Dr. Jana Davis
English 1127, 029
18 November 2013
Organic Farming as a Solution to Climate Change
Climate change threatens the sustainability of food production. At the same time, conventional food production threatens the sustainability of the climate. In Canada, the agricultural sector is responsible for eight percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These emissions translate to 56.6 million metric tonnes of carbon equivalents. An extra three percent can be added to that number for “Agricultural fossil fuel and energy use” (Environmental p 111, figure 16-2). Canada needs to take responsibility and remedy emissions. Wonderfully, organic farming has the potential to ...view middle of the document...
With a rising global population and an influx of new citizens every year, Canadian farms need to maintain food production rates. If topsoil is disappearing, or if the land can no longer hold the elements of life, then new land must be acquired. Wooded areas and grasslands have excellent soil fertility. Tear down the trees and great humus will be found. Of course, cutting down trees in itself releases mass amounts carbon dioxide. Land use change is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. (Agriculture 27). Exacerbating the sustainability food by the loss of farmland is a threat to the livelihoods of farmers too. In 2006, 22 percent of Canadian farms reported making less than $10,000; 30 percent reported making between $10,000 and $49,000. (Environmental 11). The current farming model is not economically viable for everyone. People are being pushed out of their farms by land and pocket. Children of farmers know this. In the past, farms were passed down through generations; however, the 2011 Canadian census revealed that the largest proportion of farmers are now “55-and-over,” a first in Canadian history (Statistics Canada). Since the number of farms is decreasing too (Statistics Canada), we can expect to import more food. Importing food, of course, requires transportation by trucks, ships, or planes. All of these methods burn excess fossil fuels that deepen our carbon footprint.
These days, conventional agriculture uses monoculture to increase yields and profitability. Monoculture is industrialized farming. The practice involves using a “single variety of plant” in a given field (Oxford). Unfortunately, monoculture does not work in the long term because it taxes agricultural soil beyond its means: “If a whole field consists of one species, or even one variety, of crop, all of them are competing for the same nutrients in the same soil level” (Rice 223). Roots systems of plants vary in depth depending on the plant. If all these roots can only eat what is in its proximity, then these “competing” roots will quickly eat up all that is available. Fertile land is suddenly not fertile anymore. Since nutrients in soil are key to productivity, conventional agriculture must resort to artificial means. Monoculture is reliant on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As soil continues to erode from the nature of “intensive monocropping,” more and more chemicals are needed (Food Safety p 6, para 2). As well, the use of strong pesticides can harm the essential microorganisms that live in the soil creating a vulnerability to disease and devastating pests. Botanist Stanley Rice indicates that for the pest who has a taste for one kind of plant, monoculture is akin to an all-you-can-eat buffet. The result is swift crop destruction, as was the case with the Canvendish banana in Southeast Asia. Banana crops were destroyed by Panama disease (Rice 223). When soil fertility goes down, and problems with pests occur, the practice of monoculture is to add...