Excerpt from Growing Roots of the Psyche, Ecological Issues

Defining Terms: Industrial agriculture refers to agricultural operations that are so large that mechanization, intense irrigation, and/or utilization of commercial fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides are necessary to ensure optimal yields and overall plant health with in a mono-agricultural system. Ecology is the study of interrelationships between organisms and their environment. Sustainability refers to acquiring and maintaining the resources able to meet vital needs of all systems, including the resources themselves. Ecological sustainability refers to supporting the balance of all ecological systems in one’s bioregion as well as the whole, Earth. Deep Ecology is a term coined by philosopher Arne Naess referring to an ecological movement and a philosophy for life (Dregson & Devall pg. 25).

Industrial Agriculture is degrading our air, land, and water.  Foreign chemicals and mass monocultures compromise biodiversity in soils and plants. Arne Naess (2008) explains for full ecological sustainability to be effective biodiversity is necessary on all levels and full ecological sustainability is required for future development (pg.301).

By planting large mono-crops on a continual basis the topsoil (approx.6-18 inches) is depleted of essential plant nutrients that are required to ensure soil and plant population health. “Top soil is being lost from areas worldwide 10-40 times faster than the rate of soil renewal, threatening soil fertility and future human food security. (Pimental, 2008, as citied in Pimentel et al., 1995; Pimentel and Kounang, 1998; Pimentel, 2006a, 2007) When the land is over-utilized it becomes unable to sustain the industrial agricultural practices that California and the world is quite accustomed to. Carol Merchant, author of Radical Ecology (as cited in Geneis of Eden), expresses the blatant truths of industrial agricultural to our bioregions: farm communities are destroyed leading to mass poverty and hunger, animals are suffering, chemical pollution is rampant, and short-term exploitive strategies are implemented rather than sustainable crop-cycling and the list just goes on (pg. 18-22). These current agricultural practices are decreasing the ability to sustain food production and essentially life in any region.

The change in our climate is becoming more erratic and plants depend on the cycling seasons for growth of buds, flowers, and fruit. For three week this past January on the central coast of California the sun was shining and the temperatures were a blissful 80 degrees. This caused many edible plants and fruit trees to begin to flower based on this unseasonable warmth. As the typical weather patterns of winter returned, frost killed the premature flowers of avocado, peaches, pears and more. This has devastated the farmers here in California who depend on a steady climate to ensure productivity. According to Parker (2007) in Science and Technology

 “As the nation’s leading producer of nearly 75 different crops, California supplies more than half of all domestic fruit and vegetables. In fact, California is the sole national producer of both almonds and walnuts. It produces 80 percent of the world’s almond crop and a high percentage of fruits, vegetables, and other nuts.” 

Crop losses due to climate change may cause an entire state, if not world, to reassess its priorities and begin to develop practices for a better future.  Climate change affects every living system on earth, and patterns of temperature and precipitation are in a heightened state of fluctuation. 

The world is getting hungrier and daily nutrition is already a crucial issue for many living on this planet. Brown, Flavin, and David (as cited in Oskamp, 2000) explain population growth since the early 1800’s; one billion around 1830, two billion in 1930, three billion in 1960, four billion in 1975, five billion in 1987, and six billion in 1999. The world’s population is currently 6,910,518,687 billion people. That’s another one billion people in 12 years. Some believe there is a threshold to the amount of people the Earth can hold. Many believe we have passed that threshold. We could feasible have close to nine billion people by the year 2030. An increasing population decreases the ability to grow enough food to feed all. This is further complicated by unsustainable farming practices. Working within the system of growth and density is necessary for survival. How can we agriculturally sustain a city of millions while having minimal environmental impact?

In a discussion of aquifers, Dr. Despommier (2010) addresses the next twenty years of agriculture in California:

“Some predict that in another twenty five years California will no longer be able to farm in that vast southern region resulting in an estimates loss of more than $30 billion in agricultural revenue.  In the north, agriculture runoff eventually ends up in the Sacramento River, and ultimately into San Francisco Bay, and creates yet another set of ecological disruptions that will ultimately affect all those living in the area.” 

With much of the world’s food production coming from this area of California, it seems imperative to begin developing solutions for change.