Posts Tagged ‘Brian Fagan’

Climatic Migration is happening. Are we ready?

February 25, 2016

Anthropologist, Brian Fagan paints a sobering world picture for us in his book, The Attacking Ocean. We in NH are far enough inland and upland that unless we have past experiences of living near the ocean and can go back and experience the then and now, it is difficult to accept the reality of rising sea levels and loss of habitable land.

Fagan takes us through the natural events he considers our greatest threat: earthquakes, tsunamis, and tropical storms “which spread water horizontally over low-lying coastal landscapes and river deltas, some of the most densely inhabited environments on earth.”

Our challenge internationally is to figure out how we can cooperate to absorb the migrations that have already begun. In the US, inland migration has begun. How do we plan to share our space, food and water? Earth is prepared to nourish us if we are willing to cooperate and look at the big picture.

We already know that GMO monoculture plowed crops are destroying the life of the earth’s soil, despite the slick rhetoric advertised. The reality is that the fantastic network of soil mycorrhizal fungi which absorb and redistribute carbon and other nutrients through roots, and help to set in motion the release of oxygen we need, is being destroyed by plowing, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

Courtney White traveled all over the world to observe innovative farmers and he takes us along through his book, Grass, Soil, Hope: A journey through Carbon Country. The good news is that permaculture farming, developed by two Australians: Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s, is spreading all over the world. Also called no-till farming, permaculture farming avoids the use of plows, pesticides and herbicides. Instead, Prehistoric and Native American practices of no till (permaculture) farming not only enriches our soil, it stores abundant carbon as well.

Permculture farming assures erosion control by not disturbing the network of soil microbes, beneficial bacteria, fungi, nematodes (tiny worms). Mulching, cover cropping, and companion planting of diverse crops encourage a strong network. By not plowing up this network, these practices are reclaiming and protecting the soil, producing greater harvests of robust, healthy foods, free of harmful chemicals.

When Hurricane Irene hit Dorn Cox’s permaculture farm in Lee, NH, he noted “lots of rain but no damage”. Farmers who plowed had no underground network to protect their crops from hurricane energy.

White, a New Mexico farmer himself, takes us to visit ranchers out west who fence off their grassland into paddocks. By rotating herds through the paddocks, they avoid overgrazing and assure good pasture. Some of them grazed sheep and cattle together; the cattle kept sheep predators at bay. Herds, by eating, walking and defecating, also stimulated native grasses to grow, proliferate and outcompete the weeds. To top it off, the quality of grass fed meat gradually increased income and ability to increase herd size.

At a tenuous time when it seems as though every aspect of survival is up in the air, we could literally ground ourselves by reconnecting with Earth’s network as the snow recedes around our homes. How might we encourage the underground internet to flourish?


Diversity, Dirt Quality, Health Quality: Same Thing

August 22, 2013

Civilizations come and go, come and go. The quality of dirt has always been a huge factor whether we’re talking about the Irish Potato Famine or the US Tobacco monoculture that led to soil depletion and the practice of constantly moving westward, buying up new lands to deplete, rather than amending soil with manure. Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying, “We can buy an acre of new land cheaper than we can manure an old one.”

Today, there’s no west left to move to and what’s left is being steadily destroyed by Roundup Ready monoculture farming. Such farming not only depletes soil of enriching diversity but is developing and spreading Fusarium Blight in wheat and Sudden Death in soya. Soil borne pathogens are developing in response to glyphosate (Roundup). We now have the potential to experience a massive Roundup Famine the world over, not just in the US.

We either learn from past civilizations or just add ourselves to another geological layer to be studied in years to come. We can decide whether our species remains or is fossil fodder. Geologist, David Montgomery’s book, Dirt: The erosion of civilizations, gives us a detailed update.  Also see Brian Fagan’s book, The Great Warming: Climate change and the rise and fall of civilizations.

The Irish Potato Famine was the result of lack of diversity. Peru has thousands of varieties of potato. Ireland had only imported four of them so it was simply a matter of time for blight to develop.

Today, managing healthy dirt is even more crucial as we’ve reached the limit of arable land and cannot afford to turn any more of our forests into farmland if we want enough water to keep people and soil irrigated. In NH, we take our forests for granted. Only 37% of the forests that were here when the settlers arrived remain. We need to sit up and take notice if we want to assure our great-grandchildren’s survival.

Forests mean stored WATER which is predicted to be the subject of future wars unless we can conserve it so there is enough to go around. Corporations are already moving to strip towns of their water by setting up bottling companies, then brainwashing and deluding people into thinking that bottled is the only safe water to drink – and it’s pricey.

Today, wind farms, whose future in NH’s 6 mph winds assures us that the only people benefitting in the long run will be the corporations selling the towers and the power companies selling power at increasingly exorbitant future rates.

As land continues to be gutted to make way for towers of any kind, more of our forest land begins to erode and more of our forest diversity is being lost. More species become extinct. Those of us with farming roots know the value of well composted soil. As people become disconnected from those roots, Roundup and the use of herbicides and pesticides instead of manures will continue to replace healthy farming practices.

Civilization sagas have always been about money for a few people at the expense of the many. How many scenarios do we need to witness before we act? The earliest known agricultural people lived between Iraq and Iran around 1,000-9,000 BCE. Class distinctions arose once everyone no longer had to work the fields in order to eat.

As ever, we have a choice. We can throw up our hands and resign our futures to corporate takeovers. Or we can take an innovative leaf from our Nebraska neighbors who are raising a solar barn in the immediate path of the proposed pipeline that threatens both soil and water. Or a leaf from the Barnstead folks who stopped a bottling company from draining their aquifer. We can join the Sept. 3 Grafton Community Meeting (6:30 PM at the new church) to see what can be done to rein in the ever metastasizing wind farm towers. We can view the film, Northern Trespass, to update ourselves on the proposed NP current status and what it means for NH. (Theatre Schedule at

Closer to home, we can save and recycle our own compost around our homes and see for ourselves the diversity that develops in our soil. Caring for our own plot raises our consciousness and wakes up creative thoughts about how we can care for the rest of the environment. Fagan encourages us to “think of ourselves as partners with rather than potential masters of the changing natural world around us.”