“Mankind’s future is not foreordained by space, energy and cropland. It will be determined by the intelligent evolution of humanity.” Theodore W. Schultz
Development of agriculture changed the course of human civilization, life expectancy, trade, finance and, now, in a most consequential way, the condition of our planet.
Sir David Attenborough, in A Life on Our Planet - My Witness Statement and A Vision for the Future, states that "modern, industrial farmland is no substitute for wild land. ... Farmland and wild habitat function in completely different ways. Wild habitats have evolved to sustain themselves. Plants in an ecosystem cooperate to capture and store all the precious ingredients of life - water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and others. Such communities have to be self-sufficient and build for the future. Over time they lock away carbon, become more complex in structure, more biodiverse, and their soils become rich in organic material."
"Modern, industrial farmland is very different. We sustain it. We give it everything we think it needs and take away everything it doesn't. If the soil is poor, we add fertilizers, sometimes to the extent it actually becomes toxic to soil micro-organisms. If there isn't enough water, we bring it in from elsewhere, reducing the water in natural systems. If other plants grow on the site, we kill them with herbicides. If insects are slowing our crop's growth, we remove them with pesticides. At the end of the growing season, we frequently strip off all the plants, and turn over the soil, exposing it to the air and sun, depleting its carbon stock. We leave herds of animals on pasture for years until the grasses have lost all their reserves and are exhausted. Farmland is supplemented territory. There is no inherent need for it to build for the future. Over time, most industrial farmed land will emit carbon, become simpler in structure, lose its soil biodiversity and its organic material."
"The truth is that we can't hope to end biodiversity loss and operate sustainably on Earth until we cease the expansion of industrial farmland."
We must seriously reorient agricultural policies in this light while assisting farmers and food producers during transition.