As everyone now knows, the new Climate Change Report has arrived. If we want to make a change we must change from BIG AGRICULTURE to sustainable farming. What you need to know about Big Ag:
FARM CHEMICALS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Not only do pesticides contribute to the development of many diseases, they also contribute to Climate Change and deterioration of the earth’s protective ozone layer. During a time when nations are striving to control effects of climate change, shouldn’t everything be done to reduce the use of substances that may contribute to it? In fact the Montreal Protocol[i] was established in order to phase out ozone damaging chemicals like fumigants, however some remain in use through special exemptions.
Recently the FDA expanded the use of fumigants by approving their use on stored grains, nuts and dried fruit.[ii] These grains and nuts get turned into many various products we consume. Here are some of the notorious fumigants and what damage they cause:
- SULFURYL FLUORIDE: According to MIT Sulfuryl fluoride contributes 4,800 times more to global warming than carbon dioxide[iii]. Even more troubling, it causes brain lesions and vacuolation[iv]—in other words, it causes holes in the brain’s white matter. Within the white matter lie the nerve fibers that connect nerve cells. With loss of the white matter, what horrible diseases develop? Think of the spike in Alzheimers and dementia, could this be because of sulfuryl fluoride use in food storage, landscaping, and residential pest control? If a chemical like this isn’t banned, what further harm may come to our health & atmosphere?
- METHYL BROMIDE: Methyl Bromide accumulates in the atmosphere, where it destroys the earth’s protective ozone layer. Through the Montreal Protocol, most nations phased out methyl bromide by 2005. However, the United States approved the continued use of the fumigant under the “Critical Use Exemption” clause. Over 4,000 exemptions were granted; most were given to strawberry growers in California and Florida. According to the EPA, in 2015 alone 376 metric tons were used to grow strawberries.
- FERTILIZER: In addition to fumigants, fertilizer contributes significantly to climate change by releasing tons of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. Nitrous oxide stays in the atmosphere for over 100 years and remains in the soil for decades. According to the EPA, “Nitrous oxide molecules stay in the atmosphere for an average of 114 years before being removed by a sink or destroyed through chemical reactions. The impact of 1 pound of N2O on warming the atmosphere is almost 300 times that of 1 pound of carbon dioxide.”[v] Further, fertilizer contaminates drinking water and underground aquifers with nitrate. Nitrate contamination of drinking water can be deadly, literally.
For these reasons alone, it makes sense to move toward sustainable agriculture, supporting small farms where land and animals are cared for responsibly. If you need more proof, consider this:
- Industrial farming that employs conventional and GMO techniques advances deforestation as well as loss of native prairies & grasslands to make room for monocropping. Read More
- Monocropping is farming without a conscience, violating nature and ecosystems, wildlife, while contributing to erosion and runoff.
- Runoff causes eutrophication and aquatic dead zones. Read more
- GMO farming uses more herbicides than any other type of farming producing super weeds which pushes the need for yet harsher and more toxic chemicals. Read more
- Herbicides are neurotoxins, reproductive toxins, endocrine disruptors & carcinogens. Read more
- Herbicides and fungicides are killing pollinators–bees, bats & butterflies Read More
- Pesticides & fertilizer cause catastrophic water pollution and death to aquatic life. Read more
Lets not forget about Factory Farms. These concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) violate animals and violate the earth. Factory farm animals are not included in the Animal Welfare Act; most are confined indoors their entire life, never allowed to feel sunshine, suffering with infections, pumped up with steroids, drugs, antibiotics and artificial hormones. Chickens are so crowded together their beaks are clipped off to prevent injury.
Secondly, these farms produce a staggering amount of waste and manure. This they pump to large open pit reservoirs on site–reservoirs that emit toxic air and water pollution yet they’re not regulated by the EPA.
“On March 23, 2018, the Consolidated Appropriations Act (Omnibus Bill) was signed into law. Title XI of Division S of the Omnibus Bill, known as the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act (FARM Act), amended CERCLA section 103(e) to exempt air emissions from animal waste at a farm from reporting under CERCLA.”[vi]
Factory farms harm life and push all the climate change buttons. Waste pits at factory farms emit a huge portion of global air pollution.
- Methane: “37% of emissions of methane (CH4), which has more than 20 times the global warming potential (GWP) of CO2 (carbon dioxide)
- Nitrous Oxide: “65% of emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), which has nearly 300 times the GWP of CO2.”[vii]
- Hydrogen Sulfide: “Levels as high as 1,000 ppm have been reported following the perturbation of manure lagoons, and levels greater than 100 ppm are considered immediately hazardous to life and health. Exposure to these elevated levels of H2S can cause rapid loss of consciousness, and H2S has been implicated in a number of deaths when encountered in confined environments in agricultural settings. The primary mode of absorption of H2S is through inhalation.”[viii]
- Ammonia: “The EPA has found that animal agricultural operations are responsible for almost three fourths of ammonia air pollution in the United States. Exposure can lead to pulmonary disease, scarring of upper and lower airways, lung inflammation, at high concentrations it can be fatal.”[ix]
- The waste just simply isn’t contained sufficiently, it poses a great risk to people nearby even moreso during violent storms.
While these pollutants continue their haphazard journey into the environment unchecked, we wait for safeguards and regulations to be put in place by an EPA that’s short on mindful leadership. Between the EPA, USDA and the large corporations who own these harms, they must figure out a better solution for the waste. These farms receive enormous subsidies under current USDA policy, perhaps that money needs to be earmarked for solving the waste dilemma.
End the madness– Support small farms and sustainable farmers who care about animals, the earth, and You!
Climate Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment: https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/downloads/