Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Opportunity to Rewild Thanks to the Beneficence and Super Abundance of Modern Agriculture

Every one in a while a very important article
comes along and I want folks to read it so much that I blast it to the world. This is one of those articles. Written by Jesse H. Ausubel, Director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University, it is entitled The Return of Nature: How Technology Liberates the Environment. Read the whole thing!

I have argued that both the United States and the world are at peak farmland, not because of exhaustion of arable land, but because farmers are wildly successful in producing protein and calories. To prosper, farmers have allowed or forced Americans to eat hamburgers and chicken tenders, drink bourbon, and drive with ethanol, and they continue to export massive tonnages abroad.

Wasted food is not decoupled from acreage. When we consider the horror of food waste, not to mention obesity, we further appreciate that huge amounts of land can be released from agriculture with no damage to human diet. Every year 1.3 billion tons of food are thrown away globally, according to a 2013 report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. That equates to one-third of the world’s food being wasted....

Rebound is already happening. Abandonment of marginal agricultural lands in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe has released at least 30 million hectares and possibly as much as 60 million hectares to return to nature, according to careful studies by geographer Florian Schierhorn and his colleagues. Thirty million hectares is the size of Poland or Italy. The great reversal of land use that I am describing is not only a forecast; it is a present reality in Russia and Poland as well as Pennsylvania and Michigan.

In America alone the total amount of corn fed to cars grows on an area equal to Iowa or Alabama. Think of turning all those lands that are now pasture for cars into refuges for wildlife, carbon orchards, and parks. That would represent about twice the area of all the US national parks outside Alaska.


Karen Carroll said...

I hope that more farmland is converted back to it's natural state. When I went out to Wyoming in 1999, I've seen first hand the degradation of sage brush and the destruction of riparian areas by over grazing of cattle. My friend showed me non-grazed sage. Which is about 6 feet tall, then the grazed sage which is about 3 feet tall. Sage is a tough plant and can take a lot of abuse. It has for over 100 years and still survives, but not enough for sage grouse to live. I've chosen not to eat beef for that very reason. And have become disgusted at the arrogance of some of the beef cattle farmers/ranchers I've met. Oil development does not seem so bad, until you realize that sage grouse will not live nor nest in any area that has perching above their habitat for avian predators, hawks, falcons and golden eagles. Oil rigs, and buildings are also killing off sage grouse, by providing perches for avian predators. The Sagebrush Sea is airing on PBS May 20th at 8:00.

5string said...

All the cornfields are from my youth in east Pennsylvania are gone. Filled in with housing developments, mini mansions and apartment complexes.

Seems so impractical for a community. You need a car just to get food.

The horse and buggy roads are jammed with traffic. We could ride a bicycle out on those old farm roads and never once get passed by a car. The small town I grew up in now has a traffic light and a McDonald's.

The school kids now must take the bus instead of doing the 5-10 minute walk.

I just shake my head when I travel home to visit mom.

Then when I leave, the old town I knew as a kid takes over my stored brain images again. The old place will never change... in my mind. They can't change that.