UN : Reshaping life on Earth

Posted 5.13.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | "We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide," warns Robert Watson, an atmospheric chemist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, and chair of IPBES which released the UN report about humanity’s effect upon our planet, gaining so much comment this week.

About 75 percent of land and 66 percent of ocean areas have been "significantly altered" by people, driven in large part by the production of food, says the IPBES. Cropping and livestock co-opt more than 33 percent of Earth’s land surface and 75 percent of its freshwater resources.

We are again told that these farming activities are among the "largest contributors to human emissions of greenhouse gases. (GHG)" they constitute a major front in bio-diversity loss and habitat degradation, including facilitating the spread of invasive species everywhere. These problems, negative in their own light, are major contributors to climate change.

Most comment has focused on the need for all humans to retrace some of our footsteps into the future, and consider, first, if we are going to have much of a future, should we persist in our present use and mis-use of resources. But the news is not all bad, nor is the bad news applicable everywhere. Clearly, climate change and these contributing or ancillary problems threaten our future. The future of our grand-children! The anecdotal evidence is all around us. This morning I read that the tiny nation of Panama no longer has its most-valuable tropical woods -- they have virtually all been cut, mostly illegally, and sold on the black market around the world. So the story goes.

As for the not-all-bad news, West Quebec does have an opportunity to play a positive role. For example, much of this destruction of our planet is due to over-population, and the need to nourish, house, clothe, and employ all of "us". Yet West Quebec is full of unused or marginally utilized farmland. Isn’t this an opportunity?

Is the opportunity to re-forest land which cannot be used for cropping or pasture? Reforestation is one of many tactics to reduce GH gasses, presumably one of the most cost-effective. And it will provide future employment, perhaps even more efficient farming which blends several measures: pasture and forestry; shade-crops and forests, fiber-harvest, and other forms of harvest.

While a great deal of local land is unused because it is marginal, it can be improved and adapted to cultivate certain crops. Our growing season has lengthened and our region’s heat-units have increased. Sowing grain corn and soybeans on our light soil, requires heavy fertilizer and soil-amendment use, but research is creating new varieties of these and other crops which could be produced here to ease the planet’/s food shortages.

We are thinking of sustainability now, and pumping tonnes of nitrogen into the soil is hardly sustainable. This is an opportunity for in-the-field research and trials; an opportunity to mobilize and invigorate the Outaouais’ farming community -- an end of second-income survival for farming families.

Bad news is not entirely bad, everywhere. How fortunate for us that the "everywhere" in this case includes West Quebec. Finding an opportunity within bad news does demand action, and given recent history, demands aggressive action. Waiting around for cell phone service improvements is not the model we must follow for a better future. Our leaders can do better but they and their changes demand our insistence and our positive support.


Copyright © 2019 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/5.13.19