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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 5/15/19

Back to the Farm

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Harold Novikoff
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In a newly posted article, "A New Green Deal Must Prioritize Regenerative Agriculture", (Published May 9, 2019 in Truthout), Curt Ries describes the crucial role the agricultural industry could play in saving the planet from global warming. By a radical shift from the exploitive soil-destroying methods now used by industrial agriculture that release enormous amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, to the regenerative methods he details, agriculture could become a primary carbon sequestering factor, sufficient to compensate for current levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

This transformation on a national and world-wide scale could restore the food and farming economy, and the soil and atmosphere of the entire planet from the present seriously declining condition to a healthy state. It could start a social and economic revolution whereby throngs of people trained in state-of-the-art farming methods would move back into non-industrialized farm work with good-paying jobs and opportunities for small-scale businesses. We have a taste of this happening now with thriving organic specialty farms.

There is a precedence for all this. Going back in time before the industrial revolution, 90% of the population lived and worked on farms under marginal living conditions. Then, with industrialization offering work opportunities in factories, there was a vast migration into crowded cities, eventually leaving fewer than 5% on farms. (Statistics subject to interpretation.) Despite the diversity and attractions of city life, many of today's social and economic urban problems are associated with this phenomenon: hazards of unhealthy living conditions, slums, congestion, unemployment, poverty, racial discord, crime, security.

During those times, country farm life, in general, was the backwater of American society, devoid of the amenities available in urban centers and somewhat isolated from mainstream American culture by lack of communication and transportation. The farm economy was always on fragile grounds, subject not only to weather but to the international market for grains and to poor farming methods resulting in declining soil fertility. The height of distress perhaps was the Dust Bowl in the mid-30s caused by the depletion of the top soil in large areas of the Midwest and resulting in a mass exodus of farming families, particularly from Oklahoma.

In the 1930's during the "Great" depression, the Roosevelt administration addressed some of these problems by projects bringing electrical power into rural communities (the Tennessee Valley Authority) and flood control projects along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. To stabilize farm prices from overproduction and restore land fertility, it subsidized farmers to leave some acreage fallow. Roosevelt also encouraged the development of suburban communities to relieve some of the pressures of over-crowded cities. You can read about this in his speeches while New York governor and president.

With a Green New Deal promoting regenerative agriculture as a major pillar, we can envision a solution to many of the problems afflicting our society today. There could be a large migration from crowded cities into a new life style closer to nature in the suburbs or country. Work in this revitalized sector may not have the same glamour that some urban jobs offer, but it would provide the satisfaction of having fundamental relevance for human needs and significance for solving the world's problems - primarily global warming. It could offer a peaceful environment closer to nature and free of the tensions associated with congested urban life. At the same time, life "on the farm" would not be isolated as in the past from the good in contemporary culture by lack of communication. It could establish a modest but very rewarding manner of living as a model to the world for life in harmony with nature.

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Veteran, retired from several occupations (school teacher, technical writer, energy conservation business, etc.) long-time Sierra Club member

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