Seeding The Next Evolution
In this essay, we discuss our solutions to the agricultural problems facing us today. We explain how the best option for a healthier world is through food systems that are sustainable, progressively abundant, secure and accessible to all people. Read on to understand how we plan to create food systems that meet all the criteria.
Now that we have unearthed the devastating implications of our agricultural system, it is time to look at some of the solutions we have available to us. The challenges threatening our health and our environment may seem insurmountable; however, there is a way we can cultivate the food we need to thrive while ensuring a healthy human population and environment. We can wisely structure a system which allows us to have an abundant food supply. We can learn to share our surplus of local, healthful food with those in poverty who need it most. Best of all, we can do all of this without giving up the food quality and diversity that we have come to expect. All it will take is a little shift in perspective, a little bit of foresight and a little bit of cooperation. We can improve health, happiness, and harmony: within ourselves, within our environment and with those around us.
How can we do all this?
The answer is to begin supporting and creating localized, ecologically mindful food systems that work with the ubiquitous patterns of nature rather than hopelessly fighting against them. Citizens of Earth is starting our first project supporting local food resilience in the Clarksburg area. You can become a part of our journey towards a healthier, happier, and more harmonious world by supporting our ecological gardens.
But first, let’s look at how localized and ecologically mindful food systems can change the world.
At the foundation of holistic, mindful and progressive food systems is foresight. In order to provide for people and all other life on Earth that ultimately sustains us, we must look to the future in all decisions we make. If our children and grandchildren are to live in this world after us, how can we leave it better for them? Our idea is to ensure our food systems are sustainable, progressively abundant, secure, and accessible to all people.
One of the most ideal examples of a food system which meets all of these goals is the natural forest.
A healthy forest is a system that provides for all life within it - without the need for any human inputs and without diminishing resources. Devoid of any human intervention at all, the forest progressively supports more and more life each year as it recycles old, decomposing resources into fresh investments. As each piece of organic material decomposes, it supercharges the soil with vital nutrients that allow the surrounding plants to grow healthier and larger each year. The successional stages a forest goes through, from a few weeds to dense forestry, allows it to become more abundant each year as well as become increasingly more resilient. Short-lived annual plants are quickly replaced by long lived, perennial trees. In the forest, there are no rows. Every niche and every space is used and filled with a beneficial organism which will strengthen the structure of the complex forest. Every organism is also an essential and local part of the forest. This perfect assimilation of elements allows each organism to have access to what it needs to survive and thrive. In addition, a diverse forest also protects against any destructive monopolies. This principle is no different than our own economy. A diverse group of organisms can protect against a disease or pest infestation in the same way a diverse group of businesses can ward off a monopoly in industry. A diverse, competitive environment naturally weeds out any sickly plants (or businesses) and maintains the ecosystems stability by leaving no open space for invasive species (monopolies) to thrive on. We can build our systems like a natural forest to attain the same sustainability, progressive abundance, accessibility and security it has created through millions of years of trial and error.
To the Citizens of Earth sustainable refers to a system's ability to provide the resources and structures it needs in a way that maintains or improves its health and framework over time. In our food systems we can utilize our ability to recycle resources and invest them into the creation of healthier soils, which means healthier plants. Rather than rely on synthetic fertilizers to provide soil nutrients, we can use local natural alternatives such as leaves, manure or any other organic material. We can capture rain water using rain barrels, swales (ditches on contour), ponds or other water catching systems. Utilizing earth works for water catchment we can soak water into landscapes, spread water over area and diminish soil eroding currents. A system which recycles its own nutrients can thrive without the need for imported materials. The fewer external inputs we need, the fewer trucks and cars will be on the road transporting these materials to us. This applies to buying locally grown food as well. Food that shipped across the country in a plane or tractor to a grocery store certainly contributes to more pollution than food you pick up yourself at a local garden (not to mention all the energy and chemicals needed to keep this food fresh!). All of this adds up to a more efficient, less wasteful system of supplying food. Thus, we may ensure our food systems are effectively supplying food for generations to come.
A progressively abundant food system focuses on improving the quality of the food system overtime. Rather than focus on an annual, labor-intensive, and monotonous farming techniques, we can create exquisite ecosystems that become less energy-intensive and grow more resilient every year. The essence of progressive abundance in a food system is to create a stable ecosystem which grows more intricately and beneficially connected each year. Left to its own devices, the diverse parts of an ecosystem can become more and more interconnected and healthy. An abundant food system has a vital soil structure, as it is the foundation and nutrition for the plants we grow. Two important parts of this soil structure are fungal and bacterial networks. Fungal networks provide a communication highway between plant and soil life. This communication provides resilience in an ecosystem, fungi can communicate to plants, warning plants of disease which enables them to protect themselves. Fungal networks also help the soil to retain water, and in times of drought, can give water to dehydrated plants in return for starches. Microorganisms break down organic material and turn it into digestible food for hungry plants. Food systems like no-till gardens or food forests will build strong microbial communities leading to well-fed, healthy plants. An abundant system also has a succession of stages. In a food foresting system, annual plants are slowly replaced with perennial trees as years go by. The final stage of a food forest is a multi-layered system which produces food from the vegetation on the ground to the tallest trees of the upper canopy. Using food forests as a part of our food system may provide us with all the benefits of a natural forest and all the intended benefits of an agricultural plot. Progressively abundant systems can sustainably increase food supply capacity. Over time we will improve environmental quality while simultaneously increasing our food supply.
Sustainable and progressively abundant elements of a food system will be rendered useless if food systems are not secure. In the natural world, diversity is stability. A diverse and beneficially integrated system lowers the susceptibility of the system to disease and invasive pests. By having a diverse ecosystem of food producing systems, you are not “putting all your eggs in one basket”. If one crop fails due to pests or disease, the other crops will still produce. In addition, a diverse system will also attract natural predators to control pest problems. By using local and sustainable resources, we can secure the most fundamental elements needed to sustain food production. If there is a drought, we can rely on water retained in the soil through swales and dam ponds. When that is not enough, we can also use water harvested in rain barrels. A sustainable, localized food system can securely manage its nutrient needs. By reducing the reliance on large-scale mono-cultures and increasing the reliance on small-scale, ecologically-designed, localized food systems, we can easily secure our food by encouraging farmers to plant diverse crops. If one food producer encounters a disaster, another close producer may not. We can also design elements into landscapes to reduce impacts of natural pressures. Examples of proper design for security include: wind breaks, fire resistant elements, flood control, water storage and more. Another important aspect of our food security is seed saving. Letting some plants go to seed to be saved is vital in food production to secure the next generation of crops. Unbeknownst to most, the biodiversity of our seed supply has decreased 75% since 1900. Of the seed varieties used today many of them are engineered for production means but, are susceptible to genetic instability a real threat to food supplies. Local food producers are a vital part of the seed saving movement as our seed supply is currently monopolized by large corporations. If diversity is stability, it is necessary that we increase the amount of seed producers. The more seed strains we allow to go extinct, the less stable our food growing systems will be. These are all elements we need to consider in our design for food security.
ACCESSIBLE TO ALL PEOPLE
It is a fact that we already produce enough food to feed the entire world and end global hunger. So why does global hunger still exist? We have the resources to end all famine, but we are not making our food systems accessible to everyone. Let it be known Citizens of Earth believes everyone has the right to be fed, regardless of income. We can achieve this goal and the answer is less complicated than you might think. Let’s look back at the picture of the forest. Each organism is intricately woven into the structure of the ecosystem. We can weave ourselves into our food systems when designing for sustainable, progressively abundant and secure food systems we can guarantee food access to all people. Citizens of Earth realizes that there are political, social, and economic barriers to achieving this reality, but we are optimistic we can overcome these barriers, by working together. If we can surround people with an abundant, food producing, secure and sustainable food supply, then we are all nearly guaranteed access to healthful food. We can build these systems all over the world. We can build them in your backyard. We can feed everyone. It is not a question of ability, but of motivation. We can change the world.
Learn how we are planting our first seed of the next evolution.