Introduction to Changing the Climate with the Seeds We Sow
Introduction to Changing the Climate with the Seeds We Sow (January 2020)
This book complements three other books of mine that have been recently published by Harbour Publishing of British Columbia, Canada: Some Useful Wild Plants, The Power of Pulses and Awesome Ancient Grains and Seeds. My wild plant book is a forager’s guide to edible and medicinal wild plants and the other two books are about growing and cooking some of our most basic foods. This book is less about foraging, gardening or cooking and more about how we are changing the earth’s climate by the destructive and unsustainable ways we relate to seeds and food in North America. We could easily be feeding ourselves in healthier and more earth-friendly ways.
In all the talk about climate change, food is one thing that is rarely mentioned.
Almost all of us eat two or three times a day; most of us work most of our lives to ensure that food gets to our tables; many of us drive trucks to bring food to stores, restaurants and warehouses. Many of us drive to our meals. Many of us produce, package, advertise and sell food products.
So much of our lives and livelihoods are in one way or another bound up with food.
In North America, not many of us are farmers these days. Very few of us sow the seeds and grow the food. Most us are so disconnected to what we eat that we are not aware of how damaging our food systems are to our global environment. If we actually saw how our food is produced, we would probably shake our heads in disbelief and quickly change our food habits.
How did it get to be like this...the mass production of food with massive chemical inputs?
Well, to summarize it in just a few paragraphs: It started just after World War Two. Chemicals no longer needed in warfare were used instead to fertilize plants and to wage war against weeds and bugs. Following a philosophy of biggest is best, an unprecedented industrial agriculture developed. Farming became more a matter of mining huge areas of land purely for profit rather than about people feeding people and taking care of the land.
With no diversity to hold things in check, growing single crops on large acreages encouraged pests and diseases. Industrial agriculture’s solution was herbicides and pesticides, then more and more of both, as pests and diseases built resistance to the biocides.
By the 90s, agrichemical corporations figured out ways of bioengineering genetic material into soybeans to make plants survive herbicides, and into corn and canola to kill the insects that ingest them. Makers of GMO/genetically modified crops claimed that this would result in less herbicides and pesticides being needed. That certainly hasn’t proven to be true! Huge amounts of poisons are now routinely applied to our food crops in North America as well as to the ones that come to North America.
In terms of carbon emissions that result from profit-at-any-cost GMO agriculture, think about the forests and jungles that are mowed down daily in order to plant genetically modified soybeans, corn and canola, And think about the military, political, economic and legal powers that benefit from such destruction. All that adds up to a lot of emissions that are not usually factored in to the contributions of agriculture to global change.
Every time we buy food products that have genetically modified ingredients, we are buying in to a system that puts power and profits above planetary health and wealth, a system that plays a large part in creating the radical climate change we are all experiencing. If you look at the labeled ingredients on supermarket jars or cans, you’ll see that practically all contain derivatives of GMO soybeans, corn or canola.
In the past few decades, incidences of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity have risen dramatically as industrial agriculture keeps increasing levels of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides,. But it’s the poison companies that are subsidized, not the people who grow food without chemicals.
We could be doing things differently. We could easily be growing food organically and ecologically without resorting to chemical fertilizers and poisons. We could be growing more food ourselves and we could be supporting local agriculture to a much greater extent than we do now.
We could educate ourselves about our daily bread and everything else we put on our plates and in our bowls.
This book is about some champions of the plant world that deserve to be better known and better grown. In North America, we are far from understanding the wealth they have to offer. If we change our attitudes and relationships to them, they can change us back to health and hope.
The beans, grains, greens, herbs and seed foods in this book have either been sadly neglected or madly disrespected by North Americans but they shine with beauty, abundance, diversity and richness. We have either been completely missing the boat with them or treating them with such heaviness as to sink the boat!
They are all easy to grow. They have very long histories of providing sustenance and health. They are all suitable for small-scale agriculture, using methods that have been employed for millennia. They can be cultivated without pesticides, herbicides and fungicides if we scale things down a bit and honour the use of human labour to cultivate, maintain and harvest them.
They have all been discovered by the organic food industry in North America and can be purchased as whole foods or as delicious products that still have most of their goodness.
We all create the state of the earth, each and every day. By making conscious food choices, we can indeed help moderate climate change.
We are the climate! As humans, we can choose to not wage war against nature. We can opt for a more benign and sustainable agriculture; such as communities around the world have been practicing for countless generations.