Make soil not war

I have been feeling extremely glum over the past couple of days, reading more and more about the myriad ways we are screwing up our planet, particularly with respect to climate change. What saddens me most is the lack of foresight of politicians and those who wield power (political or economic). For example:

  • Sadiq Khan telling the Extinction Rebellion protestors that London needs to get back to “business as usual”, when that’s exactly what got us into this mess in the first place.
  • The supervisory board of Bayer supporting the CEO, despite 55% of shareholders voting to express their concern over the company’s acquisition of Monsanto… and all the issues associated with the fact that glyphosate (remember that “benign” weedkiller Roundup?) has now been scientifically linked to cancer. OK, the shareholders are probably concerned over profitability, but even so, the board still don’t care.
  • A report (the EAT-Lancet Planetary Health Report) extolling the virtues of a plant-based diet that, it emerges, was funded by global “food” businesses that make ultra-processed junk in their factories and (mis)sell it as being healthy for both people and planet… when reliable research is increasingly demonstrating the value of extensive, grass-fed livestock production for building soil and sequestering carbon and the adverse effects of diets that do not include nutrient-dense food, but rely on excessive carbohydrate intake. If you are interested, you can read more here.

I could go on, but it’s just too depressing.

Sometimes I feel as if I might as well embark on a gigantic shopping spree and sod the planet because it’s buggered anyway. And then I go into the limery and see what’s growing…

And so I remember the joy that comes with growing and nurturing the plants in a garden… a practical thing, but so, so important.

IMGP6739

a bed of potatoes

On Sunday, outdoors, I planted potatoes – one of the raised beds is now full. I saved the sprouting tubers from last year’s harvest, so there will really be no food miles when these produce a crop. This bed was constructed on an area where, when we moved to the house in 1999, there was no topsoil. We’ve worked very hard to create conditions suitable for growing vegetables. Whilst I was planting, Mr Snail scythed the front garden (man-power not fossil fuels) and the cuttings went in the compost bin, to be resurrected in months to come as vegetables. So, in our future we have peppers and chillies and courgettes and squashes and potatoes and lettuce and beans and peas and carrots and parsnips and kale… the carnivores will keep the flies under control, the passionflower will bring joy to our eyes and eventually we might even pick an avocado (the plant came out of my sister’s compost heap!).

If you read about combatting climate change, you will find all sorts of great suggestions, but for me, the greatest joy comes with growing. Nurturing your growing space – whether it’s a tiny terrace or a vast farm – is a real practical way to help the planet. In particular, making compost and building your soil is a wonderful and effective way to lock up carbon. So, whether you are composing with bokashi in an urban apartment or have vast hot compost beds on your allotment or smallholding, keep at it. These are genuine ways to save the world… and even if the politicians and big food succeed in their drive towards planetary annihilation, at least you’ll have a salad to eat whist the world collapses around you.

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25 Comments

  1. Our politicians fiddle whilst the planet burns. One of my diploma designs is about responding to the outside world so we will talk more tomorrow.

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  2. Ann Pole

     /  April 30, 2019

    Love and hugs to you. I know how you feel. There has been some good news, Scotland, Wales declaring Climate emergency, Jeremy Corbyn trying to do the same. The minister for fracking resigning saying the industry is strangled (oh what a shame…) and Leeds council (info from Joe A) acknowledging the school strike and (although not finalised) agrees to do something about it.
    And yes, going in the garden and seeing all the things growing is lovely. Over Easter we did a lot outside, but also spent time observing the many insects, including some bees we have seen for the first time. A mining bee and a beefly. We loved watching the butterflies courting and the ladybirds, well, making more ladybirds.
    The NDG was great – one of the best I’ve been to, even though the journey was very long now we have an electric van.
    XXX

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    • I would have loved to go to the NDG, but it’s tricky to organise such things with Mr Snail away. We have wanted an electric vehicle for years and it looks like it might finally be a possibility next time we need a new car… it’s incredible it’s taken so long, although I still worry about the issues associated with the batteries.

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      • Ann Pole

         /  May 7, 2019

        Yes, it’s a real tricky one with the batteries. The overall demand for EV’s will only increase, with undesirable consequences. I feel it will also drive ways of recovering and reusing the lithium – it has too. On the up side, I’ve read loads of stuff with people having 150k miles plus EV’s with no issues. On many EV’s, the individual cells can be replaced/re-balanced too. I suppose compared to the impacts of the supply oil and fuel, and the disposal of oil during services, seen as a whole it’s better. I guess the best yet would be to negate the need for the vehicle in the first place, but I think as a nation we are a long way off that.
        At the NDG there were 30 people I think, and 4 EV’s – more than 10%! Matt Rolston hosted a workshop, which we ended up kinda doing together. Only a small group, but a couple of very interested people, one of whom is looking to get a fleet of 5 vehicles for her business and she wanted some more information.
        Hope that helps. XX

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  3. Oh dear, you do sound glum…. I’m glad the growing things have had a restorative effect. Here in Queensland, our meat farmers are increasingly being targeted by vegan activists; animals are being kidnapped and property damaged. I’m by no means even a vegetarian, let alone a vegan; I feel better if I eat animal products. But I do respect the opinions of those who *choose* not to eat animal products, and I wish they’d show the same respect towards those who do. People who scream at farmers that they’re murderers and they hope their families die are not behaving in a respectful, rational way. Graziers are doing what people have been doing for thousands of years, it’s their means of livelihood, and if they stop doing it, entire animal species will become extinct because they can’t be allowed to become feral, breed uncontrollably and over-run the vegetable crops which will only partly replace grazing land. Land which is suitable for grazing is often not suitable for crops, so it will become wasteland.
    Oh dear. I’ll climb down off my high horse now. Apologies for the polemic!

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    • Most vegans do not seem to understand about soil ecology, nor do many of them differentiate between industrial farming and extensive, regenerative agriculture. We now buy our beef from a local couple who have a small herd and (intermittently) also sell milk; they are very sensitive to the needs of both their land and their livestock and I couldn’t think of a better way to produce food.

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      • We are now buying locally produced milk (within 100km), and local meat wherever possible. We could visit the animals concerned if necessary. They are contented and glossy, and they eat grass, not industrial meal with who knows what in it.

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    • My daughter and son-in-law are dairy farmers, only yesterday a woman went to the farm accusing their dairy manager (aged 27) of being a rapist and a murderer – he is a kind and gentle soul and was shaking and extremely upset after the incident. Violent and abusive behaviour of this kind is on the increase – I despair.
      Creativity, growing food and communicating with like minds is a wonderful soothing way to reboot and feel more positive.

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      • How horrible. I really understand people not wanting to eat meat, but I can never see why they feel that aggressive behaviour like you describe is acceptable. As an ecologist I know the importance of animals in the system as a whole, and despair at anyone who thinks that monocultures of crops depleting the soil and destroying ecosystems represent any sort of answer… not to mention the human suffering caused by the insane desire in this part of the world for avocados and quinoa.

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      • And violent and abusive behaviour would get her nowhere with animals, I fear. Poor man – totally unjustified slander like that can be so damaging. The government here is proposing new laws to make it illegal to publish details of primary producers and meatworks on the internet with the intention of enabling activism. It might help…

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  4. Our gardens are sanity savers in so many ways. Grubbing around in the dirt is so soothing, attacking weeds can be anger reducing and watching things grow meditative. At the same time, as you say, we are doing just a little to help sooth our very wounded planet. So, thumbs up to gardeners, no matter whether our thumbs be green or black!

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  5. You’re so right!
    We will try out a vermicompost on our balcony soon.

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  6. I find it hard to decide what’s right. I’ve been vegetarian for a month now (well, pescatarian I believe it’s called because I will eat fish) but I’d never dream of imposing my views on anybody else. I’m mainly doing it for animal welfare reasons because of the increase in factory farming etc. When I did eat meat I always tried to buy free range etc. but it’s not always easy and I can understand that many people can’t afford to pay those sorts of prices. Then I think, if I was really worried about animal welfare, I would become a vegan but then so many substitute foods are sourced irresponsibly and I don’t feel as if I’d get all the vitamins and minerals I need. I’m beginning to feel guilty about eating anything at all.
    On the plus side, we have three compost heaps lovingly tended by Mr. Tialys.

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    • I used to be a vegetarian and that was for animal welfare reasons, but I am happy to eat meat from small high-welfare producers. I don’t think there is a ‘right’ answer, but I certainly think we should try to avoid industrial farming of either plants or animals.
      And ‘hurrah’ for Mr Tialys and his compost heaps.

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  7. I know just what you mean. Easy to get discouraged and to think that our little efforts are meaningless. (I actually wrote about this for Earth Day.) However, we must do what we think is right, even if it feels like swimming against the tide. So, yes to growing things and yes to compost!

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  8. I do my best to live ‘kindly’ to both people and planet but I’m occasionally found tearing my hair out at The Managements attitude. I can understand some of his comments (until China and ……. join in we aren’t going to get anywhere……..) but I’m of the opinion that if we all do a little it adds up.
    Keep up the gardening and enjoy the produce 😊

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  9. Jess

     /  May 3, 2019

    I hear you. We’re only just now being able to get into the garden, but it feels good to work hard and sweat and create something, rather than sitting in front of the computer reading the news in despair. I am looking forward to my fruit tree orders arriving. Planting trees feels like a real, concrete, positive thing I can do.

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    • I’m just putting together a post about tree planting… there’s some interesting information about the best ways to use trees to mitigate climate change.

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  10. It sounds like you’ve found a pretty good cure for news-induced glumness! I really need to get into the garden myself – I fancy a balcony full of free, fresh salad leaves this summer. It also seems like a good time to mention that your blog continues to make me think about ways to be a better Earthling… So far this year I’ve ditched another 3 disposable products in favour of reusable substitutes, and I’m looking around for more! Now I’m intrigued by the prospect of balcony-based bokashi composting… Thank you, and keep up the good work!

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