AGROECOLOGY - RESPECT
The word ecology was coined in 1866 by Ernst Haeckel, a German biologist of Darwinist current. In a book entitled General morphology of organisms, he defined the term as "the science that studies the interrelationships of the various living beings among themselves and with the surrounding world, that is to say, in a broad sense, the science of the conditions of existence ".
So, the first thing to remember about this definition is that ecology is primarily a science. More recently, the word has been deviated from its meaning to make an ideology and a political movement.
The term has evolved into everything related to the environment, integrating, unlike what Haeckel thought, an opposition between human activities and Nature, as if human being doesn't belong to Nature.
The word ecology was diverted from its meaning for political purposes. But this is another story...
Obviously agroecology specializes this definition around agricultural activities and production of food and raw materials of agricultural origin.
Agroecology is not a science but rather a philosophy, a concept that seeks to make the needs and demands of agriculture, consistent with the goal of sustainability and respect for the environment. But it also seeks to integrate agriculture in the rural civil society in order to enhance the capacity of sustainable rural development.
Some have made environmental protection a crusade for which agriculture is a priority target. Organic farming has become for them the only acceptable path. Nevertheless it is very far from being as friendly for environment and health as they are struggling to make us believe.
Wanting to make from a dogma a production method, are encountered necessarily serious difficulties and even dead ends. However, thanks to a very aggressive and dynamic communication, this dogma has managed to make itself unavoidable, into making believe that offers solutions to all problems. On one hand, this is not true, and secondly, many of these solutions are very aggressive to health or the environment (indiscriminate use of copper, heavy metal harmful to health and soil, neem oil well known as endocrine disruptor, natural pyrethrum very toxic for aquatic wildlife, among many other pesticides used in organic agriculture).
It will be difficult to go back on this falsified perception, because we left the field open to figures become public, great communicators, populist among the best, who made from certain vision, questionable to say the least, of agriculture and environment, their battle cry and above all, their main source of income. This is the case, for example, of Vani Hari (Food Babe) or Claude Bourguignon, among many others.
Agroecology goes far in their direction, it goes even beyond, leaving them as a kind of rearguard fighters, and it deprives them any reason to exist. It is therefore likely that, despite all passed and future progress, they will continue to use the same arguments, denying the real benefits of the positive developments, to continue to justify their struggle, become obsolete.
I choose to continue this series with this aspect which does not appear in the articles or files relating agroecology, but is, in my opinion, absolutely fundamental.
If we talk about agroecology and respect, we inevitably think of the welfare of animals, in respect of plants, preservation of biodiversity and environment, soil conservation, precautions regarding water pollution risks, water savings, and so on.
It’s true that all this must be taken into account, there is no doubt it is even the basis of the concept.
Yet, limit the concept to that, with the the idea of making a large project for the society, as it is the case in France, it's just make an additional tool for regulation, limitation and control. If this is the case, then it will have to be imposed by force, on the base of reprimands and penalties, so, basically, it will be very difficult to be accepted.
However, if we consider Haeckel's definition of ecology, and if we consider agriculture as a productive activity for food and raw materials used in most human activities, then we must see agroecology as a true project for the whole society.
Agroecology carries in it an immense consistency, a logic and an efficiency, that even before appropriate laws were established, well over half of French farmers have already implemented specific actions.
But to make of agroecology an authentic project for the society, the concept of respect must be instilled in all direct or indirect actors, in a modern society that is sorely lacking of it.
We all agree that the farmer has to play a leading role, but all actors in society have a part to play there. I'm referring to the fact that we are speaking of production and environment, so it is imperative to include gardens, balconies, recycling, food waste, and so on.
When the government of a country, as is currently the case in France, puts agroecology to the rank of national purpose, then this issue becomes a societal goal. Although the approach, at least currently, is voluntary, agroecology concerns the whole society.
Each level of society has rights, but also duties, and among these duties, there is a duty of respect.
Respect for plants, animals, people, balances, environment, soil, water, suppliers, consumers, and not forgetting, respect for producers, artisans, industrialists and farmers.
When I speak of respect for consumers, suppliers or farmers, I refer to a lot of little things, and in particular:
- The respect in television programs that too often present farmers as monsters poisoners and polluters, suppliers as exploiters, and consumers as victims. Freedom of the press and freedom of expression were transformed into freedom from oppression. Because even the public channels have launched in this so dangerous and unfair play. Is it tolerable in one of the founder countries, and rightly proud of it, of modern democracies? Is this acceptable in a country that proudly displays its motto, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, but which only the first one seems to have found favor, equality and fraternity have been thrown for a long time into the political oblivion?
- The respect in pricing policies. How do you want that everyone is involved in a social project if each one of its active members feels victim of the system? Consumers are largely operated by aberrant pricing policy and a carefully organized disinformation, producers are underpaid by a system that values more the administration and intermediates, that producers who realize the hardest working and take most risks.
These are certainly the most serious points, which give as result that 14% of French farmers are willing to leave their activity within one year (http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-eco/2016/04/20/97002-20160420FILWWW00193-france-14-des-agriculteurs-prets-a-abandonner-dans-l-annee.php), and that farmers are among the populations the most affected by suicide (http://www.bfmtv.com/societe/le-tabou-du-suicide-des-agriculteurs-954464.html).
Financial difficulties, loneliness, fatigue, feeling of being bad considered, are daily realities for many farmers, and come primarily from a social system that no longer recognizes the value of production.
Laborer, artisan, farmer, became jobs to avoid, to the benefit of the communication, computing, health, control, selling and others, all lucrative, none productive.
But who makes all products to be sold?
Such a project of society has no chance of success if it is not accompanied by a policy of training / information targeted on a rehabilitation of local jobs and on a clear and transparent information of the reality of things, without ideology or dogmatism.
Ideology and dogmatism, often block the most respectful solutions to each problem. This is especially true in agriculture.
Somehow, we must seek a return to the philosophy of the hunter-gatherer, but in a modern, productive and respectful way of use of nature.
Try to understand. It does not mean to go hunting for food, it was fine when the Earth was inhabited by 500,000 people, all living in the countryside ...
The situation has changed a little bit. We are barely 15,000 times more numerous, and the greater part of the population does not know what countryside is, or is afraid, or even feels disgust.
Yet the philosophy of the hunter-gatherer is good, and at least some aspects are transferable. Especially the respect. Again. The hunter-gatherer collected only what he immediately needed, to preserve the resource and to be able to use it longer.
This way of life still exists, especially among some African or South American people, in remote areas, with very low population density.
Our modern economical system produces a large amount of food or raw materials that are destroyed as non-compliant. This is a total lack of respect for nature and for those who produce them.
It is imperative to protect crops against bioaggressors (pests and diseases). It is also a question of sustainability. The more we will be able to produce on each hectare of cultivated land, the less hectares will be needed to feed the population. It's a question of balance, and also an environmental issue.
Associate environmental protection with the fight against agricultural productivity, is a big mistake and a populism effect of very low level. This is quite the opposite, actually. Protecting the environment and biodiversity can only come through a maximum limitation of land devoted to agriculture, so a maximum limitation of its negative impact.
Or we must admit that the world population is too large and must kill many people.
¿Are there any volunteers?
All this does not mean that we must produce no matter how. Agriculture must learn to produce much, by making the most of available resources, without depleting them. This is the big bet of agroecology.
It is a thousand times better to use a synthetic respectful product, than an aggressive natural product. If one is able to accept that principle, which prefers qualities instead of origin, then we approach the philosophy of agroecology.
Someone someday will have to understand that agriculture is only a link in the food and economic chain.
But if the link breaks, the whole chain is dislocated.
Farmers, artisans and local industrials must be able to live with dignity from their work. It is a matter of long-term vision.
If they don't succeed, they will stop their activity, or they will delocalize, as we can see every day in the rich countries.
Yet the same consumer goods will continue to be available, but from third countries, where environmental, social, health or political policies don't necessarily reach the same level.
Is this acceptable?
The ostrich policy has never led to anything good. Those who currently look the other way, not to see this reality, are the major responsible for the economic, social, health and environmental catastrophes to come.
But agroecology should also cover the distribution. Currently it is the central link, which directs and determines the present and the future of the production and consumption of goods.
But the distribution companies are exclusively focused on the release of comfortable financial results to satisfy their shareholders. The desires and needs of the two extremes, the producer and the consumer, are analyzed as to derive maximum benefit.
This absolute lack of respect must be targeted as a priority by the authorities responsible for the implementation of agroecology.
An evidence of this lack of respect for distribution? Carrefour, in France, already communicates on agroecology, but by voluntarily introducing confusion. http://www.forumphyto.fr/2016/05/24/carrefour-et-ses-fraises-sans-pesticides-mensonge-par-omission-et-faute-morale/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin Contrary to claims of Carrefour, agroecology supports the use of synthetic pesticides, but using the methods of Integrated Pest Management, which I will talk in a future post.
Promote a diversified agriculture, open, not dogmatic or ideological, plural to use a fashionable word, is the best way to ensure that the entire society accept agroecology. To do this, the whole of civil society must be informed and aware of the issues, and the positive and negative aspects of each type of farming.
Nothing is perfect, all farming methods have advantages and defects. Let's be honest on this crucial point. Here, one more time, it’s a question of respect.
The results of this great movement will be even better.
It is imperative to integrate to the project of agroecology development, an important part of economic, political and social operation.This is the only way to make a real societal project.