Permaculture is the answer to Climate Change, GMO’s, Ecological Protection and Big Ag/Factory Farms

As I write this a new documentary is premiering in New York City called “Cowspiracy” that will expose livestock’s role in environmental destruction and climate change. According to the United Nations 2006 report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow”, it contributes to global warming even more than transportation and residential energy usage.

Thus, the conversation about alternative solutions to commercial agricultural methods for farming and raising animals for food is, you could say, “heating up”.

In addition to software tycoon Bill Gates investing in meatless meat products with Twitter founders and Al Gore, another one of the current solutions being proposed according to The Business Insider July 14, 2014 article entitled “If We Really Want to Save the World, We Have to Start Eating Bugs” is the eating of insects for food and reports that The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is saying that insects are key to our future food security and claim that 80% of nations already consume over 1,000 varieties of insects as food and that they are more sustainable to raise for food than chickens, pigs and cows.

While this may be true, many Westerners are going to find the idea of eating insects for food even harder to stomach than they imagine eating a plant-based diet would be, thus leading us to continue exploring agricultural options for growing plant food for a burgeoning world population.

GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) are a proposed solution and hot topic in the news. Proponents argue that GMO’s are the solution to world hunger saying that poor Asians would go blind and die of vitamin A deficiency if they didn’t get GMO rice with Vitamin A added, while opponents cite the rise in hospitalizations for food-related allergic reactions since GMO’s have been introduced to the food supply.

Most people don’t know that 80% of the GMO corn and soy grown in the United States is fed as feed to livestock raised as food for humans. Thus, switching to a plant-based diet cuts down on GMO consumption immediately.

Opponents to a plant-based diet such as such as author of the book “The Vegetarian Myth” Lierre Keith and Joel Salatin, leading sustainable agriculture leader say that if the world’s population would switch over to a plant-based diet then monoculture crops currently grown of rice, corn and soy would result in more soil depletion and habitat destruction than their sustainable grass fed systems.
The confused public has been swayed by these claims due to their ignorance of nutrition and horticulture, but those in the know question the sustainability of grass-fed agriculture because it requires twice the land and water use and grass-fed animals emit just as much methane as factory farmed animals do and have just as much artery clogging saturated fat for heart attacks and just as much if not more arachadonic acid to inflame joints that leads to arthritis as factory farmed animals do thus raising the question of just how healthy are the leaders of the sustainable agriculture/permaculture movement?

Having been to a few workshops myself, I have witnessed first-hand the onset of arthritis in some, the taking of nitroglycerin tablets for chest pains, the weight gain, the consumption of processed and even vending machine food and overall decline of vitality and mobility leading to loss of independence and vigor needed to remain independent and have the vitality needed for the manual labor required in the growing of food such as weeding, pruning, harvesting, etc. Thus, they often recruit young people to do the labor which is in stark contrast to plant-eating Okinawans known for their high percentage of centenarians that maintain their private gardens well into their golden years without mental or physical decline.
How truly sustainable is our health care system with its hospital lights that dominate many a city’s skyline at night and are on 24/7, including MRI machines, CAT scans, dialysis machines, incubators, surgical equipment, etc., not to mention all the factories that manufacture all the unnatural drugs which are the human equivalent of pesticides and the packaging of these drugs which may or may not be recyclable? Then there’s the gas-guzzling ambulances and fire trucks rushing heart attack patients to the hospital.

Surely the image of an independent, self-sustaining farmer is not consistent with dependency on diabetes medications, cholesterol lowering drugs, high blood pressure medications, decline of mobility due to arthritis nor mental decline due to dementia or Alzheimer’s due to a high saturated fat animal foods grass-fed diet.

So what’s the answer? The answer comes in a word coined by an Australian biologist Bill Mollison: Permaculture which means “permanent culture” and describes farming methods that work in harmony with the environment. Indians have been using many of these methods for centuries before big Ag took over and their traditional plant-based diet protected their health as profiled in a recent Youtube video made by PCRM with Dr. Neal Barnard which is in stark contrast to the modern image of an American diabetic Indian on WIC-sponsored dairy and processed foods.

Polycultures are permaculturist’s solution to Big Ag’s monocultures and due to their diversity, they have less soil depletion since not one crop is draining the soil of the same nutrient and thus less fertilizer is needed and not one insect will decimate one single crop thus there is less crop loss and less need for pesticides. Different plants are used to bring in predators to eat the pests and bring in beneficial pollinators which makes for a strong and diverse ecosystem.

Fruit and nut trees require less labor to maintain, yield food for humans and animals year after year and provide habitat for birds and passive cooling shade for homes when placed strategically to reduce cooling costs. They cool the ambient temperature around them and increase and hold rainfall in the soil. Their leaves falling is a natural “compost” for the soil thus enriching the soil year after year instead of depleting it and trees add beauty to a home’s landscape thus increasing its enjoyment and resale value.

Greenhouses could be heated without fossil fuels and can grow tropical fruit and tomatoes and peppers as well as other vegetables year round even in cold climates. An organization called established in Florida shows people how to grow food on their rooftops, up on walls and fences known as vertical gardening, and in tires thus transforming urban neighborhoods into food production spaces.

In Davis, California, there is a subdivision called Village Homes that has all the common areas landscaped with edible nut and fruit trees and edible vines and uses an almond orchard to sell food to the community to raise money for their community needs.

Japanese farmer and biologist Masanobu Fukuoka wrote the book “One Straw Revolution” and pioneered the “no till” method. He used no pesticides or fertilizers and consistently got greater yields than his peers and had richer soil year after year due to his green manures and sustainable farming methods.

There is no need to fear the future. The Business Insider had an article entitled “This Company is Turning the Desert Green-And it Could Radically Change the Future of Food” and reported that “The Sahara Forest Project” was a new sustainable food forest project in Qatar where they are experimenting with solar, greenhouses and all sorts of sustainable food production methods to reduce their dependence on the 90% of food they import from other countries. If countries with as little rainfall as Qatar can grow their own food sustainably, then America can certainly feed its population with abundance on just plants which would reduce health care costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage and eliminate GMO’s and pesticide usage bringing about a healthier world for us all.

Michele Martinez has been vegetarian since the mid-1980’s and vegan for over a decade. She has earned her plant-based certificate via e-Cornell recently and holds a PhD in Holistic Nutrition through the University of Natural Health and holds a Permaculture Design Certificate through Midwest Permaculture. Her husband is a certified arborist and they both are avid animal lovers and nature lovers who believe permaculturist Geoff Lawton’s words that “All the World’s Problems can be Solved in a Garden”. Michele currently works with a medical doctor to provide plant-based recipes for patients on a lifestyle medicine program to reduce or eliminate their medications by removing the cause of their disease and supports local organic farmers by making plant-based recipes in their stalls at the local farmer’s markets on Saturdays. She can be found at

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