April 22nd, 2015 is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, but for me and most other farmers, Earth Day is every day. When you work on the land you have a deep appreciation for just how important it is to conserve and nurture our natural resources. It’s an old Native American tradition that when you take something from the Earth, you must put something back, and that is something that as an organic farmer I strive to do every day.
Chemical agriculture has robbed our earth of nutrients and in many cases made it impossible to grow anything. If we continue down this road our earth will become a barren wasteland. This Earth Day, I am urging everyone to take a stand against herbicides like Roundup. Just like the “acid rain” challenge of thirty years ago, when scientists and fishermen began noticing an alarming decline in animal and plant life in lakes and forests throughout the eastern United States, modern herbicides are doing the same thing to our farmlands and food supply.
It was a report from the National Academy of Sciences that pinpointed the source of the acid rain problem: sulfur dioxide emissions, mostly from coal-fired power plants. SO2 was causing rain and snow to turn acidic, and that acid rain was killing aquatic life and damaging forests. The discovery sparked a heated debate over how to reduce sulfur emissions. A cap-and-trade approach was seen to be the best solution and was written into the 1990 Clean Air Act. It required overall sulfur emissions be cut in half, but let each company decide how to do it. And power plants that cut their pollution more than required could sell those extra allowances. A new commodities market was born. Under this market-based plan, sulfur emissions have gone down faster than predicted and at one-fourth of the projected cost. By 2000, scientists were documenting decreased sulfates in Adirondack lakes, improved visibility in national parks and widespread benefits to human health. The Economist called it “the greatest green success story of the past decade.” And the efforts continued.
In October 2011, the California Air Resources Board voted to create a cap-and-trade market for greenhouse gases, as required by AB32, the state’s landmark bipartisan 2006 climate bill, which EDF cosponsored and defended in court. AB32 aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in California, the world’s eighth largest economy, to 1990 levels by 2020, while generating one-third of its electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind. The cap-and-trade market alone, which began in 2013, is predicted to slash the state’s warming emissions by an amount equivalent to taking some 3.6 million cars off the road.
So if all this is happening, why isn’t it enough, why should we care about herbicides? Let’s take bees for example. Bees are the pollinator of a large percentage of crops, and their decline represents a serious threat to agriculture. Even though bees don’t pollinate all crops—grains for example are pollinated by wind or pollinate themselves before the flower opens – the pollen itself can be an important food source for them. If the pollen contains harmful chemicals, the constant exposure can be very damaging. The EPA reports that “pesticide poisoning” is a likely cause of bee colony collapse as pesticides and herbicides like Roundup, as well as others known as systemic neonicotinoid insecticides, weaken the bees’ immune system. Both honey bees and wild bumble bees are seriously harmed by exposure to herbicides like Roundup and the newer systemic neonicotinoid pesticides, even by tiny doses not sufficient to kill them outright. Bee colonies started disappearing in greater numbers in the U.S. shortly after the EPA allowed these new insecticides on the market. One of the top theories of bee colony collapse disorder (CCD) is that it’s being caused by genetically engineered crops, either as a result of the crops themselves or the pesticides and herbicides applied on them, such as Roundup. Without bees to pollinate our food crops, there will be no food and without food we cannot survive.
It’s time to put a stop to this blatant destruction of our eco-system, all under the guise of producing “cheaper food”. Destroying the integrity of the very earth that produces our food is counter-intuitive and completely unnecessary. It’s time to “STOP ROUNDUP RAIN”.
An organic farm, just like our planet needs to keep the balance of nature. We don’t just have one crop—a monoculture—because this cannot sustain all the wild insects needed to pollinate it. Instead we have a mix of crops as well as orchards and gardens all grown without chemical pesticides and herbicides. I believe organic farming is the best, most sustainable way of ensuring that our children and grandchildren have an abundance of fresh, nutritious foods for generations to come. And that the earth and its bounty are protected and unpolluted.
So this Earth Day, do something to bring about change. If you are a farmer, look to incorporate organic and sustainable practices on your farm, if you have a garden, there are many ways to grow organic foods and flowers. Whatever you do, help to support those who are farming organically – by purchasing organic foods and products you too can make everyday “Earth Day”.
There is only one Earth and it needs you to put something back.
Call to Action:
You can help STOP ROUNDUP RAIN by lobbying retailers to remove damaging herbicides and pesticides from their shelves. Here are some links to become involved: