miércoles, agosto 14, 2013

Tad Patzek on industrial ag

To read the full article:

The last chapter: Industrial agriculture

Tad Patzek

As I have argued in the previous three blogs, industrial agriculture is the largest human project that impacts the Earth more broadly than any other human activity.  One needs to keep in mind that compared with the global environmental impacts of industrial agriculture, a Macondo well-like blowout is a child's play.  I know it, because I co-wrote a book on this subject with the famous historian and archeologist, Joe Tainter.  For example, in the Amazon forest the underbrush fires set by humans affect 3 million square kilometers, an area of India.  See NASA for a summary of this global catastrophe.

Researchers for the first time mapped the extent and frequency of understory fires across a study area (green) spanning 1.2 million square miles (3 million square kilometers) in the southern Amazon forest. Fires were widespread across the forest frontier during the study period from 1999-2010. Recurrent fires, however, are concentrated in areas favored by the confluence of climate conditions suitable for burning and ignition sources from humans (who were burning the forest for soybean or sugarcane plantations). Image credit: NASA's Earth Observatory.
From an ecological point of view, industrial agriculture creates open, permanently immature ecosystems, most of which are reset by humans each year. To make things worse, the simplified single-plant species agricultural ecosystems are doomed to fall prey to the ever-evolving pests and weeds.   One can prove this gaping vulnerability using thermodynamics, regardless of what Monsanto claims. Because agriculture usually creates baby, mostly bare ecosystems, agriculture is subject to huge soil erosion rates. Soil then becomes yet another depletable fossil resource. In a previous blog, I told you that industrial agriculture cannot be sustainable, because it is continuously subsidized with depleting fossil resources, including fossil water. If you want to check what we are doing with water, go no further thanAustralia.

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