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High Country News

On this Earth Day, let’s think about agriculture

Farmers and ranchers hold the key to carbon storage.

As we celebrate Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, the environmental movement finds itself at a critical point in time to reflect upon its record. When have we, as environmentalists, fostered collaboration with the food and farming sectors, and when have we pushed those potential partners away and generated conflict in our rural communities?

When I worked at the headquarters of the very first Earth Day in 1970, it operated as a network of grassroots environmental organizers, and there was little focus on the overall environmental benefits or consequences of farming and ranching.

Micha Ide of Bright Ide Acres farm, Washington, practices rotational grazing on her farm. Animals are moved frequently around the pasture to increase soil fertility and enhance the sustainability of the farm. | Audra Mulkern

Our little newsletter, Environmental Action, covered how toxins were appearing on the lands and in our food, even though terms like “environmental justice” and “food justice” had yet to be coined. Nevertheless, very little of our “environmental action” was directed to ensuring the health of the soil, the diversity of the crops planted on it, the preservation of food-producing or the viability of livelihoods for farmers and ranchers.

Francis Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet had recently hit the stands, and all the talk was about abandoning meat to eat low on the food chain. For a while, many of us tried to boil up soybeans or pintos to plop down on a heap of brown rice or corn mush. To my amusement, the results did not always sit well with our GI tracts or our taste buds.

Read more of this perspective here: https://www.hcn.org/articles/south-opinion-on-this-earth-day-lets-think-about-agriculture




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High Country News

High Country News

Working to inform and inspire people — through in-depth journalism — to act on behalf of the West’s diverse natural and human communities.

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