Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time - not so very long ago - all farming was 'organic'. The soil was fed with manures and compost; pests were managed by multi-cropping and rotation; crops were grown according to their suitability for the local climate and soil type. Farming and food were the focus of seasonal celebrations, and haymaking brought everyone into the fields.
     In those days, the air was alive with multitudes of birds and insects, each with its ecological niche,  dependent on one another and ultimately on the living soil, full of bacteria, fungi and myriad creatures that silently maintained its fertility. Farmers knew that healthy soil was everything; neither plant nor beast could thrive without it.
     When mechanization made it possible to plough faster than a horse, farmers were encouraged to rip out hedges to make bigger fields. Instead of a few acres of a variety of crops, they began to grow hundreds of acres of the same crop, attracting insects and birds that found a monoculture of their favourite food irresistible. Chemical manufacturers found a new market for poisons that could be spread on the fields to kill these 'pests' and crop rotation fell out of fashion in favour of the 'modern' way: short-term fertility induced by drugs, turning farmers into junkies at the mercy of agri-chemical pushers.
     Now, there are many fewer farmers and almost none who knew farming before chemicals. They sit in air-conditioned tractors, high above the soil, heedless of the lack of life below. Or they sit in front of a screen, viewing satellite images of their land, looking for patches in need of yet more artificial fertilizer.
     Where there was  once a thriving community of worms, nematodes, beetles and countless other creatures, there is now a sterile wasteland incapable of supporting life. Soil has become merely a support medium for plants, which are utterly dependent on synthetic chemical inputs, supplied by the same companies that manufactured poison gas for the Nazis.
     Bees, once integrated into the farming economy and respected and nurtured for their pollination of orchard fruit and hedgerow, now struggle to survive among the systemically-toxic crop plants. Insecticides are now added to the plant's vascular system by means of seed coatings - like putting a nicotine patch on your arm - so every part of them is now poisonous to bees and any other creature that dares to nibble a root, a leaf, a stem, or drink its nectar or take its pollen. 
     For the sake of glossy, out-of-season fruit and vegetables on supermarket shelves year-round, we have put at risk the very survival of the species on which we - and the health of the planet - ultimately depend. If we continue to allow a handful of super-rich, trans-national corporations free rein to peddle their poisons, regardless of the devastation they cause, then we will be held as culpable as they when our grandchildren ask why we, knowing what was happening, sat back, watching TV, while their planet slowly died.

Phil Chandler

1 comment:

  1. Certainly well said, Phil
    If I had the writing flair, I could extend what you have just said to my interest in why people do not love Gaia.

    Bees are one of the most beautiful, interesting, and closely connected of all the beings we share our lives with.

    I remember when we were at Green and Away in 2006 I sat on a log eating my toast and jam whilst several wasps busily enjoyed the stickyness of my fingers. They looked so busy and completely fearless and uninterested in my petty troubles and concerns. I felt honoured at such close contact.
    I imagine you get that feeling also when the bees wander around and about you. We are Gaia's life, Gaia's transmitters and receptors. We are Earthlings, who else would we want to be?