The “misunderstanding” of energy use – modern high-energy agriculture

The misunderstanding of energy use - modern high-energy agriculture

Every inch of fertile soil is a complex organic system. In this system, the substances necessary for life rely on solar energy to cycle over and over again, from plants to animals, to bacteria in the soil, and back to plants. In addition to many other nutrient chemicals, carbon and nitrogen are the two basic chemical components throughout the ecological cycle. In traditional farming, farmers apply animal fertilizers to the soil, not chemical fertilizers. In this way, the organic matter is returned to the soil, making it re-enter the ecological cycle process.

This long-established ecological agriculture has undergone qualitative changes about 45 years ago. Farmers are switching from using organic fertilizers to using synthetic products. This is simply “adding fuel to the fire” for the increasing shortage of fossil energy resources.

The main features of energy-intensive agriculture are mechanization and energy intensity, with automatic harvesters, seeders, irrigation machinery, and many other agricultural machines, saving hundreds of millions of people in manual labor. In the United States, corn yields have tripled while labor has been reduced by two-thirds. But at the same time, the energy used to produce 1 acre of corn increased fourfold.

Excessive “chemotherapy” has severely damaged soil and human health, and is extremely detrimental to social relationships and the entire Earth’s ecosystem.

Year after year, the planting of a single variety of crops and the use of chemical fertilizers disturb the natural ecological balance of the soil. The amount of organic matter that the soil depends on to maintain moisture is decreasing. Compacted soil forces farmers to use more powerful machines.

Since 1945, fertilizer use in the U.S. has increased 6-fold and pesticide use has increased 12-fold, resulting in energy costs that currently account for 60% of food costs. As a result, the foundation of modern agriculture has shifted from land to oil.

In western developed countries, the entire agricultural economic system, including tax system, credit system and real estate system, is built on the basis of high-energy agriculture.

High-energy agriculture also seriously threatens human health. Excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides has allowed large amounts of toxic chemicals to seep into the soil, contaminate groundwater and show up in food. Half of the pesticides on the market may be mixed with petroleum distillates that damage the body’s natural immune system, and the other half may contain carcinogens.

The main reason for vigorously promoting the green revolution is to solve the problem of world food shortage. However, in-depth research has shown that the solution to the world’s food scarcity cannot rely solely on technological solutions, but also requires comprehensive political and social reforms. Lack of agricultural land is not the only cause of hunger.