This article is not about politicising the dramas that are playing out on the world stage, which may very well have a large variety of hidden, and not so hidden agendas. This is an observation of current affairs, and an overview of issues around how human activities like farming systems need to be reconsidered through a practical lens, because they can cause localised ‘climatic crises’. The solutions can also be surprisingly simple. What started out with one Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg striking for climate every Friday - skolstrejk för klimatet in Swedish - has resulted in an international movement. In June 2019, a poll in the U.K. found that Greta has “‘pierced the bubble of denial’” of public concern about the environment. The 20 September 2019 Global Strike 4 Climate took place over 7 continents, in 150+ countries, and in 110 towns and cities across Australia. Melbourne organisers estimated a record-breaking crowd size of 150k, in the biggest climate rally in Australian history.
Greta is leading kids and adults, and is calling for ‘system change not climate change’ as well, that recognises that changes to political, economic and social systems are essential. Capitalism is losing its legitimacy largely due to the system’s failure to respond effectively to the destruction of wildlife, ecosystems and habitat. People of all ages are questioning their own role in the system. One of the most powerful themes of the strike movement is that the youth have the largest stake in a world seemingly racing towards catastrophe. They feel aggrieved by the half-hearted approach governments and institutions have taken to the problems. They are calling for #notbusinessasusual and the taking of responsibility to lift the burdens on our planet.
According to the Australian Academy of Science, climate is determined by many factors that influence flows of energy through the climate system, including greenhouse gases. Climate change is a change in the pattern of weather, and related changes in oceans, land surfaces and ice sheets, occurring over time scales of decades or longer. We can’t prevent the icebergs from breaking down, but we can change how we farm. There is growing scientific consensus that we must rapidly transition to sustainable and ecological farming systems to avoid both climate catastrophe and ecological collapse. Last month’s report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put the spotlight on the way land use affects—and could be affected by—climate change.
The journey of getting caught up in emotion, illusion, and ultimately getting to the truth
People have witnessed dramatic changes in the natural world, and there has been challenging information overloads and aggressive marketing- and misinformation campaigns in the last few months. How many protestors in the streets really understand the dynamics behind so-called ‘climate change’?
Many people have experienced 2019 as a year of disappointment, fear, dishonesty, deception, illusion and even delusion. Youths have been up in arms because of the anger and helplessness they feel over intensive farming systems. Farmers have been through a huge emotional rollercoaster with animal activism, bullying and farm trespass. New laws were introduced to keep activists off farm as well. Many of us have gotten caught up illusion, rather than what is true. Some of us have gotten quite carried away with our belief systems, like the extreme vegan ideology. Youngsters were hyped up against what they call ‘factory farming’ after seeing documentaries, and at the same time aggressive marketing campaigns launched around new plant-based burgers, some made with GM soy and fermented microorganisms that is predicted might decimate Big Meat and Big Dairy.
In another twist, some prominent vegan influencers have had to leave the diet, and reintroduce animal products to counter serious health problems. They finally found that animal products can be produced in pristine pasture-based systems and with natural species-appropriate diets, which increases
the food’s nutrient- density. Some Australian politicians also let it slip that they are unsure if climate change is real. Minister David Littleproud has been branded a ‘climate-denier’.
Even though it is widely recognised that situations around us are not ideal, people consider the earth as sacred, and its affairs as important. Fortunately there has been grace, a return to integrity and seeing from a perspective of wisdom, that have resulted in changed and grounded lives.
Some people have been able to get to the truth and the core of situations, and now understand how to facilitate change from the inside out.
There is a depth of perception into the practical matters that is driving blessed change. Some are feeling more of a sense of purpose, destiny and strategy; to take what no longer works and turn it around. Moments of understanding is experienced all over the world, which will continue to occur. Some are seeing more clearly the lessons that can be learnt and applied.
Both hindsight and foresight blend; to create states that will lead to the reality individuals and groups of people prefer. The system may be resistant, but change will come, because research shows that systems inevitably change over time, and are ultimately created and reinforced by the collective. The collective wants destruction of the natural world to end.
Here are some of the complex issues that are now more understood from a higher perspective than ever before:
1. Carbon Emissions from Oil, Gas and Coal
These are the obvious culprits. Vast areas of Australia are being exploited to extract gas, coal, and other minerals resulting in ecosystem, farmland and water aquifer damage. Fossil fuels are burnt releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere. There is an emerging idea that carbon dioxide is ‘food for plants’, but that is not necessarily true of some new farming systems where CO2 gas is pumped into greenhouses to ‘feed’ plants. Half of all tomatoes sold in supermarkets come from these operations. Scientists warn that rising CO2 make crops less nutritious, and is a public health risk, because it will leave hundreds of millions of people with protein and mineral deficiencies. One scientists described it as a matter of "increased quantity and the expense of quality". Read more about it here. The obvious solution is to double down on CO2 emissions, and grow food in healthy soil, so that plants can naturally acquire minerals and trace elements, via nutrient-cycling between plants and soil microbes.
2. The Synthetic Fertiliser Effect
Earlier this year a study found the US fertiliser industry emits 100 times more methane than estimated. This is the fertiliser that is used across the agricultural sector to fuel the growth of crops. They can have a negative impact on the nutrient-density of crops and pastures. Soil ecologist Dr Elaine Ingham says that nutrient cycling is the symbiotic cycle in which plants get access to the minerals, which is not available to them any other way. This is the process in which plants access all the essential nutrients and minerals they may need, in the proper balance. When animals enjoy a diet rich in remineralised plants, they are going to be robust in health and resistant to bacterial infections. It is going to increase the food safety of raw drinking milk as well, which is why it is so vital to understand.
If the food humans and cows eat are less nutrient-dense, or lacking in minerals and trace elements, more food has to be consumed, without necessarily getting the nourishment and optimal health benefits needed. It’s a complex situation described in many articles in the Regenerative Farming category. These fertilisers can also effect the carbon cycle, as soil microbes help sequester carbon back into the soil. Farmers are losing their farms to dustbowls. They were encouraged to apply more inputs and intensify. Huge amounts of money have been extracted from farming, and it has made farming unsustainable. In recent years, farmers have been applying more fertiliser without necessarily getting a benefit from it, and the run-off has polluted rivers, waterways and also coral reef ecosystems. The obvious solution is learning how to grow the right set of soil microbiology as a compost tea, and applying it in the paddocks.
3. The Agrochemicals with Antibiotic Properties Effect
Microbes make soil fertile, says soil scientists. However some herbicides, pesticides and fungicides have antibiotic properties. This means they can kill soil microbiology, and even make it easier for pathogens to attack plants, because plants have lost protective soil microbiology. The use of these chemicals are rampant in modern farming, and at some Australian farms they are sprayed in increasing amounts over the soil.
Soil microbiology, like mycorrhizal fungi, is an essential ingredient in both the nutrient-cycle that provides essential nutrients to plants, and carbon cycle which restores atmospheric carbon back into the soil.
Beneficial soil microbiology also has an effect on the food safety of many foods.
Beneficial microbes can keep bad bacteria in check, and inhibit or eliminate their potentially harmful effects. This is the nature and function of many beneficial and commensal microbes when they quorum sense. This is one of the many reasons why the use of these chemicals are strongly discouraged on the farm producing raw dairy. Chemicals with antibiotic properties can also create antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or superbugs. When beneficial microbes are killed off in a terrain, it is easier for pathogens to take over, because they tend to colonise faster, and can establish a dominance in low competition environments. When pathogens take over in the soil, or the soil becomes dead, it is a disaster for farming systems, food security and climate stability, because more bare soil, weeds and eventually dustbowls can be the result. Read more details in the articles below:
4. The Monoculture Effect
Many dairy pastures consist of single plant species like ryegrass, with some clover if the animals are fortunate. This is what industry has recommended in the past. Unfortunately, ryegrass is a highly problematic plant to be growing in mass. It links to the Thunderstorm Asthma outbreaks in Victoria that killed people and has been compared to a bio-bomb, and it doesn’t put a good protective cover on the soil. Ryegrass is frequently grazed, and kept quite short. Ryegrass doesn’t do well in extended periods of high temperatures and drought, which will increase the likeliness of bare soil, which is currently the reality in parts of Australia. If farmers really understood what vast pastures of ryegrass did to soil microbes, thus soil fertility and profitability, they would never grow monocultures ever again. The planting of large areas of single plant species (like ryegrass pasture and grain crops) to feed animals for beef, dairy, pork or poultry have created huge biodiversity, soil fertility and soil water holding capacity crises, and destruction of farmland ecosystems over time.
A scientists said: "There's a lot of research showing that increases in CO2 in the atmosphere make some pollen grains more potent, increasing allergenicity." This is the pollen from plants like ryegrass, that becomes a “massive public health problem” every October to December, putting Victorians at risk of hayfever, asthma, thunderstorm asthma etc. Victoria already has a huge amount of problematic ryegrass as it is. In 2016 ten people died and about 14,000 were taken to hospital.
When there is a large range of different plants in the paddock, there is a large range of diverse soil microbiology, and the underground fungal network can operate like an interconnected super-organism with co-operation taking place in the soil. Nutrients and vital information flow, and complex tasks are carried out. Returning to a large range of different plant species as pasture-based feed for livestock is critical to restore ecosystem functions, pristine waterways and carbon sequestration. Farmers are planting cover crops for grazing into tired old pastures, among others things. When biodiversity is increased, farmers often see the return of native grasses that they haven’t seen in decades. A study show grassland with its deep permanent roots, is a reliable carbon sink, and sequesters more carbon than trees.
5. The Methane Effect
In recent times ruminants, like cows, have been blamed for belching and farting methane. New studies suggests that the aggressive blaming of these animals are more rooted in the promotion of a plant-based diet ideology, than science. According to this SacredCow.info info-graph, the EPA found that all livestock only represents 3.9% of the US GHG emissions, which is far lower than the 18% - 51% range many plant-based advocates report. The largest source of GHG emissions in the US comes from energy and transportation.
In addition, many recent articles have described how methane is released from the earth due to fracking. A co-author of a recent study said that “natural gas is largely methane, which molecule-per-molecule has a stronger global warming potential than carbon dioxide." "The presence of substantial emissions or leaks anywhere along the supply chain could make natural gas a more significant contributor to climate change than previously thought."
6. The Heat Dome Effect
This is a heat-creates-more-heat effect that is happening in Australia, because we have large areas of bare soil, and more bare farmland soil.
Modern farming practices like frequent tilling of the soil, the planting of monocultures, overgrazing and even deforestation, have had a detrimental effect on the soil microbiology, soil structure (aggregates) and also soil water holding capacity. Many farmland soils have lost their protective green cover, and as a result we’ve seen extreme heat, soil erosion, dust storms and dust bowls. Soil microbiology start to die when the soil is exposed to heat between 30-40’C.
The presence of green, growing plants and moisture in the soil are important factors for climatic stability. A diverse species pasture contains many different plants that is home to a large range species soil microbiology that can hold water. This green and hydrated forage is less likely to suffer from drought or bushfires, and is a more year-round resilient nutrient-dense feed for animals. The environmental and ecological benefits of regenerative farming has already been proven by science as "the tool that could rapidly give the world a safer climate and a more productive agricultural industry". Listen to Australian youth Emily Little at the climate strike in the video above.
7. The Industrial Agriculture Effect
Vast amounts of grain is currently grown globally with agrochemicals to feed animals in feedlots, which is a shame, because if farmers were to learn how to grow that abundant green regenerating forage in their pasture, it would transform the profitability and image of livestock farming as highly beneficial. This has also been described at length on this website. It is possible to keep large cattle herds on regenerating pasture if the right kind of farming practices, like rotational and adaptive grazing, are applied.
Industrial agriculture also involve farmers supplying produce to a middleman or distributor, before it reaches the consumer. This means the farmer is often not paid a fair price, ultimately because of supermarket price wars. The quality of the food and the farming practices are also not influenced, or endorsed by the consumer.
The rise of the fake/imitation food marketing is another avenue by which industrial agriculture, commodities and the systems around them are perpetuated, even in the face of changing consumer preference for higher quality food and more ethical farming practices.
A 2018 WWF report identifies industrial agriculture as the biggest single contributor to species loss, which is profoundly shaped by capitalism. Only a handful of “commodity” species are deemed to have any value, and because, in the sole pursuit of profit and growth, “externalities” such as pollution and biodiversity loss are ignored. Uncomfortable change is already the new norm. Destructive farming is the issue, not whether you can eat meat or vegetables, or if icebergs are breaking up. Even the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) recognise the value of regenerative farming, because healthy soil is essential to the future of food production. Our planet is losing 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil every year. Watch the video above. With industrial agriculture, there has also been a need to clear more land to feed a growing population. Scientists show land clearing and deforestation did have an impact on rainfall in those areas. New South Wales and Queensland have done an astonishing amount of land clearing in recent years, with severe drought that followed. The growing of commodity grain crops and industrial agriculture are harming the planet and climate stability.
8. The Seed or DNA that Lack Integrity Effect
95% of the plants on earth desire the symbiotic exchange of mycorrhizal fungi, for plant health and a variety of mutualistic benefits. Some of the modern varieties of seed distributed, are intentionally bred by scientists to do less exchange with soil microbiology. The potential effects and consequences of this should be evident by now…
Plants meant to nourish animals and humans, bred not to seek a natural mutualistic interaction and partnership with microbes to obtain nutrients and minerals, should raise alarm bells.
Dairy farmers who want to purchase multi-species cover crops for grazing, to increase soil fertility and an abundant forage as feed, should take care what seeds they buy. It may be best to source unadulterated old-fashioned seeds like heirloom varieties, and seeds that have not been treated with agrochemicals. Animals who produce raw drinking milk need to be in optimal health, and get all the natural occurring nutrients, minerals and trace elements from their food possible.
Genetically modified seed is another one of those areas that is often touted to have some kind of notable benefit, but may have a back door that introduce unwanted or potentially harmful consequences…
A more recent study showed just how risky and unpredictable it is to deregulate new genetic modification techniques in animals, plants and microbes to this very day.
The debate over gene editing legislation and CRISPR technology in Australia is heating up. According to this article, the mainstream agriculture sector is on a collision course with environmental and
organic farming groups like Slow Food, Friends of the Earth and Organics Australia, who are supporting a disallowance motion from Greens Senator Janet Rice that would stop the unregulated use of gene editing techniques in plants, animals and microbes. "The dairy industry sees significant opportunities from the use of new gene editing techniques to improve the pasture-based dairy production system," Australian Dairy Farmers president Terry Richardson said. According to another article, Australia’s dairy industry is urging Canberra to pass amendments to gene technology regulations. The lofty hopes seem to centre around developing new ryegrass, which ADF argues could be a value game-changer for the dairy industry.
If these technologies were allowed, it may be the start of a very clear defined line in the sand, drawn to separate what feed, and which animals are suitable to produce raw dairy, and which are not…
PCR tests may be needed to determine if certain products contain or lack GMO material, because there will be demand for verifiable non-GMO food. Some consumers want to avoid GMOs at all cost.
Some in leadership seem to believe that technology will solve all our problems. The truth is that a return to natural ecosystems will fix many problems quickly and effortlessly - without the potential hidden dangers - as regenerative farming examples show. This kind of farming can easily be done on any scale, so the ‘we have to feed the world’ argument doesn’t apply here. Those who have been able to achieve revolutionary success with regeneration methods understand how soil function.
9. The Industry Effect and the Future RDC System
Who have been advocating over the last few decades to install the kinds of changes, that now show to have potential to harm animal and human health, our farming communities, our food security, our ecosystems, our environment and our planet. It’s the various industries, some of the organisations tied to them, and the diverse systems stacked underneath them.
Minister Bridget McKenzie just announced that government is seeking submissions on how to improve the Research and Development Corporation (RDC system).
“Farming underpins profitable farming families, strong rural and regional communities and contributes to our national economy. That’s why our Government is committed to realising a $100 billion industry by 2030."
The foreword in the discussion paper says that the RDCs are the cornerstone of next wave innovation to help our farmers stay at the forefront of agriculture internationally. Figure 2 shows that 93% of consumers in the Asia-Pacific region would be willing to pay a premium for healthier food. Page 14 of the discussion paper shows the large R&D corporations and large industry-owned companies that are involved…
It’s depressing that to this day government intently focus on feeding people in other countries, and neglect local consumer preference for artisan and more healthy food.
How many of the leaders involved have the capacity to act in the best interest of farmers, local consumers and the environment in a sustainable way, without considering other things first? The priority for job creation, collaboration with vested interests, export, trade, or achieving a maximum return-on-investment, for example, can sometimes be good excuses to perpetuate situations that may not be in the long term best interest of all on this planet.
In recent years, it has become quite apparent that some agriculture organisations does not necessarily hold local consumer preference, or the farmer’s best interest at heart. There has been a funnelling of power towards a few in business leadership, who have enjoyed authority, influence, advantage and decision-making.
For decades industries have influenced how food is grown in Australia and what people can or cannot eat. This is a decision that farmers and consumers want to have because ultimately it is their health and wellbeing that is in the balance.
These capitalist systems must be transformed. It's the entire way that production and distribution are carried out that must be re-examined. Despite the illusion that has been created that Australian food is the best, many consumers know this is not necessarily the case.
The highest quality food is that which can be obtained in direct farm-to-consumer relationships, where consumers and farmers together have a say on farming methods and production systems.
Dairy farmers producing raw drinking milk overseas are able to determine their own terms and price, because the direct farm-to-consumer bond enable this. Australian agriculture has been in crisis for many years because of farmer/consumer disconnect, with farmers borrowing huge amounts of money from the bank, and despite their best efforts, they sometimes go under. Welfare payments and rain cannot save farmers, create food security, or a sustainable future in farming. System change is required, and many corporations and industries need to take stock… Hopefully the realities of drought and dustbowls have frightened even the most ambitious. Even though there is fear of starting something new, the current status quo is a state with a misguided sense of safety. Leaders need to listen to wise council to help them make good decisions.
10. How did Australia disadvantage its soils and speed up ‘climate change’?
Earlier this month, ABC Rear Vision published an interesting program about how we came to farm the way we do in Australia, and how that fits into the climate change story. The history part of this presentation is worth listening to, even though some may not yet be comfortable to publicly discuss the benefits of organic or chemical-free farming, and more importantly, what that does for soil microbiology, soil fertility and food nutrient-density. Professor David Montgomery is very respected in regenerative farming circles and has produced some incredible research, books, interviews, presentations ect. on the health of soil and how civilisations have gotten it so wrong. ARMM even wrote a story about his work. Keri Phillips was the presenter and producer, and these were her quests:
Professor David Montgomery
University of Washington
Author of Dirt, the Erosion of Civilizations and Growing a Revolution, Bringing Our Soil Back to Life
Professor James Pratley
Emeritus Professor of Agriculture
Charles Sturt University
Dr John Kirkegaard
Farming systems agronomist and chief research scientist
Professor Thomas Hertel
Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics
At the recent Slow Food #Cheese 2019 event in Bra Italy, Jonny Crickmore of the UK Raw Milk Producers Association, Bronwen Percival and David Asher briefly explained why it is important to care for the land and environment, have a farming system of integrity, good animal welfare and husbandry, in order to get quality raw milk and raw milk cheese.
Raw dairy production systems can be very sustainable and ecosystem friendly, because they grow that large volume of pasture to sequester carbon. They can be seen as ‘climate-friendly’.
If an announcement should be made in the next few months regarding the legalisation of raw milk from cows in Australia, it may initially be disorientating for those who know nothing about regulating a raw milk industry. They may initially have no knowledge of the quality controls that can be put in place, so dairy farmers can produce a product that is suitable to be consumed in the raw, unadulterated state. At this time, there is much that we can learn about human behaviour, around how people respond to being subjected to, or bombarded with conflicting information. The process of personal redemption, that can be found from being released from long held illusions that large groups of people have collectively participated in, is something that will continue to unfold for us.
This is the nature of the human experience. We are learning to leave an old paradigm behind and replace it with a more benevolent and awakened one. Everyone is in a process of chipping away the old beliefs and histories, so that we can get to the truth. This will continue to unfold like the opening of a flower.
Coles cuts prices on more than 300 everyday items (bad news for farmers)
Farming Today This Week: GM in the UK
The very first GMO ‘health food’ was a GM L-tryptophan made by a Japanese company in late 1980s - it caused at least 2,000 people to either die or be permanently maimed and was called an eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) epidemic. Read this summary start at page 37.