photo courtesy of Chris Montanini from The Stratford Beacon Herald/Post Media.
Earth Day Address
Human beings are highly adaptable. This is one of the many reasons we have been so successful as a species. Humans are capable of truly amazing things: space travel, regenerative medicine, profound poetry, painting, literature, athletic achievements, cities, and even an agricultural system that feeds billions of people daily; however, left unchecked these adaptations carry with them unintended consequences.
Yvon Chiounard, founder and owner of Patagonia, once said, “most of the damage we cause to the planet is the result of our own ignorance.”
Very few people set out to cause harm intentionally. Our intentions begin from a good place, but that is usually a place of privilege and a place of ego. As thinking creatures with highly developed consciousness we assume we know best. Why else would we have this evolutionary adaptation, the mind, if we weren’t supposed to govern and use the planet to advance our species?
That is one way we have adapted our thinking with regard to the role of the human being’s place on this planet. Let me posit another.
What if we are here to be learners rather than overseers? What if our place is to observe, respect, and mirror the natural processes of the earth. Processes that predate our species by millions, if not billions of years. Processes that came together to create a habitable planet full of fresh water, food, oxygen, and life.
The Anishinaabe tradition considers human beings the younger brothers of creation. Robin Kimmerer, in her wildly successful book Braiding Sweetgrass writes, “human beings have the least experience with how to live and thus the most to learn–we must look to our teachers among the other species for guidance. Their wisdom is apparent in the way they live. They teach us by example.”
The adaptation we need to develop are eyes and ears that can learn from the natural world. We need to become curious, rather than imperial. We need to make peace with the natural world rather than wrestle it into submission. The less we interfere with natural processes the better. The answer is to get out of the way.
I might also point out that Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Oneida peoples lived and farmed in this area for over 13,000 years sustainably. They were an agricultural people, with their own economy, and autonomy, and lived with a very light footprint. It wasn’t our idea to farm South Western Ontario the Haudenosaunee were doing that long before Rome was built.
Regenerative agriculture, or ecological growing, is a method of growing that seeks to respect and preserve the natural processes that exist in the ground. Soil health and conservation is at the heart of the regenerative movement.
Topsoil is the product of millions of years of erosion. During the last extinction event, the volcanic cloud that covered the earth deposited rich minerals from the core of our plant onto the soils we now grow our food in. Topsoil is responsible for growing most of the food we eat. If it doesn’t come from the ocean or a lake, what you are eating is the result of soil that was millions of years in the making.
40% of the habitable earth is given over to agriculture. We are now feeding 8 billion people. How we choose to manage the land dedicated to agriculture has a profound impact on the health of our planet and every living species.
At this current time industrial farming practices aren’t sustainable. The use of heavy deep tillage, herbicides, pesticides, and mono culture, are eroding and are collectively killing one of our most precious resources, our topsoil.
Just as we adapted to a lifestyle that is disconnected from the processes of the natural world, we have also adapted to a lifestyle that is disconnected from the production of our food.
We place unreasonable demands on our farmers for low cost food in unconscionable quantities. Our consumer demands for out of season produce are contributing to carbon emissions that are out of control. These same demands are also robbing our local farmers of the support they need and deserve.
The goal of regenerative farming should be to reconnect people with locally sourced food, eating seasonally, conserving our topsoil, and reconnecting with the natural processes that help us grow healthy food.
It is my hope that as people become more engaged with regenerative and ecological growing they will reconnect with the seasons and where their food ultimately comes from: the Earth.
Happy Earth Day 2022,
Lucas Tingle, Regenerative Farmer