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How to fix the power system with simple steps or not

Latest NewsHow to fix the power system with simple steps or not

Agriculture is responsible for a quarter of climate change. Also, as if that were not enough, the food system has shown its fragility with the war in Ukraine, which has led to unprecedented price increases and could be worse than the 2008-2012 food crisis. This is due to a combination of rising gas prices, shortages of fertilizers and lack of international access to Russian and Ukrainian grain.

Is it possible to build a food system that can withstand these two challenges – carbon footprint and sustainability – but not one of simple solutions to complex problems?

Among the ideological sectors (I’m not talking about scientists) most concerned with climate change mitigation, similar recipes are almost always offered that end up being worse than the disease due to certain frequent biases on both sides of the ideological spectrum. One is that we listen to experts who agree with our ideas and tend to ignore those who disagree. We believe them when they tell us that climate change is caused by human activity, but not when they defend us that the solutions we offer don’t work.

When we recommend agroecology to reduce our carbon footprint, we do not take into account that its yields are lower compared to conventional agriculture. A smaller crop means more land is needed to produce the same amount of food, which in turn means more deforestation.

But the agroecological world is immune to the evidence and its implications. A year ago, when the President of Sri Lanka decided to ban the import of fertilizers and pesticides, it seemed like a great idea. A year later, at least part of the mob besieging the presidential palace these days is made up of angry farmers. The country faced a sharp decline in yields, which meant a drop in tea exports that cost the country $425 million (403 million euros) and a 20% shortfall in rice production. sufficient.

When we recommend agroecology to reduce our carbon footprint, we do not take into account that its yields are lower compared to conventional agriculture.

What if, instead of a year, it took Sri Lanka ten years to reduce chemical fertilizers? It wouldn’t work either. The problem is where so much nitrogen, an essential element for plant growth, will come from, along with phosphorus and potassium.

Thus, the balance of organic matter in the soil is like a bank account: we balance income and expenses. If we have been extracting nutrients for years to replace them, we have to add them again, which is equivalent to a 75% increase in annual production of nitrogen fertilizers. Why so much nitrogen?

Another prescription tells us that we can reduce our carbon footprint by replacing our consumption of imported products with local ones. Is transportation responsible for most of the footprint? Data from Ourworldindata.org, my reference site, that I don’t look like a son-in-law when posting opinions about food, tells us I don’t. What matters is not where the food comes from, but what we eat. It is not about replacing industrial beef with organic and local beef. It’s about eating less beef and dairy products of any kind, regardless of your ideological beliefs.

Fortunately, the left is more tolerant than the right of being told the truth: to achieve climate change goals, we will have to change the way we consume. What the left doesn’t take so well is being told that in order to achieve climate change goals, we’ll also have to improve our cognitive biases. One of the fallacies we fall into most easily is the so-called naturalistic fallacy, which is that we think industrial is bad because it’s unnatural, and natural is good because… Well, because yes, that’s why it’s is a bias. Our brains have evolved to believe this, but we still don’t know why.

Let’s take fishing as an example. It is enough for us to write in the article that this is “industrial” agriculture or fishing for the brain to act and think: “bad”. Is artisanal fishing better than industrial fishing? It depends. Proximity has its environmental benefits: they create more jobs and are much more concerned about overfishing because they cannot fish elsewhere. But its carbon footprint is twice that of a deep-sea trawler, which discards far less per kilogram of fish. It also depends on the species caught: lobsters consume a lot of fuel, while sardines consume very little. The problem with industrial fisheries lies in the sustainable management of fishing grounds, not its carbon footprint.

Is aquaculture bad because it is industrial? Its carbon footprint is only slightly higher than industrial fisheries and much lower than meat (organic or not). This is an efficient way to produce protein. The important thing is that you don’t cut down mangrove forests.

Umberto Eco said that there are problems to be solved, showing that they have no solution. Agriculture is one of them. How to solve an unsolvable problem? Dealing with damage management, because we cannot aim for more by advancing in technical solutions, but also in political and personal ones.

But for that, it is crucial that we are not technophobes. Let’s not blame technology for not solving the problem without a solution. Let’s use it to improve things. And before the relevant troll comes forward and says that Monsanto is paying me, I will say that these opinions in the development cooperation world have certainly not helped me make friends. My destiny.

Gabriel Pons He is an expert in rural development and a promoter of Estatetra.org.

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Source: elpais.com

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