Home > News > Agroecology: the sustainable response to a “planet earth” under threat

By Manlio Masucci, Navdanya International, – L’Extraterrestre, Il Manifesto, 12 March 2020 | Source

Agroecology and climate crisis. That is, how agroecology can contribute both to reducing emissions and mitigating the adverse effects of global warming. Dr. Vandana Shiva, the Indian environmentalist and president of Navdanya International, together with Andre Leu, former president of IFOAM and current director of Regeneration International, analyse in their latest book the state of health of the planet, identifying industrial agriculture as one of the main culprits responsible for the current ecological and climate crisis.
A paradigm shift in production is therefore necessary. The increase in biodiversity and the spread of agroecological practices, such as organic farming, can in fact stop and even reverse the harmful phenomena taking place. While, at the same time, provide answers to other open questions such as food sovereignty and security, respect for the rights of workers in the sector and the global health crisis related to poor nutrition.

In order to understand the causes of this emergency and, therefore its possible solutions, we need to acknowledge that industrial agriculture is one of the main sources of climate altering gas emissions contributing up to 30% to 50% of total emissions, depending on the externalities considered in the calculation. This is a production model based on external inputs, artificially fed by a system of subsidies estimated at 500 billion dollars per year, more than one billion per day. Industrial crops also use ten times more energy in input than they produce in output in terms of food production.
This results in an “uneconomical” system, leading to serious ecological consequences.
In addition to the long-standing issue of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers are destroying the vital composition of soils, contributing to desertification and drought. Conventional agriculture, concludes the author, considers the soil an empty container to be filled at one’s will. In order to show the unsustainability of the industrial production system and to identify possible corrective measures, Dr. Shiva reviews a vast scientific bibliography. Her analysis shows how a paradigm shift in production can be an effective response to climate change. Organic agriculture can, for instance, regenerate soils by capturing the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, while biodiversity can be used as a valuable alternative to pesticides and fertilizers. Agroecology thus represents a new scientific paradigm based on the holistic study of agroecosystems including all environmental and human elements. Of course, even if we were to stop polluting tomorrow, the Indian environmentalist remarks, it would take decades to reverse the trend.

Farmers must therefore adapt and be able to respond to extreme events, such as drought or heavy rainfalls. Again, organic farming is a more resilient system. For instance, organic soils, with a higher presence of organic carbon, are better able to capture and conserve rainwater. The capacity to respond to extreme events, in short, is based on the diversity of alternatives: “Biodiversity,” concludes Shiva, “is our only insurance against climate change. The evolution of diversity is necessary for developing adaptation and resilience strategies. Conventional varieties have much less capacity to adapt. Biodiverse cultivation systems are essential to ensure food security in the climate change era”.


Translation kindly provided by Arianna Porrone and Carla Ramos


This post is also available in: Italian, Spanish
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