Fall is a time of harvest, the process of gathering crops for food that feeds a world population now nearing eight billion human beings, a number that may be considered the peak of sustainability. Prompted by insects that destroy crops, conventional farming sought to create adequate, if not abundant food supply through the use of chemical pesticides, such as DDT and boric acid, and chemical fertilizers, such as urea and sodium nitrate. As agribusiness grew, it embraced genetically modified organisms to attract consumers to larger, more colorful produce -- attaching a greater price tag to the planet: greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion, and water pollution, among other environmental issues threatening human health.
Recently, conversations about organic farming have centered on greenhouse gas emissions. While extra land is needed to grow natural crops that rely on rotation (mixing crops to improve soil quality); natural fertilizers (like manure, bone meal, compost); and natural repellants (like clove oil, neem water), there is less land for carbon sequestration, a method aimed at reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Added is fraud: what some organic farmers and producers call "organic" does not always meet recommended standards, leaving consumers further victim to agribusiness by paying more for marginally natural produce.
Amidst accelerating climate change, Digging the Earth, Tending the Soil offers a global educational perspective, despite continuing controversy over agricultural policies and practices. We explore the history and benefits of organic farming, known to leave a smaller carbon footprint; conserve and build soil; and replenish natural ecosystems for cleaner water and air. As we reflect on the debate of conventional versus organic farming, we draw attention to the words of Mahatma Gandhi and consider implications for our life on Earth, "To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves." (The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, Navajivan, Pub. House, , p. 379.
Digging the Earth, Tending the Soil is designed by Sabarish Raghupathy, User Experience/Interface Engineer, and Trisha Barton, Library Associate (Design) and curated by Jennifer Govan, Library Director and Senior Librarian.
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Poster, Courtesy of the Gottesman Libraries
Vector Art: Nature Vectors by Vecteezy
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Last Updated: 10:26 am, Saturday, Oct 30 , 2021