Monday, April 8, 2013

Fertilizer fun, part 1

For the longest time I wondered what the big deal was about fertilizers. Sure, pesticides are harmful chemicals that can do untold damage to our bodies, but honesty, nitrogen is nitrogen no matter whether it comes from organic compost or MiracleGro. What's the big deal with fertilizers?

I wondered, that is, until I started seeing something over and over. Fertilizer run-off from farms is killing life in our waterways and lakes. I heard on CBC news last month that Lake Eerie is, for the second time since the 60s, being pronounced dead. All the fertilizers from nearby farms were leaching into runoff and accumulating in the lake, which caused massive algal blooms. This algae takes all the oxygen out of the lake in order to grow so much, which causes all the original plants and animals in the lake to die of asphyxiation. That leaves us with a lake of slime. Sounds delicious doesn't it?

I'm not the only one to notice this trend. The UN recently had a forum based on exactly this topic - how mass inputs of fertilizers have "caused a web of water and air pollution that is damaging human health, causing toxic algal blooms, killing fish, threatening sensitive ecosystems and contributing to climate change." The UN itself is suggesting that whole world improve their "nutrient use efficiency" by 20%. That's pretty big.

But why should I care if fish are dying in a lake on the other side of the country?

Why should I care if the produce I buy causes irreversible pollution to a waterway far away in Chile?

Why care? Because this affects PEOPLE. My fellow human beings are unable to catch fish to supplement their incomes and diet, which means they are less able to feed themselves. It causes them to become dependent on food programmes and other subsidized food sources, which not only takes resources from other parts of the world, but it degrades them and takes away their self-worth because they are no longer capable of feeding their families.

That, my friends, is POVERTY.

So what can YOU do about this web of destruction that causes others to live in poverty?

You can encourage the growth of organic farms by buying organic whenever possible. Organic farms don't use chemical inputs, and their whole way of looking at farming is (generally) quite different from a "normal", monoculture farm. You can vote for change with your dollars.

Because sometimes the food that is cheapest is not the best - for you, for your children, for the planet, or for our fellow human beings.

I realize not everyone can spend a couple hundred bucks extra a month on groceries. But you might find that there are other things you can do without, leaving you a few extra dollars for things like grass-fed beef, organic produce, and other food choices that have a positive impact on the world, rather than a negative one.

I plead with you to give it try.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't use any fertilizer with the exception of a watering additive with BRAND new transplants to get roots going (even though I use bone meal AND kelp...and now ALSO micchorhizal [don't know how to spell that one] bacteria).
It's not that hard to be fertilizer free but watering enough is important.