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(Green Ajah) Nature Week 2016: Earth - Ecological Footprint Calculator


WildTaltos
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You may have heard and even recently taking a variation of an ecological footprint calculator. These calculators often judge your ecological impact (i.e. impact on the natural world) by guaging how much waste you generate or how much resources you consume (generally in the form of carbon emissions) by asking you a variety of questions. Most will interpret these results into how many theoretical "earths" the entire human population would need to live sustainably if every individual lived with your lifestyle. 

 

Below is a link one such calculator, hosted by Bioregional, available in both a short and a long version. Take either one and post your results here if you wish to discuss it. Simply click "Get started" to get access to either quiz.

 

http://calculator.bioregional.com

 

 

Some questions to consider:

 

What do you think are the benefits of such a tool?

 

What do you think or notice are the inherent problems of such a tool?

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To begin with, here are my results:

 

If everyone in the world lived like you we would need 1.5 planets to support us. You are below the UK average of 3 planets.

 

Your carbon emissions: 6.4 tonnes

Uk Average: 11.6 tonnes

 

Your ecological footprint: 2.7 Global hectares (GHA)

Uk Average: 5.3

 

So I got about half of what is expected from an average Western citizen (using UK as an average proxy for Western lifestyle - it obviously varies slightly in different places). There are some very obvious problems at multiple points throughout the quiz and the final result, but I will let some others post first or potentially bring them up before I say anything.

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I took the long version of the calculator, and I did some research to convert everything to UK equivalents here:

 

If everyone in the world lived like you we would need 5.4 planets to support us. You are above the UK average of 3 planets.

 

Your Carbon Emissions: 21.5 tonnes

UK Average: 11.9

 

Your Eco-Footprint: 9.8 GHA

UK Average: 5.4

 

By American standards, I would say we live on the conservative side of the spectrum. Kind of scary when you think about it.

Edited by Shad_
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I took the long version of the calculator, and I did some research to convert everything to UK equivalents here:

 

If everyone in the world lived like you we would need 5.4 planets to support us. You are above the UK average of 3 planets.

 

Your Carbon Emissions: 21.5 tonnes

UK Average: 11.9

 

Your Eco-Footprint: 9.8 GHA

UK Average: 5.4

 

By American standards, I would say we live on the conservative side of the spectrum. Kind of scary when you think about it.

 

There are varying estimates but it looks like the average American ecological footprint is considered to be somewhere between 8-10 planets. So yes, it looks like you are almost half of the average. I am thinking the huge overshoot on resources there has largely to do with extent of suburban living there, which is wildly inefficient in most ways, the poor infrastructure, and the extent of monoculture industrial agriculture, which is also perhaps the most inefficient form of agriculture. 

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It is basically derived from a model, and all models have inherant weaknesses because the reality of any situation involving nature is extremely complex, you have to simplify things and hence can't incorporate all the points. Answering my own questions then...

 

What do you think are the benefits of such a tool?

Footprint calculators allow "laypeople" (i.e. without scientific training) to assess their own lifestyle in terms of how much waste they produce and how "expensive" their lifestyle is in terms of resources by multiplying its effect by how many people are currently alive and how many planets would we need to sustain that. I think there is some benefit in getting people to think about themselves in terms of being part of an ecological community and huge disparities in the distribution around the world.

 

What do you think or notice are the inherent problems of such a tool?

There are a number of problems with footprint calculators. To begin with, most automatically assign you a greater or lesser footprint value based on the country you live in (this is not really demonstrable in this quiz because it is built for the UK, but it still probably assigned a slightly higher value than if you could have said you were living in India. In a way, this makes some sense (for example, in the U.S. the energy and transportation infrastructure is known to be terribly inefficient and one of the worst in the first world so it becomes not only a measure of how much power you use but how much ecological costs are incurred by extracting the fossil fuels you will be). But it also largely dismisses the heterogeneity of the social landscape - for example, maybe in one area you have a solar or wind plant where you are getting most of your energy and therefore may be contributing less than others in your country. Another problem is the questions are largely tailored towards a typical lifestyle in that country, rigging everyone to get a higher score where they otherwise would not. As Sooh points, out some questions were not applicable to you at all - for example, in my case, the shower and toilet question were not applicable as I have neither and there was no option to tick anything like an outhouse or composting waste. In the same vein, some questions add far more to your score than others - airplane questions will always add substantially to your score, as will questions about meat. The latter I was particularly dissastisfied with because they do not distinguish between livestock meat - which does have huge environmental costs, particularly due to factory farming - and hunted meat, which is where I get most of my meat and which incurs none of the costs associated with raising an excessive amount of ungulates and then processing and transporting the meat. 
 
You could say those points are negligible, because there are so few people who are outliers in terms of their culture's consumption habits that they aren't really statistically significant and the test isn't really for them then while it is more accurate for an average person. There are a number of glaring problems to these calculators though which are sources of academic criticism. One of them which I agree with is, rather than estimating how a person's lifestyle impacts natural ecosystems and processes, the amount of global hectares or other such measurements representing the amount of resources or biomass a person is occupying is entirely derived from artificial systems - i.e. agricultural production - which has already eliminated or reduced functionality of the native ecosystem. In essence, you are then calculating how a person impacts resources of an artificial planet, which by many experts is judged to be unsustainable to begin with. What it basically comes down to is the calculator is certainly an extreme oversimplification, and it likely severely underestimates each individual's environmental impact (i.e. they are underestimating how many earths it would really take to support your lifestyle if everyone lived it because its calculating with resources from a system that is already in severe overshoot/environmental debt). 
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I didn't understand what some questions had to do with the calculations at all, though maybe they weren't weighted heavily. Things like, are you satisfied with your lifestyle, seemed kind of arbitrary. One could be very satisfied with a wasteful lifestyle or unsatisfied with a frugal one. My employer may pay a living wage but be responsible for some reprehensible human policies that have a very negative impact on the environment.

 

It also didn't have a way to account for shared resources, like two people in a household with one car. There were some questions that got around the edges of the calculation there but it didn't feel very accurate.

 

There was also little accounting for climate. I have a feeling that those living in extreme climates would generally use far more resources than those living in more temperate climates without extreme conservation measures.

 

I do think that the score I got would have been much higher before we moved here a few months ago, and my commute went from 20-30 miles a day to probably under 10 miles a week.

 

The usefulness of it as a tool would be educational I believe. A lot of the questions did make me think about things I didn't think much about before.

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I didn't understand what some questions had to do with the calculations at all, though maybe they weren't weighted heavily. Things like, are you satisfied with your lifestyle, seemed kind of arbitrary. One could be very satisfied with a wasteful lifestyle or unsatisfied with a frugal one. My employer may pay a living wage but be responsible for some reprehensible human policies that have a very negative impact on the environment.

 

It also didn't have a way to account for shared resources, like two people in a household with one car. There were some questions that got around the edges of the calculation there but it didn't feel very accurate.

 

There was also little accounting for climate. I have a feeling that those living in extreme climates would generally use far more resources than those living in more temperate climates without extreme conservation measures.

 

I do think that the score I got would have been much higher before we moved here a few months ago, and my commute went from 20-30 miles a day to probably under 10 miles a week.

 

The usefulness of it as a tool would be educational I believe. A lot of the questions did make me think about things I didn't think much about before.

 

I think the satisfaction question has to do with the various social studies that correlated increased sense of personal satisfaction or happiness with less working hours (and ostensibly using less resources thereby as most modern jobs waste and require you to waste a large amount of resources) and/or personal happiness decreasing with increased material possessions (which would be wasteful) after meeting basic physical and psychological needs. That is a big assumption but it is a somewhat fair one (though of course that means it is not unassailable) to make given that the outliers - those who may be truly mentally content with a lot of wealth and those who are happy living in poverty are very few next to a statistical average.

 

For this particular calculator, the climate issue wasn't taken into account as it is specifically designed for the UK, which doesn't really have any climatic extremes across the country. Other calculators may ask you what country you are in or they ask how much is your energy bill which can address that/serve as a proxy, but this one didn't because it focuses on a small country. 

 

Most calculators operate under the same theory, but the questions they ask you to reach their calculations can be very different. 

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Well this is highly UK centric, but here are my results:

 

If everyone in the world lived like you we would need 3.8 planets to support us.You are above the UK average of 3 planets.

Your Carbon Emissions

17.6

tonnes


UK Average: 11.9

Your 
Eco-Footprint

6.9

GHA


UK Average: 5.4

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'd like to object to that a bit; I feel as though a lot of the answered penalized me because I live in an old (1930s) multi-family building; but i live in the city, take the subway to work every day and rarely drive. My vacations are 80% flight based, so that's a hit, but I do try to buy local produce for my "direct meals" (ie if i go out to make a meal for myself or friends) but if i'm buying groceries for the week, i go to market basket (local discount super-market).

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There are varying estimates but it looks like the average American ecological footprint is considered to be somewhere between 8-10 planets. So yes, it looks like you are almost half of the average. I am thinking the huge overshoot on resources there has largely to do with extent of suburban living there, which is wildly inefficient in most ways, the poor infrastructure, and the extent of monoculture industrial agriculture, which is also perhaps the most inefficient form of agriculture. 

 

Inefficient in what way? Not in the yield way, in any case.

 

And how is the number of planets to support us calculated? Is it based on average of the world or something? Because otherwise I think they're probably vastly underestimating our overpopulation. We should probably need a lot more than 100 planets - for all humans on the planet - in order to live without consuming more energy and space than the ecosystem can handle without being very much affected by our living our lives.

Edited by Nightstrike
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And I think it's sad that elephants are endangered and pandas are vulnerable (I think that's the definition they are using, but I could be misremembering something). I don't know what we should do about it. Maybe we must accept that elephants go extinct eventually. If human population can't handle elephants living, then I guess elephants must go extinct. I don't really have any solution to overpopulation, either. We've expended our existence beyond what nature offers other animals, but maybe we will have epidemics or natural disasters reducing our numbers eventually. I don't think we can be more than 7 billion people indefinitely.

 

China has been pumping ground water for a long time, and eventually it will run out. They'll have to import more of their food then. That could cause problems, eventually. I bet they're not the only ones. Geologically locked groundwater takes millennia or longer to refill, and that's what they're pumping. I think they import more food than they export even now. 

Edited by Nightstrike
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There are varying estimates but it looks like the average American ecological footprint is considered to be somewhere between 8-10 planets. So yes, it looks like you are almost half of the average. I am thinking the huge overshoot on resources there has largely to do with extent of suburban living there, which is wildly inefficient in most ways, the poor infrastructure, and the extent of monoculture industrial agriculture, which is also perhaps the most inefficient form of agriculture. 

 

Inefficient in what way? Not in the yield way, in any case.

 

And how is the number of planets to support us calculated? Is it based on average of the world or something? Because otherwise I think they're probably vastly underestimating our overpopulation. We should probably need a lot more than 100 planets - for all humans on the planet - in order to live without consuming more energy and space than the ecosystem can handle without being very much affected by our living our lives.

 

 

It is inefficient because it erodes massive amounts of top soil (which is the product of millions of years of weathering and coevolution with the relevant microbes and fauna and therefore cannot be replaced) and as such it is in essence bankrupting the next and future generations in terms of arable land and soil. It is able to extend the life of such soils by the use of fertiliser but the production of those too are not only energy intensive but have high costs to other ecological systems - such as water and air (think algal blooms, groundwater contamination, and nitrous oxides as well as CO2 emissions) - and as multiple studies have shown, that only goes so far before returns begin to shrink relatively fast. Monocultures are also highly susceptible to pests and diseases and so in order to maintain the yield, energy must be constantly invested in genetic modification or new pesticides which in turn has its own environmental cost and debt (such as selecting for increasingly resistant pests), when an efficient system would accept that there will be some loss of certain crops due to pests and minimise that by planting a variety of complementary crops to both increase the community's resilience as well as generally stabilising the soil far better than monoculture in the process. In other words, efficiency is about minimising costs while maximising a desired output, and while one can argue, if the desired output is to only feed the world's population for the next few decades, it industrial monoculture is pretty efficient, if the goal is to feed the world's population for the next century and beyond, it is in no way efficient because of the costs it incurs far outweigh (or completely obstruct) the output you are expecting to get. That is of course just my professional opinion (that others happen to share in modified versions), so you can come to your own conclusion. For a beginner's review on parts of the issue, see:

 

"Linking agricultural biodiversity and food security: the valuable role of agrobiodiversity for sustainable agriculture" - Lori Ann Thrupp, 2000

 

"Climate change, plant diseases and food security: an overview" - Chakraborty and Newton, 2011

 

"Effects of 11 years of conservation tillage on soil organic matter fractions in wheat monoculture in Loess Plateau of China" - Chen et al. 2009

 

Then go through some of their references to find other information on the issues.

 

A good and more understandable review if you aren't a scientist and don't have time for a literature search (though it is on an advocacy website so they do obviously have an agenda): http://www.agriculturesnetwork.org/magazines/global/monocultures-towards-sustainability/monocultures-towards-sustainability-editorial

 

For the math behind the ecological footprint, see:

 

"AN EXPLORATION OF THE MATHEMATICS BEHIND THE ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT" - Galli et al., 2007

 

To sum it up part of the theory briefly:

 

"The demand side of this accounting framework is defined as human use of the annual regenerative capacity of the biosphere. This is expressed in mutually exclusive hectares of biologically productive land or sea area that are required to renew the resource throughput and absorb the waste production of a defined population in a given year. Prevailing technology, resource management, different consumption categories and land use areas are all taken into account while conducting the calculations [3–7].

 

While the footprint shows the demand on nature, the biocapacity tracks the supply side of the equation, and is therefore defined as the rate of resource supply and waste disposal that can be sustained

in a given territory (or at the global scale) under prevailing technology and management schemes [8, 9].

 

Both footprint and biocapacity are usually expressed in terms of a common unit, the global hectare (g ha), which is one hectare of land or water normalized to have the world-average productivity of all biologically productive land and water in a given year [10]. Since the surface of the Earth is finite, the availability of biologically productive area and the annual amount of resource production and waste disposal are finite as well. Therefore, the use of an area as a measure of life supporting natural capital was chosen to reflect the fact that many basic ecosystem services and ecological resources are provided by surfaces where photosynthesis takes place [11]. This shows how humanity is constrained by nature’s negentropic capacity to transform low-quality solar energy into high-quality chemical energy and living matter, available for all living species [12–14]. (H.T. Odum’s hierarchical scale for energy quality ranking is used here.)

...

 

 

For any given nation n , the total national footprint is therefore assessed as shown in

eqn (1):

 

EF = Σ i Ti/YWi * EQFi

 

where Ti  is the annual amount of tonnes (t year−1 ) of each product i  that are consumed in the nation n ; Ywi  is the annual world-average yield (t ha -1  year -1 )wi for the production of each product i , given by all the annual tonnes of product i  produced globally, divided by all areas in the world on which this product is grown; EQFi  is the equivalence  factor for the production of each product i ."

 

You would have to read the whole article to get how that goes to an estimate of "planets." You can find at least that one (and maybe all the others) through ResearchGate.

 

A number of academics have criticised the model and as you guess and as I have agreed, I think it is a huge underestimation, but most models are underestimations considering you can only model part of what you are examining. 

Edited by WildTaltos
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There are varying estimates but it looks like the average American ecological footprint is considered to be somewhere between 8-10 planets. So yes, it looks like you are almost half of the average. I am thinking the huge overshoot on resources there has largely to do with extent of suburban living there, which is wildly inefficient in most ways, the poor infrastructure, and the extent of monoculture industrial agriculture, which is also perhaps the most inefficient form of agriculture. 

 

Inefficient in what way? Not in the yield way, in any case.

 

And how is the number of planets to support us calculated? Is it based on average of the world or something? Because otherwise I think they're probably vastly underestimating our overpopulation. We should probably need a lot more than 100 planets - for all humans on the planet - in order to live without consuming more energy and space than the ecosystem can handle without being very much affected by our living our lives.

 

 

It is inefficient because it erodes massive amounts of top soil (which is the product of millions of years of weathering and coevolution with the relevant microbes and fauna and therefore cannot be replaced) and as such it is in essence bankrupting the next and future generations in terms of arable land and soil. It is able to extend the life of such soils by the use of fertiliser but the production of those too are not only energy intensive but have high costs to other ecological systems - such as water and air (think algal blooms, groundwater contamination, and nitrous oxides as well as CO2 emissions) - and as multiple studies have shown, that only goes so far before returns begin to shrink relatively fast. Monocultures are also highly susceptible to pests and diseases and so in order to maintain the yield, energy must be constantly invested in genetic modification or new pesticides which in turn has its own environmental cost and debt (such as selecting for increasingly resistant pests), when an efficient system would accept that there will be some loss of certain crops due to pests and minimise that by planting a variety of complementary crops to both increase the community's resilience as well as generally stabilising the soil far better than monoculture in the process. In other words, efficiency is about minimising costs while maximising a desired output, and while one can argue, if the desired output is to only feed the world's population for the next few decades, it industrial monoculture is pretty efficient, if the goal is to feed the world's population for the next century and beyond, it is in no way efficient because of the costs it incurs far outweigh (or completely obstruct) the output you are expecting to get. That is of course just my professional opinion (that others happen to share in modified versions), so you can come to your own conclusion. For a beginner's review on parts of the issue, see:

 

 

Monoculture is the planting of one crop on a single field, so maybe loss of top soil would be affected in a good way if they planted crops that weren't annual or biannual, but then they'd probably have to use more chemicals to reduce weeds. Some have the idea of planting 2 crops at the same time for purpose of avoiding leaching of nutrients into the ground water and/or flowing water, but I think it's mostly 1 annual and 1 biannual crop planted at the same time. Soil issues may be affected in a good way, then. If it works out well for the farmer, then sure, why not. Otherwise it's a bad idea. <---And that is for the grain crops (the ones most grown/the ones who feeds many of us), since catch crops seems more common with vegetable crops. 

 

"Professional opinion" - have you studied agriculture as well? 

 

You would have to read the whole article to get how that goes to an estimate of "planets." You can find at least that one (and maybe all the others) through ResearchGate.

 

A number of academics have criticised the model and as you guess and as I have agreed, I think it is a huge underestimation, but most models are underestimations considering you can only model part of what you are examining. 

 

 

Yeah, it's gotta depend on definitions, surely. 70 million people on the planet was a lot for most of human history, but we're not hunter-gatherers anymore, and even they caused extinctions.

Edited by Nightstrike
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There are varying estimates but it looks like the average American ecological footprint is considered to be somewhere between 8-10 planets. So yes, it looks like you are almost half of the average. I am thinking the huge overshoot on resources there has largely to do with extent of suburban living there, which is wildly inefficient in most ways, the poor infrastructure, and the extent of monoculture industrial agriculture, which is also perhaps the most inefficient form of agriculture. 

Inefficient in what way? Not in the yield way, in any case.

 

And how is the number of planets to support us calculated? Is it based on average of the world or something? Because otherwise I think they're probably vastly underestimating our overpopulation. We should probably need a lot more than 100 planets - for all humans on the planet - in order to live without consuming more energy and space than the ecosystem can handle without being very much affected by our living our lives.

 

 

It is inefficient because it erodes massive amounts of top soil (which is the product of millions of years of weathering and coevolution with the relevant microbes and fauna and therefore cannot be replaced) and as such it is in essence bankrupting the next and future generations in terms of arable land and soil. It is able to extend the life of such soils by the use of fertiliser but the production of those too are not only energy intensive but have high costs to other ecological systems - such as water and air (think algal blooms, groundwater contamination, and nitrous oxides as well as CO2 emissions) - and as multiple studies have shown, that only goes so far before returns begin to shrink relatively fast. Monocultures are also highly susceptible to pests and diseases and so in order to maintain the yield, energy must be constantly invested in genetic modification or new pesticides which in turn has its own environmental cost and debt (such as selecting for increasingly resistant pests), when an efficient system would accept that there will be some loss of certain crops due to pests and minimise that by planting a variety of complementary crops to both increase the community's resilience as well as generally stabilising the soil far better than monoculture in the process. In other words, efficiency is about minimising costs while maximising a desired output, and while one can argue, if the desired output is to only feed the world's population for the next few decades, it industrial monoculture is pretty efficient, if the goal is to feed the world's population for the next century and beyond, it is in no way efficient because of the costs it incurs far outweigh (or completely obstruct) the output you are expecting to get. That is of course just my professional opinion (that others happen to share in modified versions), so you can come to your own conclusion. For a beginner's review on parts of the issue, see:

 

Monoculture is the planting of one crop on a single field, so maybe loss of top soil would be affected in a good way if they planted crops that weren't annual or biannual, but then they'd probably have to use more chemicals to reduce weeds. Some have the idea of planting 2 crops at the same time for purpose of avoiding leaching of nutrients into the ground water and/or flowing water, but I think it's mostly 1 annual and 1 biannual crop planted at the same time (and I don't know if they're passed the research stage with that). Soil issues may be affected in a good way, then. If it works out well for the farmer, then sure, why not. Otherwise it's a bad idea.

 

"Professional opinion" - have you studied agriculture as well?

 

"Professional opinion" means the opinion of my profession - you should already know what that is and if you had bothered to look into the discipline(s) I mentioned, it would make perfect sense to you. Soil science plays a large and arguably central role in CZS, and while an agronomist would phrase it differently than me and there would be minour points we would have differing opinions on, I don't know any of them at my University who would disagree with the overall assessment - that agrochemical monoculture is highly inefficient and indisputably unsustainable in its main forms of application (hence why most of their work revolves around potential scientific and social improvements) - besides that the literature generally supports that notion. I know considering my home department is actually a subset of agronomy and so I am literally surrounded by agronomists.

 

If you can't be bothered to read carefully - or your present understanding of the language we are using is limited - I suggest you not participate in the discussion as it seems to demonstrates either an inadvertant or intentional lack of respect for the subject matter or the presenter. This isn't D&D, you'll find.

 

http://www.agriculturesnetwork.org/magazines/global/monocultures-towards-sustainability/monocultures-towards-sustainability-editorial

I'm not convinced they're actually presenting a viable solution in that article. Some things said are probably also questionable, and I think they're more or less saying that there are issues.

The purpose of posting the article was to provide background information on the problems of conventional (monocultural) agriculture, much of which agrees with the scientific literature and hence why I deemed it a decent introduction for the lay man. The viability of their solution was beside the point - I would say their solution isn't socially viable because agriculture itself is unsustainable and anathema to what biodiversity is, but that is more of a philosophical point.

Edited by WildTaltos
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Are the farmers onboard with it? If they are onboard, then problem is fixed. I bet they're willing if it's a system that works, right?

Specify "it". If "it" is what I think it is - what was suggested in the editorial, polycultural agricultural systems that are less damaging to the landscape, hydrochemical cycles, and biodiversity - some farmers are already "on board" and others, such as indigenous horticulturists or those who still practice more traditional forms of farming, were already doing it and demonstrating its efficacy. The Damar agroforests are one of the hallmark examples,of a larger scale application of the theory. Most monocultural farmers seem reluctant or resistant to pick up such practices for a variety of reasons - I will list some of them below. They aren't mutually exclusive (i.e. some of them can be present in the same situation):

 

1.) Highly degraded landscapes - a sustainable agricultural system requires that the natural functions of a given ecosystem or landscape are still intact enough to support the crop or forestry product you are after as well as offering the benefit of maintaining habitats to biodiversity. If you are a farmer in a highly degraded landscape - such as agricultural matrices in the Midwest United States - the landscape has been so heavily degraded that it will not support much of any lucrative plant or animal product without continued, extensive human intervention besides that much of the native biodiversity in the area has already been destroyed, so such a system would not work without a considerable amount of time being set  aside for the land to restore or rebuild some sort of natural ecosystem.

 

2.) Most modern farmers are not farmers - as my faculty mentor once put it, partially as a joke but still frighteningly accurate, most farmers, particularly of the agrochemical monoculture model, have the equivalent knowledge of Farmville - apply xyz chemical to plot abc on days mnp, rinse and repeat, etc (I've never played Farmville so I don't know if his analogy is accurate or not, but I get the point of it being highly regimental with little thought or consideration of the actual art and complexity). They have a very minimal if any understanding of soil processes - which is one of the reasons why monoculture heavily degrades soil, because of a lack of knowledge and concern from the "farmer" - and, because a number of them, especially in the US, purchase rather than save their seed stock, they have little knowledge of selective breeding and the science behind plant growth. An agricultural system that requires a person to tailor their agriculture to the local landscape in order to preserve biodiversity would require a level of knowledge and skill that most farmers do not have.

 

3.) High initial costs - like most sustainable solutions or technologies that are more amenable to ecosystem health, sustainable agriculture requires a high initial cost to start. The two previous factors play a large role in this - if you live in a highly degraded landscape but want to start such a sustainable farm, you have to invest a lot of time (if not money as well) in restoring the land or allowing it to regenerate, and if you have no practical agricultural knowledge, that also represents an investment in educating yourself on how to go about this. It will take a long time to pay off, perhaps maybe not even in your lifetime. As such, very few are willing to take the risk when there is an immediate lucrative return as in conventional monoculture.

 

Essentially, it comes down to the current socio-economic paradigm not rewarding practices that are conservative of resource use and hence more amendable to biodiversity - not about whether it can actually work/exist. That is why I said I think it is socially inviable, because such a form of agriculture - and sustainability in general - requires a fundamental shift in our social paradigm to become widespread or  commonplace, which does not look like it is going to happen in any timely fashion.

Edited by WildTaltos
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I meant "it" as in catch crops (one annual and one biannual or similar) or polyannuals.

 

I don't know how it is in other parts of the world, but 1) and 2) of what you mentioned is not a phenomenon here. Farmers here have mostly been farmers for generations, they are well educated for the most part, and they want to pass the land on. They'd be dumb to do anything to damage the land they live off of, and soil erosion and degradation in general is probably less of a problem here than in dryer areas.

 

As soon as they have a solution that works well, then any current paradigm should naturally be abandoned for the new way of doing things. There is some research going on here on catch crops (plant breeding). It's not on the market, but maybe it will be.

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