to this charming event at the European Parliament, the best place in the universe. It was such a timely initiative, considering that 2010 was the year of biodiversity.

However, I must admit that I was utterly disappointed when we were told that we should not expect fancy new weapons. Instead, the panelists spoke about awareness-raising campaigns reminding soldiers to switch off the light before leaving the room. If European soldiers are getting killed during convoys transporting bad, unsustainable diesel fuel to military bases, it is because of the unsustainable soldiers that forget to turn off the lights. Henceforth, the panelists agreed on the need to invest in renewables.

The world is a pretty dangerous place, but it doesn’t have to be this way anymore. We strongly believe that wars of the third millennium can be ecological, humanistic and poetical. Men should have no reluctance about going to war, they should have a good reason: ecology. Because the Earth is worth the fight!