Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 1, 2014

Sustainable agriculture as a homeland security issue: sometimes the old ideas are the best

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on April 1, 2014

Resource sustainability insistently encroaches onto the homeland security agenda.

Regardless of the causes — climate change, increasing global demand for a middle class life, depletion of available land and water, ethical norms — the throw-away culture is itself being tossed into the recycling bin.

Not long ago, Pope Francis told reporters

“We’ve become a little accustomed to a throw-away culture, … we do it far too much. With all these young people out of work, the throw-away culture is reaching them too. We must get rid of this throw-away mentality.”

The sustainable agriculture movement is one manifestation of this cultural shift.

Sustainable agriculture weaves these ethical traditions together. It requires rigorous science and reverence for nature. It treats plants, animals, and human beings with care and respect. Sustainable agriculture arises out of concern for the health and wellbeing of individual farmers, farming communities, and the public at large. It replaces the prevailing economic and technological models of “more, bigger, faster, and more efficient” with utmost concern for quality. Above all, it replaces the norms of extraction and exploitation with the norm of sustainability.

 While the language may sound like a neo-new age hash, sustainable agricultural practices are not a new idea.

…if sustainable agriculture is defined as the ability to maintain productivity, one can find hints of attempts at “sustaining” agriculture since its inception some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. In fact one could contend, as some do, that since we have ably maintained productivity, agriculture as we know it is sustainable. The real question is whether current agricultural practices can be sustained much longer.

Some people look to technology and innovative institutional practices as the keys to achieving a sustainable future.  See, for example, the discussion of The Farmery, on the always informative Resilient Communities website:

The Farmery is designed to be an innovative grocery store where produce is grown and sold under one roof.  The modular design of the structure is created from shipping containers.  These are cheap and easily accessible building materials making nationwide construction a very real possibility.

But we also have a great deal to learn from our grandparents, the people who lived sustainably before it was culturally correct.

The two minute, and now declassified, British video below shows one technique the Swiss practiced, presumably during the food shortages of the 1930s and 1940s.

Among other things, the video illustrates that sometimes the old, simple ideas remain the best.  One wonders how many other antediluvian solutions to 21st century threats are also filed away — like this video — in dusty, all but forgotten storage rooms, patiently waiting to be rediscovered.



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Comment by William R. Cumming

April 1, 2014 @ 7:01 am

Excellent post! Here in the Northern Neck of Virginia [described post-WWII as the five counties East of Fredericksburg VA on the land between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers] in 1940 including the so-called Middle Peninsula [land between the Rappahannock and York rivers] there were over 100 vegetable canneries. In addition to local employment and flavor these are gone. Why? We fly veggies east from CA and Mexico!

Comment by Christopher Tingus

April 1, 2014 @ 7:02 am

A very interesting article – thanks Chris!

ref “Some people look to technology and innovative institutional practices as the keys to achieving a sustainable future.”

Two (2) of a host of global technology projects I seek investor funding as facilitator, tapping trees and flowers for instance for electricity using patented cutting edge technology – kindly see: http://www.voltreepower.com – and utilizing other patented technology in wave technology – kindly see: http://www.resolutemarine.com – in an effort to use wave technology in select locations offshore to contribute to desalination resulting in clean water for substantial populations where water is very much needed whether off of Cape Verde, Peru or Indonesia!

Also attempting to introduce drip irrigation to increase production of crops from Haiti to other Caribbean islands….

We are all stewards of Mother Earth and we must do much to enhance production to meet the demands of an ever growing population. My focus over the last ten or more years, water! Clean water as a prerequisite where some one billion fellow humans do not even have access to a clean glass of water and climatologically, arid lands are causing less and less food production….

Christopher Tingus
Managing Director
Global Innovative Technologies LLC
Washington, DC 20036 USA

Comment by Bruce Martin

April 1, 2014 @ 10:35 am

If one was fortunate enough to have a neighbor with a marinara cow, there was sauce, too!

Comment by Dan O'Connor

April 1, 2014 @ 11:36 am

Sustainable agriculture is most definitely a homeland security issue and a bit of a pipe dream…so quite a dilemma. Here’s why I say that.

It is not in the best interest of Congress and the agribusiness lobby to have sustainable agriculture. It would interrupt the cash flow.

The farm bill, the main commodity crops, that being corn, wheat, and soybeans, and industrial food industry will thwart it as best it can. And those of science…the ones who say GMO’s are safe and there’s no proof that they are not ridicule those who say otherwise.

The Farm Commodity Program got its start in the 1930s, as part of FDR’s New Deal. At that time most North Americans lived on farms and most farmers were poor. Because there was no price floor, when prices of farm crops fell below the cost of production, farmers could lose everything…jump ahead 40 years and see the effects of Earl Butz…small sustenance farmers and local farms are effectively put out of business, creating a monolithic and generally unsustainable farming machine.

The use of water, insecticide, herbicides, and fertilizer particularly, N, P, K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) are now required to maintain growth.

And those diminishing yields are less nutritious than previous ones as well. Hence, more and more is spent and utilized to maintain lesser and lesser yield and quality. It’s a bad business model. Farmers are more akin to pharmacists now than communal with the earth. We need more water and chemicals annually to maintain the yields of the past. So much for the Green revolution.

And its also estimated that upwards of 50% of all that is grown is wasted anyway. And then there’s NAFTA and the movement of produce thousands of miles…all thwarts any renaissance of distributed or localized regional agriculture.

Many in the agribusiness world like to throw out Luddite or Malthusian monikers to those who point out the aforementioned. Its an easy way to dismiss both health and security concerns. But wait, there’s more.

China and India are buying up large hectares of land in Africa. (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/mar/07/food-water-africa-land-grab)

Land is finite, water is finite, chemicals are finite and ignorance infinite or so it would seem.

Sociobiologists like to point out that tribal fighting, pestilence, and war are all manifestations of the transition from hunter gatherer to agriculture based societies.

When there is abundance there is relative calm…when there is scarcity there is conflict. It’s not a purely environmental issue as much as complex adaptive system of commerce, ecology, energy, science, biology, and lawfare. Further, there is research that demonstrates the glut of commodity agriculture as a key component of obesity, something that affects 100 milion Americans, a number that did not exist a generation ago. Obesity also costs on estimates, $600+B annually to treat. Its peculiar that both obesity and hunger occur simultaneously…over fed and undernourished or simply undernourished?

So there is much to discuss and much to act on with regard to agriculture, particularly sustainable agriculture as a homeland security issue.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 1, 2014 @ 1:55 pm

FACT: 90% of all cuttable timber in USA is in the eleven states of the Old Confederacy! This is NOT because of better stewardship but faster growth.

Again here in then NNK and MIDDLE Peninsula of VA much clear cutting going on as forests turned into farmland.

Nitrogen fixing soybeans helped in part to rescue the Old South from the ravages of tobacco!

Comment by E. Earhart

April 1, 2014 @ 6:43 pm

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy declared, “If we could ever competitively, at a cheap rate, get fresh water from saltwater, this would be in the long-range interests of humanity which could really dwarf any other scientific accomplishments.”

After years of research and development and the cooperative efforts of several world class companies, Epiphany Solar Water Systems has developed the world’s first concentrated solar powered water purification system.


Comment by E. Earhart

April 1, 2014 @ 6:48 pm

Epiphany technology also protecting from harm from fracking

Epiphany Solar Water Systems E3H unit is a well-pad based Production Water treatment solution. The E3H uses a combination of concentrated solar energy and generator power to drive the distillation process. Epiphany’s crystallizing distiller technology purifies Production Water to as clean as rain, while allowing for easy removal of salts and metal solids.


Comment by E. Earhart

April 1, 2014 @ 6:58 pm

A Model for Profitable Micro-Farming,
Posted on Resilience.org,Building a world of resilient communities.

“As we awaken to the realities in store for us in a future defined by declining net energy, concerns about food security, adequate nutrition, community resilience, and reliable income commonly arise. . . .

Enter Jean-Martin Fortier and his wife, Maude-Hélène. [T]heir entire growing operations happen on just an acre and half of land. And with this small plot, they feed over 200 families.

The Fortiers are pioneers of the type of new models we’re in such need of for the coming future. Fortunately, they realize this, and are being as transparent about their operations as they can — in order to educate, encourage and inspire people to join the emerging new generation of small-scale farmers.”


Comment by E. Earhart

April 1, 2014 @ 7:09 pm

Thinking Like a Creek

Posted on Resilience.org, building a World of resilient communities

“When it comes to land, building resilience in an ecosystem so it can withstand an intense shock often means rebuilding resilience. That’s because so much land exists in a degraded condition today, a consequence of a century of hard use and mismanagement, that its ability to absorb the effects of a prolonged drought or hot fire, say, without further degrading its ecological integrity is a tall order.

The trick is to think like a creek, . . . creeks don’t like to be lakes, even tiny ones. Over time, they’ll be creeks again.

As a species, we humans want immediate results. But nature often has the last word, . . .It took 150 years to get the land into this condition; it’s going to take at least as long to get it repaired. The key is to learn how to read the landscape – to become literate in the language of ecological health.

All ecological change is a matter of process. [T]ry to learn the process and let nature do the work, you’ve got to understand the process, because if you don’t, you can’t fix the problem.”


Comment by Christopher Tingus

April 1, 2014 @ 9:14 pm

Breaking News:


Magnitude from 5.2 to 6.2 – 9 earthquakes

Source Location UTC Date/time Magnitude Depth
USGS Iquique, Chile Apr 02 01:29 AM 5.2 10 km
USGS Iquique, Chile Apr 02 01:20 AM 5.3 10 km
USGS Iquique, Chile Apr 02 00:37 AM 5.4 21.53 km
USGS Iquique, Chile Apr 02 00:33 AM 5.5 12.59 km
USGS Iquique, Chile Apr 02 00:24 AM 5.6 10 km
USGS Iquique, Chile Apr 02 00:06 AM 5.7 10 km
USGS Iquique, Chile Apr 02 00:03 AM 5.8 10 km
USGS Iquique, Chile Apr 01 23:58 PM 6.2 18.05 km
USGS Iquique, Chile Apr 01 23:56 PM 5.7 10 km

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 1, 2014 @ 11:24 pm

Thanks Double E for these interesting comments and useful links!

Prayers go out to Chileans impacted by this 8.2 quake!

Comment by Donald Quixote

April 2, 2014 @ 10:35 am

Of course sustainable agriculture is homeland security, we have yet to find a topic that is not since the enterprise was coined………………

Comment by Florence

August 7, 2017 @ 10:24 pm

Sustainable agriculture has become a topic of interest in the international policy arena, especially with regards to its potential to reduce the risks associated with a changing climate and growing human population.
The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, as part of its recommendations for policy makers on achieving food security in the face of climate change, urged that sustainable agriculture must be integrated into national and international policy. The Commission stressed that increasing weather variability and climate shocks will negatively affect agricultural yields, necessitating early action to drive change in agricultural production systems towards increasing resilience. It also called for dramatically increased investments in sustainable agriculture in the next decade, including in national research and development budgets, land rehabilitation, economic incentives, and infrastructure improvement.

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