In the race to feed the world’s seven billion people, we are at a standstill. Over the past century, we have developed increasingly potent and sophisticated pesticides, yet in 2014, the average percentage of U.S. crops lost to agricultural pests was no less than in 1944. To use a metaphor the field of evolutionary biology borrowed from Alice in Wonderland, farmers must run ever faster to stay in the same place—i.e., produce the same yields.
With Chasing the Red Queen, Andy Dyer offers the first book to apply the Red Queen Hypothesis to agriculture. He illustrates that when selection pressure increases, species evolve in response, creating a never-ending, perpetually-escalating competition between predator (us) and prey (bugs and weeds). The result is farmers are caught in a vicious cycle of chemical dependence, stuck using increasingly dangerous and expensive toxics to beat back progressively resistant pests.
To break the cycle, we must learn the science behind it. Dyer examines one of the world’s most pressing problems as a biological case study. He presents key concepts, from Darwin’s principles of natural selection to genetic variation and adaptive phenotypes. Understanding the fundamentals of ecology and biology is the first step to “playing the Red Queen,” and escaping her unwinnable race. The book’s novel frame will help students, researchers, and policy-makers alike apply that knowledge to the critical task of achieving food security.
By 2050, the world population is expected to reach nine billion. And the challenge of feeding this rapidly growing population is being made greater by climate change, which will increasingly wreak havoc on the way we produce our food. At the same time, we have lost touch with the soil—few of us know where our food comes from, let alone how to grow it—and we are at the mercy of multinational corporations who control the crops and give little thought to the damage their methods are inflicting on the planet. Our very future is at risk.
In Consumed, Sarah Elton walks fields and farms on three continents, not only investigating the very real threats to our food, but also telling the little-known stories of the people who are working against time to create a new and hopeful future. From the mountains of southern France to the highlands of China, from the crowded streets of Nairobi to the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, we meet people from all walks of life who are putting together an alternative to the omnipresent industrial food system. In the arid fields of rural India we meet a farmer who has transformed her community by selling organic food directly to her neighbors. We visit a laboratory in Toronto where scientists are breeding a new kind of rice seed that they claim will feed the world. We learn about Italy’s underground food movement; how university grads are returning to the fields in China, Greece, and France; and how in Detroit, plots of vacant land planted with kale and carrots can help us see what’s possible.
Food might be the problem, but as Elton shows, it is also the solution. The food system as we know it was assembled in a few decades—and if it can be built that quickly, it can be reassembled and improved in the same amount of time. Elton here lays out the targets we need to meet by the year 2050. The stories she tells give us hope for avoiding a daunting fate and instead help us to believe in a not-too-distant future when we can all sit at the table.
Over the past century American agriculture has shifted dramatically with small, commercial farms finding it increasingly difficult to compete with large-scale (mostly indoor) animal feeding operations (AFOs). In this book, Terence J. Centner investigates the environmental, social, economic, and political impact of the rise of the so-called factory farm, exposing the ramifications of the contemporary trend toward industrial-scale food production.
Just as Rachel Carson's landmark Silent Spring used the disappearance of songbirds as a jumping-off point for a work that raised public awareness of pesticides' devastating environmental impact, Empty Pastures sees the dwindling numbers of livestock in the American countryside as a symptom of a broader transformation, one with serious consequences for the rural landscape and its inhabitants--animal as well as human.
After outlining the rise of the AFO, Centner examines the troubling consequences of consolidation in animal farming and suggests a number of remedies. The issues he tackles include groundwater contamination, the loss of biodiversity, animal welfare, concentrated odors and other nuisances, soil erosion, and the economic effects of the disappearance of the small family farm.
Inspired by largely abandoned traditional practices rather than a radical and unrealistic vision of a return to an idealized past, Centner proposes a series of pragmatic reforms for regulating factory farms to halt ecological degradation and revitalize rural communities.
The Farm as Natural Habitat is a vital new contribution to the debate about agriculture and its impacts on the land. Arising from the conviction that the agricultural landscape as a whole could be restored to a healthy diversity, the book challenges the notion that the dominant agricultural landscape -- bereft of its original vegetation and wildlife and despoiled by chemical runoff -- is inevitable if we are to feed ourselves. Contributors bring together insights and practices from the fields of conservation biology, sustainable agriculture, and environmental restoration to link agriculture and biodiversity, farming and nature, in celebrating a unique alternative to conventional agriculture.Rejecting the idea that "ecological sacrifice zones" are a necessary part of feeding a hungry world, the book offers compelling examples of an alternative agriculture that can produce not only healthful food, but fully functioning ecosystems and abundant populations of native species. Contributors include Collin Bode, George Boody, Brian DeVore, Arthur (Tex) Hawkins, Buddy Huffaker, Rhonda Janke, Richard Jefferson, Nick Jordan, Cheryl Miller, Heather Robertson, Carol Shennan, Judith Soule, Beth Waterhouse, and others.The Farm as Natural Habitat is both hopeful and visionary, grounded in real examples, and guided by a commitment to healthy land and thriving communities. It is the first book to offer a viable approach to addressing the challenges of protecting and restoring biodiversity on private agricultural land and is essential reading for anyone concerned with issues of land or biodiversity conservation, farming and agriculture, ecological restoration, or the health of rural communities and landscapes.
Farming in Nature's Image provides, for the first time, a detailed look into the pioneering work of The Land Institute, the leading educational and research organization for sustainable agriculture.The authors draw on case studies, hands-on experience, and research results to explain the applications of a new system of agriculture based on one unifying concept: that farms should mimic the ecosystems in which they exist. They present both theoretical and practical information, including: a review of the environmental degradation resulting from current farming practices a critical evaluation of the attempts to solve these problems a detailed description of the ecosystem perspective and the proposed new agricultural system a case study illustrating how this new system could be applied to temperate grain production using perennial seed crops and the prairie as a model an examination of the potential savings in energy and water use, as well as potential contributions to ecological experiments and yield analysis work from The Land Institute.Written in clear, non-technical language, this book will be of great interest to soil and agricultural scientists, academics, policymakers, environmentalists, and other concerned with finding long-range solutions to agricultural problems.
Fatal Harvest takes an unprecedented look at our current ecologically destructive agricultural system and offers a compelling vision for an organic and environmentally safer way of producing the food we eat. It gathers together more than forty essays by leading ecological thinkers including Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, David Ehrenfeld, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Vandana Shiva, and Gary Nabhan. Providing a unique and invaluable antidote to the efforts by agribusiness to obscure and disconnect us from the truth about industrialized foods, it demostrates that industrial food production is indeed a "fatal harvest"--fatal to consumers, fatal to our landscapes, fatal to genetic diversity, and fatal to our farm communities.
As it exposes the ecological and social impacts of industrial agriculture's fatal harvest, Fatal Harvest details a new ecological and humane vision for agriculture. It shows how millions of people are engaged in the new politics of food as they work to develop a better alternative to the current chemically fed and biotechnology-driven system. Designed to aid the movement to reform industrial agriculture, Fatal Harvest informs and influences the activists, farmers, policymakers, and consumers who are seeking a safer and more sustainable food future.
Begun in 1941 as an outgrowth of Friends of the Land, the journal The Land was an attempt by editor Russell Lord to counteract -- through education, information, and inspiration -- the rampant abuse of soil, water, trees and rivers. But for all its seriousness of mission, The Land was a stimulating mix of fact and charm. It included literature, philosophy, art, and the practical observations of farmers and conservation workers, to encourage small farmers to understand and apply conservation principles to their lands. This anthology, a fascinating mosaic, compiled from the 13 years of The Land tells in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and philosophy the story of how we changed from a nation of small farms to the agribusiness we have today. Among the 40 authors included are conservation and literary giants such as Aldo Leopold, E. B.White, Louis Bromfield, Paul Sears, Allan Patton and Wallace Stegner.
What determines agrarian settlement patterns? Glenn Davis Stone addresses this question by analyzing the spatial aspects of agrarian ecology--the relationship between how farmers farm and where they settle--and how farming and settlement change as population density rises. Crosscutting the fields of cultural anthropology, archaeology, geography, and agricultural economics, Settlement Ecology presents a new perspective on the process of agricultural intensification and explores the relationships between intensification and settlement decision making. Stone insists that paleotechnic ("traditional") agriculture must be seen as a social process, with the social organization of agricultural work playing a key role in shaping settlement characteristics. These relationships are demonstrated in a richly documented case study of the Kofyar, who have been settling a frontier in the Nigerian savanna. The history of agricultural change and the development of the settlement pattern are reconstructed through ethnography, archival research, and aerial photos and are analyzed using innovative graphical methods. Stone also reflects on the limits of ecological determination of settlement, comparing the farming and settlement trajectories of the Kofyar and Tiv on the same frontier.
In 1800, the highlands of Sri Lanka had some of the most biologically diverse primary tropical rainforest ecosystems in the world. By 1900, only a few craggy corners and mountain caps had been spared the fire stick. Highland villagers, through the extension of slash-and-burn agriculture, and British managers, through the creation of plantations—first of coffee, then cinchona, and finally tea—had removed virtually the entire primary forest cover.
Tropical Pioneers documents the conversion of a tropical rainforest biome and the collision between what previously had been more discrete ecological zones within South Asia. The ecological impacts were transformational. Author James L. A. Webb, Jr., demonstrates that profound ecological disruption occurred in the central highlands of Sri Lanka during the nineteenth century and suggests that the theme of ecological crisis brought about by the integration of tropical ecological zones during precolonial and colonial periods alike is an important one for historians to investigate elsewhere.
Tropical Pioneers is based on extensive research in the National Archives of Sri Lanka, the National Agricultural Library at Gannaruwa, the Library of the Royal Asiatic Society-Ceylon Branch, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Public Record Office of the United Kingdom, and the British Library.