Agroecology, Humans and their Responsibility to the Living

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Temps de lecture : 4 minutes  

The earth… How many of us understand this silent glebe that we trample on our entire lives when we are not confined to cities that are removed from the earth, making it that much more foreign to us? Out of the four major elements, the nourishing earth is the one element that has not always existed. The thin cultivable layer of earth to which we owe life, measuring approximately twenty centimeters, took thousands of years to form.

In a silent and extremely complex universe, the earth is the seat of much activity and is governed by a sort of mysterious and immanent intelligence. It is in this discrete world that, like what occurs inside a stomach, the substances that make it possible for plants to nourish themselves grow to eventually reproduce, and it is to these plants that humans and animals owe their own survival. Thus, it is crucial to recognize that the designation “mother earth” is not a symbolic or poetic metaphor but an objective fact.

It is in this way that an extraordinary logic based on the cohesion of the living was established. The earth, plants, animals, and humans are united and inseparable in this manner. Pretending to be exempt from this logic, or to be able to dominate it or defy it without consequence, is a dangerous illusion. In an era of technoscience, productivity, and limitless commodification, the earth and plants are perceived only as a source of financial profit. Agriculture did not escape the logic of productivism: pedigreed or deteriorating seeds, or those that are not reproducible, fertilizers, pesticides, monocultures, excessive irrigation, mechanization, etc. Following the processes and mechanisms based on the law of the market and unlimited profit, agriculture has had a damaging impact on the nourishing earth. It has also had dramatic economical, environmental, and social consequences: destruction of humus in soil, water pollution, loss of domestic animal and plant biodiversity, decrease in the number of farmers, as well as their knowledge and culture, elimination of rural land, spread of desertification, manipulation and patenting of seeds, etc. The earth is alive and cannot be subjected to all of these abuses without resulting in significant damages for the future.

Furthermore, these agricultural production methods are among the most expensive, vulnerable, dependent, and the least profitable in the history of humanity: 4,000 liters of water (1,000 gallons) are required to produce 1 kilogram of meat (2 pounds), 2 to 3 tons of oil for 1 ton of fertilizer, and 12 energy calories for 1 food calorie, etc. Between excess, waste, and food scandals on the one hand, and shortages and hunger on the other, high-productivity agriculture, after operating openly for decades, is seriously showing its limitations. Beyond its literal meaning of nutrition, the magnificent term “food,” has symbolic and poetic significance. This notion of a world of subtle flavors that bring pleasure to the body and soul has been replaced by “grub,” describing this overabundant, adulterated, manipulated, and polluted matter, due to a disillusionment that the earth’s goods are no longer received as an offering that each season produces in the right place at the right time.

We are finally starting to understand the cause-and-effect relationship between food and the true scourge of civilization pathologies that, despite our knowledge and most sophisticated medical equipment, continue to spread. Food, air, and water, fundamental attributes of life that have been responsible for that life from the beginning, are slowly becoming death’s accomplices. Must we remind the world again and again that no matter what we do, it is impossible to have high-quality food without understanding, respecting, and taking care of the earth that produces it? Responding to what is necessary for our survival while respecting life in all its forms is obviously the best choice if we do not want to be subjected to unprecedented famine.

This is why we believe that it is of critical importance that the agroecology that we have been advocating, teaching, and applying for decades be used throughout the world. By relying on a set of techniques based on natural processes such as composting, no-till farming, the use of plant slurry, crop associations, etc., agroecology makes it possible for populations to reclaim their autonomy, with regards to food security and the healthiness of food, while restoring and preserving their nourishing lands. Because it is based on a good understanding of biological phenomena that govern the overall biosphere and soils in particular, it is universally applicable.

Agroecology practices have the power to refertilize soil, fight desertification, preserve biodiversity, and optimize water usage. It is a fairly inexpensive alternative suitable for the most underprivileged populations. By enriching local and natural resources, agroecology relieves farmers from having to depend on chemical input and transportation, which generate a great deal of pollution and are responsible for a truly absurd situation in which anonymous foodstuffs travel thousands of miles daily rather than being produced locally. Finally, it allows for the production of quality products and ensures good health for both the earth and its children.

Furthermore, well-understood agroecology can be the base of a social transformation. It represents principles of life that introduce a different relationship between humans, their nourishing earth, and their natural environment, and can make it possible to end the destructive and predatory character of this relationship.

Thus, agroecology represents much more than a simple agronomical alternative. It is linked to a profound respect for life and gives humans back their responsibility to the living. Well beyond continually unsatisfied superficial pleasures, it helps the earth regain its enchanting resonance, the perception of the first human beings for whom creation, creatures, and the earth were before anything else sacred.

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