GTEC Editor’s Introduction: Can you imagine changing the world one seed at a time? This is Dan Jason’s vision and his work over several decades. Fortunately, Dan has also written about seeds and organic gardening. The GTEC Reader is delighted to publish excerpts from his groundbreaking book Changing the Climate with the Seeds We Sow (available at https://www.saltspringseeds.com/collections/books-dvds ).
Changing the Climate with the Seeds We Sow
By Dan Jason
From the Intro:
In terms of carbon emissions that result from profit-at-any-cost GMO agriculture, think about the forests and jungles that are mowed down daily in order to plant genetically modified soybeans, corn and canola, And think about the military, political, economic and legal powers that benefit from such destruction. All that adds up to a lot of emissions that are not usually factored in to the contributions of agriculture to global change.
Every time we buy food products that have genetically modified ingredients, we are buying in to a system that puts power and profits above planetary health and wealth, a system that plays a large part in creating the radical climate change we are all experiencing. If you look at the labeled ingredients on supermarket jars or cans, you’ll see that practically all contain derivatives of GMO soybeans, corn or canola.
As industrial agriculture keeps increasing the level of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, so too do cancers, heart disease, diabetes and obesity keep rising dramatically. But it’s the poison companies that are subsidized, not the people who grow food without chemicals.
We could be doing things differently. We could easily be growing food organically and ecologically without resorting to chemical fertilizers and poisons. We could be growing more food ourselves and we could be supporting local agriculture to a much greater extent than we do now.
We could educate ourselves about our daily bread and everything else we put on our plates and in our bowls. This book is about some superheroes of the plant world that deserve to be better known and better grown. In North America, we are far from understanding the wealth they have to offer. If we change our attitudes and relationships to them, they can change us back to health and hope.
The beans, grains, greens, herbs and seed foods in this book have either been sadly neglected or madly disrespected by North Americans but they shine with beauty, abundance, diversity and richness. We have either been completely missing the boat with them or treating them with such heaviness as to sink the boat!
They are all easy to grow. They have very long histories of providing sustenance and health. They are all suitable for small-scale growing, using methods that have been employed for millennia. They can be grown without pesticides, herbicides and fungicides if we scale things down a bit and honour the use of human labour to cultivate, maintain and harvest them.
They have all been discovered by the organic food industry in North America and can be purchased as whole foods or as delicious products that still have most of their goodness.
We all create the state of the earth, each and every day. By making conscious food choices, we can indeed help moderate climate change.
We are the climate! As humans, we can choose to not wage war against nature. We can opt for a more benign and sustainable agriculture, similar to that which communities around the world have been practicing for countless generations.
From the end:
We have already changed the weather big time. Now we are going to have to wise up to ways of taking care of ourselves better where we live.
We’ve reached this state by going millions of miles past that basic first principle of self-reliance. We are close to catastrophe by somehow agreeing to a system that is so centralized and subsidized, one that relies on so much energy expenditure and poisons to get food to our mouths.
We can begin to reverse our impending demise if we get back to food as the basic starting point of everything. Every time we eat a local apple instead of one that has been shipped thousands of miles, we are moving back towards sanity. Every time we plant a normal seed, buy seasonally, cook a meal, support local farmers, choose food that is not poisoned, we are supporting a return to health and harmony.
If the beginning point is taking care of ourselves where we live, (and we have to now absolutely, because we didn’t), then what are our best food choices?
I’d say it’s the crops described in this book, along with the fruit, berries, nuts, greens, herbs, mushrooms and weeds that we can find and nurture in our own neighbourhoods and with our own communities.
The sad truth is that conventional agriculture, with its intensive tillage, monoculture and heavy use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides is not only eradicating insect species but is also ruining our soils at breakneck speed, killing the organic materials they contain. As our soils degrade, they are losing their ability to hold carbon, releasing enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As well, it takes huge amounts of energy to produce the fertilizers and biocides required by industrial farming.
Using the practices of organic regenerative agriculture, such as crop rotation, composting and mulching, enables soils to not only regain their capacity to sequester carbon dioxide but also to actively pull additional carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. So, our best shot at moderating the weather might be to turn our backs on a way of growing food that is so hostile to the livingness of the earth. The choice is between two different ways of relating to the land: one that sees the soil as an object from which profit must be extracted at all costs, and one that recognizes the interdependence of living systems and honours the principles of diversity, balance and harmony.
Dan Jason’s Bio
Dan Jason is a Canadian active in food politics, as an opponent of genetically modified foods and proponent of heirloom plants and seedbanks. He is a writer, lecturer, and runs a business providing heirloom seeds called Saltspring Seeds.