Gardening brings happiness and health benefits

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Photo by Benjamin Combs on Unsplash.

More and more of us are spending time tending to our gardens. Around one third of people in the US, 40% of people in the UK and one in four in Japan, now participate in gardening to some extent. The Food and Agriculture Organisation is promoting urban gardening as a particularly important strategy to alleviate nutrient deficiencies and food insecurity, especially for those of us living on a low income.

Due to the nature and intensity of resource use, urban gardening is generally more efficient than modern agriculture, capable of producing as much as 15 times the amount of food per unit of area. …

Most of what we know about food and cooking as adults comes from our childhood experiences

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

We all know that what we eat is important — that it affects our health and well-being and thus every aspect of our lives. But what’s less obvious is how we ingrain healthy food habits; how do we teach our kids what’s best to eat?

Despite the fact that we are gaining more knowledge of food itself; what’s in it, expert recommendations on how to “optimise” our diet and perils to avoid, this is a question that many of us still struggle to answer.

Research provides an answer — it’s about building intuitive understanding through direct experiences.

Children are born with an innate dislike for anything sour or bitter; they prefer sweet, savoury and lightly salty foods. This is partly to do with the number and type of taste buds they have, partly to do with pre-programmed responses. The good news is, that as they age and their sensory taste detection system changes, they become less sensitive to strong flavours. They can learn to like the kinds of foods that we as grown-ups know they should be eating. …

Having a powerful relationship with the natural world doesn’t require living anywhere near it

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Photo: d3sign/Getty Images

There’s no doubt that spending time in nature improves both mental and physical health — but what’s less widely understood is how much time, exactly, we need to spend outside to reap those benefits. Even the most recently published study, which recommended at least 120 minutes a week, is subject to so many constraints and qualifiers that the researchers themselves advised readers to take their findings with a grain of salt.

And maybe how much time we spend outside isn’t quite the right question to ask. Those of us with more limited access to the great outdoors will be heartened to hear that researchers think the quality of the experiences we have in nature appears to matter just as much as the quantity. …

A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t appropriate for the complexities of sustainable food systems.

We need to think about food from a systems perspective.

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Photo by Shumilov Ludmila on Unsplash.

‘The insolubility of a problem has never deterred men and women from confidently propounding solutions. The method adopted is always the same: that of over‐simplification. Thus, all but the immediate antecedents of the event under consideration are ignored. At the same time, all embarrassing complexities are mentally abolished. The event is thus made to seem simple enough to admit explanation in terms of a very few “causes”, perhaps even only one. Not unnaturally the results are disappointing.’ — Aldous Huxley, 1941

I’m an environmental scientist who specialised in agroecology. I grew up on a farm. Both of my parents are zoologists with PhD’s who care deeply about sustainable outcomes. …

Small farms farm better.

And large farms can’t.

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Photo by Henry Be on Unsplash.

Small farms are the best hope that we hold of feeding a future of 9 billion (and beyond). At the same time they hold the potential to redistribute wealth, conserve biodiversity, secure livelihoods for some of the world’s most marginalised and ensure a continuation of traditional cultural relationships with the land. They are truly our most sustainable option.

But before I delve into small farms and all their virtues, I first want to briefly talk about sustainability. It’s a term that gets thrashed around quite a bit, often out of context. I’d like to take steps to remedy that.

The principles that underpin sustainability as we know it today originated with the Swiss fishery and agro forestry industries creation of “Maximum Sustained Yield” management plans in the 1830s and 40s. Sustainability is not some new-fangled concept that simply became trendy with scientists in the early 2000’s; it has a long history, despite our long worldwide failure to adopt and apply it. …

Governments and mainstream science are failing to protect us — and the environment — from glyphosate.

The everyday chemical that’s killing us slowly.

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Photo by zhang kaiyv on Unsplash.

Last year a landmark case concluded in California. Dewayne Johnson was a school groundskeeper who applied various forms of glyphosate around 30 times per year who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the age of 46, he is predicted to be unlikely to live past 2020, leaving behind a family of three children and a wife. On Friday the 10th August 2018, one of the world’s largest agrochemical companies, Monsanto (now owned by Bayer), was ordered to pay Johnson US $289M in damages for their deemed role in causing his cancer through their glyphosate-containing products, though that amount was later reduced to US $78M. His was the first of a number of similar cases against Monsanto to go to trial in the US, estimated to be in excess of 11 000. This year, 70-year-old Californian Edwin Hardeman was also successful in his case against Monsanto. On the 21st March, a jury found that Roundup was a “substantial factor” in causing his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. …

This is how sustainability scientists want to feed the future

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Photo by thomas scott on Unsplash.

Do you care about gender equality? Human rights? Food security? Closing the pay gap? Nutrition? Climate change? The global economy? Biodiversity? Cultural heritage? Water availability? Ending world hunger?

Whether or not you answered yes to any of the above, this article is for you.

Agroecology is a little-known field of science that is trying very hard to solve these problems (and more) through farming. Before we get into how it’s doing that, let me first give you a little bit of background information.

“Agro” is derived from latin, and means soil or land. “Ecology”, of course, is the scientific discipline that deals with organisms’ relationships with one another and their physical surroundings. So it involves agriculture, but rather than the emphasis on human systems — “culture” — it emphasises all living organisms that interact with the land, including but not limited to, humans. …

It’s not that we need to eat more or less of anything — we need to support an appropriate approach to farming.

The truth about what we put on our plate.

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Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash.

I’m constantly hearing people talking about how we need to stop eating meat and I’m getting sick of it.

We do not need to stop eating meat. We do not have a climate issue because of eating meat. We do not have land degradation issues because of eating meat.

We have those problems because of the way that we farm.

I’m not just talking about the distinction between grass fed and grain fed cattle. I’m talking about how we tend to extrapolate and make bold statements about… well, pretty much everything related to food and the way we produce it.

Last year, a report by the Food Climate Research Network at the University of Oxford concluded that, based on their research, grass fed beef production is a net contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Which I’m sure is true based on the study author’s dataset. …


Louisa Chalmer

Chasing a dream.

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