Here is a prime example of why we need a revival in localism. I forgot all about Grist, and am sorry I did, it’s a good publication. They just started a series on the problem with Nitrogen fertilizer. The first article is a good primer, and I’m interested to see where they take this. (If you want to skip the heavy, go to the post script)
The history of synthetic nitrogen is quite interesting, and telling. It was invented by the father of modern chemical warfare, Fritz Harbor. He discovered it while searching for a powerful explosive for the Germans during the first World War. He also oversaw the first use of mustard gas. He wife also shot herself in the chest, many think because she could not deal with what her husband was doing to fellow humans, but that’s more hearsay than fact.
The basic problem with the application of synthetic nitrogen to land is that it doesn’t stay where you put it. In a natural cycle, the plants would take the nitrogen from the soil, the animals would eat the plants (and therefore the nitrogen) then their excrement would deposit the nitrogen back into the soil. A nice cyclical system that waste little energy or nitrogen.
Now farmers dump the stuff on their fields by the ton, hoping for higher and higher yields (profits). The excess nitrogen is washed away, and, like everything, eventually makes its way through the hydrological system into the ocean, the landfill of the world. All this extra nitrogen creates vast dead zones where rivers dump into the ocean.
Farmers don’t over-apply nitrogen on purpose. Nor do they want to contribute to estuary pollution and dead zones. But for 40 years, we’ve invested in a type of agriculture that rewards high yields over all other considerations – Stephanie Ogburn
This agriculture is rooted in a for-profit, grow as much as possible, gimme gimme gimme culture. Because the corn and soybeans grown are transported to vast processing plants who then turn them into completely unrecognizable but mass consumed forms (think high fructose corn syrup).
The whole system creates a disconnect between the farmer, the land, and his neighbors. When you don’t see the negative effects of your actions, its hard to correct them. Farmers in Illinois are killing fish in the Gulf of Mexico. If farmers in Illinois were killing deer in Illinois, there would be something done. Because of the distance, it’s easy to dismiss the harm.
Localism defeats this. When you grow crops that are for human consumption without being processed in a factory and turned into things like dextrose and other exotic names, your well being becomes tied to the land’s well being. It’s what Aldo Leopold called land ethic.
In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such – Aldo Leopold
The world’s farmers would do well to take these words to heart.
Maybe this was all part of the Harber’s master plan. Revenge on the allies by giving them the rope to hang themselves. We certainly haven’t been fighting against it much. I mean, look at the guy. He’s obviously an evil genius. Possibly a real life Dr. Evil. I’m sure he’s waiting on the dark side of the moon with the other space Nazis. Once we have been fattened beyond repair, I’m sure they’ll swoop down in their swastika shaped spacecraft and make us their bitches. Good job America. Turns out, you lost the real battle of the bulge. All hail Harber!