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Revival of Small Subsistence Farming and Fight Against ‘Big Ag’

Part of Dietary Adaptation to Climate Change: Rethinking Food in the Next Hundred Years (part 3 of 4)

The dominance of Big Ag and the current state of dependence by billions of people globally to fulfill dietary and nutritional needs can be observed back during post-colonial era.  Such evolving economical agendas such as globalization put policies that better suited the advancement of corporate farming in an effort to meet larger demand beyond the range of direct commerce. 

The clearing of lands to grow a monoculture produce or limited livestock has isolated the lands from the greater whole of an ecosystem.  Every species (microbes, fungi, flora to fauna) removed further sterilizes the immediate supporting habitat, and thus, the soil.  The one or limited variety of produce (or livestock) chosen to commercially farm disrupts a whole biologically diverse ecosystem.  The impact of removing each individual species by themselves from these habitats are not all too well known.  Scientists can only speculate at this late hour what the potential loss may have been from the mere byproduct of the lifecycle of individual species and the biological interconnectedness. 

Polluting of waterways is also of concern.  With commercial agriculture, similar to industrial manufacturing, there reached hazardous levels of pollution into adjacent waterways by means of direct discharge or seepage of contaminants from soil runoff.  However, unlike industrial manufacturing factories, commercial farms have not come under the level of scrutiny in developing an environmental mitigation plan.  Usually a bacterial or viral outbreak in food supply provoke an investigation beyond the produce or herd.  Soil and water sources may be investigated to trace origin of an outbreak.

Subsistence-based farming such as dwelling-communal gardening to family farms is an agriculture scaled at much smaller level.  The carbon emissions decrease due to the reduction of heavy machinery and transport.  Supply routes are localized thus fewer vehicles are needed for distribution.  With direct agro-economic relations that subsistence farming offer, packaging, refrigeration, and storage of produce can be mainly facilitated by grocers and local markets instead of large-scale warehousing or distribution hubs that imposes a big demand on public resources (electrical, fuel and water) to sustain a low-level ripening produce.  Subsistence farming is more sensible to the supply of the water.  Rainfall and irrigation from tapping into the water table in the subsoil may be a sustainable source of water, while extra water can be siphoned from adjacent lakes or rivers.  The latter makes the case for not warranting the private licensing rights of water access and keeps it truly shared or a public resource.  Several underdeveloped (and developing) regions around the world are observing the deprivation to local farm because restrictive access or monopolized water rights.

Hannah Ritchie (2020) – “Environmental impacts of food production”. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: ‘https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food’ [Online Resource]

image: https://norgesvel.com/getfile.php/132305-1511963541/NorgesVel/Bilder/Landbruk%20og%20milj%C3%B8.png%20%28optimized_original%29.png

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