By Paul A. Olivier PhD 3/24/2018
There’s a big fat lie being told on every urban street corner and every rural road throughout the whole of Vietnam. This lie has become so convincing that the vast majority of people, even poor people, never question it. This lie has become so pervasive that many agricultural experts are actively engaged in its proliferation. This lie has become so entrenched that, even in the case of those who are aware of a problem, they do not set forth an effective strategy to combat this lie. They might see a good technology here or a good strategy there, but they proceed to tack it on to a system that is seriously flawed. They fail to comprehend that, in many instances, a good thing tacked on to a bad thing makes the bad thing a whole lot worse. A snippet of truth added to a lie makes a lie more convincing.
Industrialized agriculture says it can feed the world. This is a lie. Industrialized agriculture does not feed. With its chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, nematocides, antibiotics, growth hormones, sedatives, heavy metals and so forth – industrialized agriculture poisons. It poisons soil, air and water on a massive scale, and it poisons, in one way or another, just about every human being on the face of the earth. If you doubt for one second what I am saying, then you are part of the problem.
Radical change in agriculture is needed. Nothing short of a revolution in agriculture is needed. We must learn to transform waste at the highest possible levels, and to shuffle transformed waste between multiple plant and multiple animal systems. We must learn to set up infinitely self-renewing cascades and loops grounded in the transformation of waste biomass and co-cropped biomass. There is no reason why any man, woman or child in Vietnam must experience hunger or malnutrition. Industrialized agriculture creates the conditions for hunger and malnutrition to exist. Industrialized agriculture, grounded in the neo-liberal agenda, enriches the rich and impoverishes the poor. Industrialized agriculture is greedy capitalism. It has no place within a country that calls itself socialist.
In aquaponics we see that the waste of a fish is not allowed to dissipate in stream or river. Over its lifetime, a fish in a tank can generate more income in vegetables than the sale of that fish. Likewise when poultry and animals are correctly housed indoors on odorless bedding, their waste is not allowed to dissipate in yard or pasture. Fresh manure can be transformed into larvae, worms and vermicompost. And urine can be transformed into spent bedding compost. The waste of an animal or bird housed indoors can generate more income over its lifetime than the sale of that animal or bird.
Here we enter the realm of abundant food production. When human waste is also brought into the picture, that is, when it is correctly transformed and safely returned to agriculture, we have food production that is sustainable. There is no way to define sustainability in agriculture without the transformation of human waste at the right levels. To achieve this, all toilets must be dry toilets, and sewage treatment plants that waste human waste and precious water resources must be dismantled.
It is easy to imagine small-scale multifunctional farms that are 10 to 30 times more productive and more lucrative per hectare of land than large-scale mono-functional farms. In arid and semi-arid regions of the planet, these figures can be far more impressive. There one might see multiple plant and animal systems that are up to 100 times more productive than anything conventionally out there. At the same time drylands and deserts become lush and green, and pastureland is returned to the wild in an explosion of biodiversity. There is no better way to green drylands or deserts than to produce food there, especially when CAM photosynthetic plants are employed.
Since abundant feed and food can be produced on land wherever there is waste or co-cropped biomass, humans do not need to take a single fish from the sea. If humans want to eat fish, fish can be grown aquaponically in fresh or salt water tanks. Once this happens, our oceans will beautifully rebound in an explosion of biodiversity.
We must stop believing lies. The natural world is prepared to give us the food that we need. We have only to give back to her the transformed waste that she needs. We do not have a food crisis, but a catastrophic failure to comprehend the power of waste.