My mother-in-law’s philosophy can be summarized this way: if a little is good, more is better. In fact, my husband’s mother ardently believes that a little is always bad, and that a LOT is always good. Big is better than small, too.
This is a profoundly patriotic, American attitude. Say what you like, we’re all about more, bigger, faster, better. Take agriculture, for instance. When Earl Butz called upon American farmers to plant “fence row to fence row,” it was entirely in keeping with Americans’ point of view. It was only a matter of time before his vision would grow up to become Big Ag.
Some friendly advice
“Get big or get out” was something else Butz told American farmers when he was Secretary of Agriculture under Presidents Nixon and Ford (1971-1976).
What exactly did that mean?
Plant all your acreage, use big, expensive machinery to do it, and go into serious debt (remember – Nixon created debt-based currency when he took us off the gold standard).
It also meant never giving land time to lay fallow, planting monocultures, and using synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It was really kind of an insidious thing. Because the land was no longer allowed to rest, nature never had a chance to replace the fertility it lost. That’s why farmers needed the new chemical fertilizers. The new fertilizers compensated for the fact that farmers were no longer just harvesting crops—they were also mining the soil.
Of course, chemical fertilizers didn’t return fertility to abused soil. All their nutrients were gobbled up by the crops being grown. No problem, thought Midwestern farmers. After all, in some places topsoil went down 90 feet! Good thing, too, because those big, beautiful new combines sure could tear up the fields.
Year after year, farmers plowed and planted, unaware that both soil and fertilizer were being washed away every time it rained. Down the Mississippi they went, to the Gulf of Mexico, where fertilizer runoff created a dead zone.
Today, that dead zone (there were a total of 405 dead zones, worldwide, in 2008) comprises 8,500 square miles of ocean. Nothing can live in these dead zones; there’s not enough oxygen.
87,776 and counting
Then, of course, there’s the cancer epidemic which has had this nation in a stranglehold since the 1960s.
Synthetic chemicals, first widely produced during World War II, contribute way beyond their fair share to this country’s cancer mortality rate—half a million lives every year! As of last year, 87,776 synthetic chemicals had been developed, and not just for use in agriculture. They can be found in everything, from shampoo to magic markers to office buildings to car care products.
These days, it’s very difficult to meet someone whose life has not been touched by the untimely demise of a family member or friend to cancer. Worse yet, children are more than usually susceptible to cancer-causing pesticides because of being exposed to them while developing. Cancer treatment is now big business in the United States.
The beat of a different drum
It took us a long time to figure all this out, and an even longer time to admit it was true. Many people, even today, lag behind, unwilling to re-examine what they’ve believed to be absolutely true, i.e., that the American way is the best way, that no matter what is produce in or by Americans, it is inherently right, good and true no questions asked.
Certainly it is comforting to believe in the impossibility of ever being wrong. People who believe they can never be wrong, however, often leap before they look, all the while bristling at the audacity of those who dare to question them.
Even as this proud majority embraced the concepts of more, bigger, faster, and better, the occasional iconoclast doggedly followed his or her own sense of what was right. It was during the early 1900s that two such trailblazers, Lady Eve Balfour and Sir Albert Howard of England, espoused organic food growing. Along the way, they attracted a small following that included American organic pioneer J.I. Rodale.
Rodale’s precepts were not radical; they were, in fact, long established. However, his ideas were being overshadowed by the glamour and gimmicks of quick fixes. (Words like “nutrients” and “contaminants” were not exactly a marketer’s dream!) Selling organic food cultivation to the American public was going to take some time, but Rodale remained determined.
Staying on message
Rodale strongly believed that healthy soil produced healthful food, which in turn produced healthy people. Saturating crops with chemicals that were toxic to weeds and insects was, he realized, a double-edged sword. It cut both ways: while chemicals eliminated pests that damaged crops, they also left a dangerous residue behind. Rodale instinctively knew that building naturally fertile soil was the key to soil, as well as human, longevity. In 1947 he founded the Soil and Health Foundation (later, the Rodale Institute) for the purpose of researching organic methods of agriculture.
Today, research in organic farming best practices continues at Rodale Institute’s New Farm. An ongoing, thirty year experiment, comparing conventional farming practices with organic methods, is one of the New Farm’s primary activities. The Rodale family oversees every facet of Institute leadership in organics, from the New Farm to education, outreach, advocacy and publishing.
I’ll take mine without poison
The word organic has come to describe far more than just food. It can also describe the clothes we wear, personal care items, the wood our furniture is made of, even the herbal tinctures some of us take for improved health maintenance; people will look for the best CBD oil UK with natural products in order to boost their mental and physical health. If your child were diagnosed with cancer, and you found out that growing cotton required 16% of all the insecticides used in the world, wouldn’t you – and your child – wear clothing made from organic cotton? (That’s more insecticide than is applied to any other single crop.) Even Wal-Mart sells organic cotton products now.
If you can’t find what you want on the shelf, talk to your vendor of choice. Don’t leave without giving them something to think about. It’s important we get the message out there, because organic matters.
–Vicki Lipski, Transition Voice