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Woody Tasch: A Question of Balance

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global oneness project A Question of Balance If you were organizing food markets from the ground up-- --you would be looking at--maybe the most fundamental thing would be organic matter in the soil. Woody Tasch - Point Reyes Station, California - Author, "Slow Money" Anybody who knows anything about farming knows--I'll assert this-- --that the quantity of organic matter in the soil is critical. And what does that mean? Really healthy soil might have 5% organic matter in it. Soil that has been farmed industrially, meaning large-scale with tractors and cultivation and synthetic chemicals-- --might have 1% organic matter in it, on its way to less than 1%. So if you were organizing our economy based on the long-term health of the soil-- --you would not be doing much of what we are doing. But they're organized around markets. What does that mean? We need to produce lots of food cheaply and lots of food that sits on shelves for a long time. I'm not saying those qualities in themselves are all bad. We do need to produce a lot of food and we do need to get it into a lot of mouths and we do need it to be able to sit on shelves. Again, it's a question of balance. If the whole food system just lurches towards the long shelf life, cheap thing-- --then you get soil which is going from 5% organic matter to 1% organic matter-- --on the way to being completely depleted. And I think for people hearing this who don't know about agriculture-- --they might think that sounds a little alarmist, and it isn't. It's really shocking how dissociated the general citizenry is in America to what's going on in our farmland. And I think the reason for that dissociation is that the supermarkets are full of food so it looks pretty good. And it's amazing. There are--I forget the number--10,000 to 20,000 new food products invented every year by all the food companies-- --new cheese doodles and new this and new that-- --so every year we get all kinds of new products and the supermarket is chock full. But what's going on out in the land is the exact analogy, the exact metaphor, to carbon in the atmosphere. In fact, the two are related. Maybe I should just spend a second and close that loop. But if people are finally beginning to realize that 380 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere is bad-- --400 is worse, 500 or 600 might be disastrous, the same thing is happening in the soil. We are depleting organic matter in the soil pretty much in exactly the same dire way. It's only since World War II that industrial agriculture has been operating on this scale-- --so we've kind of been lulled into it. It seems like it's working pretty well. But without trying to get bogged down in the details-- --I would just ask anybody--even if you don't know anything about biology or chemistry--to just think about the following-- If we are growing all of this food, all of these high-yielding varieties of grains on our land by dumping chemical fertilizers on the ground-- --and dumping pesticides and herbicides on the ground-- --which short-term does work--that's why we have all the food-- --but what's it doing to the microbes in the soil? What's it doing to the actual web of life in the soil? And the answer is it's killing it. Just think about it. If you take a lot of chemicals of any kind and dump it into a little space-- --what's it going to do to all the microbes and all the little things that live there? Answer: Long-term it's going to kill them. Short-term it would be the equivalent of you taking a protein supplement and a workout or taking steroids--steroids is a great example. You take the steroids, you pump iron, you get really big--it's amazing. Long-term your body falls apart. So this is a slight exaggeration but not too big of an exaggeration to be untrue. If you take chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that we use in industrial agriculture-- --and think of them as a kind of steroid, it's a chemical supplement that allows short-term boosts of productivity-- --that are very dramatic, but over a period of several decades-- --we're only talking about decades--certainly a couple of generations at the most-- --we are taking all the fertile relationships out of the soil that it took millenia to build. And the long-term consequences are just as dire as 500 parts per million in the atmosphere. Now, when that's going to happen, we can debate it. There are things that are happening right now in terms of soil erosion, dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico-- --there are things that you can measure right now that are very scary. But the actual consequences haven't quite come home yet. In other words, we're still getting the yields. There are diminishing returns, and again, if you look at trends of yields per acre in China-- --or aquifer depletion--I haven't even mentioned water--it's all related-- --if soil does not have high content of organic matter, it doesn't hold water-- --so you get more run-off and more erosion from soil that's not high in organic matter. So all of these things are tied together.

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 10 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 95
Posted by: global on Mar 9, 2009

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