All Hail Haber-Bosch

7 November 2008

fertilizer-ad-retooledWhen corporations start running ad campaigns with cute kids while taking credit for the well-being of society, and  setting up flashy websites with pages devoted to “grassroots activism” — you know that some executives are getting a little jittery.  Remember that whole, “carbon dioxide–some call it pollution, we call it life” campaign?

cei_adWell, it seems the fertilizer industry has realized that if the public can get concerned about the environmental consequences of massive anthropogenic manipulation of the carbon cycle, they might eventually start getting concerned about the emerging evidence that our massive anthropogenic manipulation of the nitrogen and phosphorous cycles may also have some negative consequences.

Episodes of dramatic biogeochemical flux in the past were not happy times to be alive, and just as with carbon, there is substantial reason to believe that we are dramatically altering the global balance of nitrogen and phosphorous, perhaps at rates and levels that have never been seen before.

Look, there’s no doubt that the “Green Revolution” that increased global food production in regions historically prone to debilitating famine has been a net-plus from a humanistic stand-point.  But just as with the industrial revolution a century before, it’s now crystal clear that these technological breakthroughs have come with significant costs and risks to the biosphere.  And ultimately it is the biosphere that sustains us.  If we continue to rape the biosphere as we have been, well, you better start developing a taste for raw nitrates.

bee-hiveWe are in desperate need of a Greener Revolution,  one that focuses on sensible farming practices: crop rotation and diversification, proper soil management, an end to devoting so much arable land to produce factory-made animal protein,  and a reduction of exogenous input (fossil fuels, fossil and synthetic fertilizers) and output (emissions, runoff).  As consumers we need to develop sensible eating practices, endeavor to figure out where our food comes from and how it’s produced and make a concerted effort to send our food waste back to the soil and not to the landfill or incinerator (growing some of your own food and patronizing local farmers helps a lot on all of these counts).  Actually there is one easy word that covers all of this: sustainability.

It was innovation that brought about the original Green Revolution not advertising and not re-branding famine as the “South Bengal Diet.”  This is what these corporations should be investing in, sustainable innovation, not some million dollar PR campaign.  Reupholstering the deck chairs and pointing out to everyone that the iceberg is “completely natural and organic” just isn’t going to cut it.

Also, that’s not penne you idiots it’s rotini.

[uh, I don’t know when microecos became a political blog…sorry we’ll get back to comparative American studies soon enough]

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