How to stop industrial agriculture from destroying the earth

“Regeneration: Feeding the World Without Devouring the Planet” by George Monbiot (Penguin Random House)

Wandering through farmland in America – and elsewhere in the world – it’s hard to imagine that too much green can be so harmful to the land. But author George Monbiot makes a compelling case that it often is.

Consider these stats mentioned in the book:

• A pound of beef emits 113 times more greenhouse gases than producing one pound of peas.

• One million plant and animal species on the verge of extinction.

The Monbiot book begins as a hymn to the soil. He finds a handful of Healthy Earth so fascinating in the diversity of life it comprises that the reader begins to think that the book is a love story – a scientist/farmer and his beloved land. Soils may be the most complex of all living systems, Monbiot wrote. “However, we treat it like dirt.”

However, in the second chapter, the book turns into a strong case against industrial farming with cows, pigs, and chickens as the main villains, but the practitioners of commercial farming are also indicted, as their fertilized fields rapidly degraded the soil.

• A United Nations report indicates that by 2050, global meat consumption is set to be 120% greater than it was in 2000.

• The largest user of water in the world? Farming.


• In Central America, tropical Africa and Southeast Asia, 70% of arable land suffers from severe erosion.

• The main cause of pollution of rivers in the UK is agriculture, especially livestock.

Our cropping systems are becoming less resilient, the author says, and more vulnerable to external shocks. He quotes a United Nations report that says the world’s crops have lost 75% of their genetic diversity since 1900.

So what to do about this, given how accustomed we all are to eating regularly?

This is where the controversy begins.

One easy solution: Be vegan. Doing so will reduce your personal liability for the greenhouse by 60%. Good luck trying to get Americans who can’t agree on anything to eat more vegetables.

Monbiot also advocates planting a variety of crops as this will support a more diverse soil and insect life.

Some experts say farmers are making more progress in adopting climate-friendly practices than they are getting.

any. J. Kawamura is a former Secretary of Food and Agriculture in California. He is also the founder of Solutions from the Land, which strives to find innovative and pioneering solutions to global problems such as climate change and soil enrichment.

Kawamura said farmers are making “tremendous changes” in how food is grown, particularly in generating more microbial activity in the soil, an action Monbiot talked about in Chapter One.

“The future of the world depends on how we treat our soil.”

And on that solution, Kawamura and Monbiot agree: More knowledge about soils is needed if we are to feed the projected 8 billion people on planet Earth by the end of this year.