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The Question of Landuse

Across the globe there is a big debate going on about landuse. If we ignore for a moment the problems of land ownership and land grabbing (big and disturbing issues), the other major question is how to best farm for protecting the environment (encouraging biodiversity, capturing carbon out of the atmosphere, reducing waste, etc.). There are two diverging models being offered by governments, policy makers, scientific groups, campaign organisations:

1. maximising agricultural output from the minimum area of land, freeing up larger areas for re-wilding projects, where nature is allowed to recolonise larger areas

2. Farming in partnership with Nature.

The first option sounds great, as we probably all like the idea of more land given back to Nature - the problem lies in the manner of farming which would then take place on the intensive farming areas. We already know what this would look like - highly industrialised, gene-modified crops, maximising control through use of chemical inputs (and some biological inputs), heavy use of fertilizers, hydroponics, ever-larger areas covered in plastic and intensively irrigated - this all adds up to very high inputs - which not only cost a lot, but have a very heavy impact on the environment. When we consider that we need to feed a world population of upwards of 7 billion people, these selected concentrated production areas are not going to be small parcels of land. This approach will further intensify the industrial processes, and effectively be mining operations on areas of land under cultivation. Once one area of land is used up, the the system will "reclaim" new areas given back to nature (as well as literally mining large area for material and energy inputs) - all in all not a sustainable approach. The other model is to farm in partnership with nature. This approach means basing our farming methods on natural systems and cycles, to slowly develop farming systems which co-evolve with Nature. This is how farming has developed over the centuries (prior to industrialisation), but now we have the monitoring tools to ensure that we keep track on biodiversity, whilst maintaining soil health, minimizing erosion and pollution of water courses and the atmosphere. We could also call this approach "nature-rich" farming. The industrial model is designed to make a few individuals very rich (from subsidies, from intensification and ownership consolidation, from the agro-pharma industries), whilst the co-evolutionary approach feeds the planet, whilst promoting biodiversity. From this kind of farming rural communities can enjoy decent standards of living, allowing Nature to profit.




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