News from the beginning of this leap year is discouraging for those who care about life on the planet. Water bodies around the world (Ref 1: Lake Popoo, Lake Urmia, Aral Sea) are drying out or are being seriously polluted (Ref 2) and people worldwide are suffering the effects of the droughts (Ref 3) , soil erosion and unprecedented scales of air and water pollution. Don’t blame it on “climate change”. This destruction of our habitats are the effect of human decisions and actions, such as dams built for the economic profit of energetic and large food corporations, the negligence of almighty oil companies and governments irrespectful of the rights of the people and the environment.
Despite of these facts, we are not seeing the substantial and necessary changes to our policies and adaptation strategies in the warmest year registered in history. Our global political system continues to depend on economic mechanisms that disregard the social and environmental externalities of corporate transactions that risk of crashing the entire system. Is there an exit to this labyrinth? What is being done to tackle these problems? Who is taking on the responsibility to reverse this mismanagement of our habitat that hinders human development and wellbeing?
Agroecology is the answer
With these questions in my head, I participated for 3 days in a series of conferences that took place in the ETSI Agrónomos of Madrid about agroecology, organized by a diverse group of associations (See Ref 4) starting on the leap day. Prominent researchers such as Clara Nicholls, Miguel Altieri and María del Carmen Jaizme Vega presented their ideas to dozens of mostly young professionals in these conferences that were a revindication of the role of the soil and a reflection about the sustainability and resilience of agrarian systems today.
As Dr. Jaizme Vega put it: “air and water are renewable, but the soil is not. It is an alive organism that hosts 80% of the life of the planet, but nobody talks about the soil”. Our livelihoods are seriously threatened by climate change’s droughts and floods because we are depleting life out of our soils. Industrial agriculture and big food corporations have contributed not only to climate change through its polluting emissions. It has led to decrease the biodiversity of our soils and to the migration of millions of farmers to urban areas, aggravating inequity between rich and poor (Ref 5). Hence, the goal of agroecology professionals and researchers should be to strongly advocate for land redistribution and family farming rather than discussing about certification systems that perpetuate corporations’ power and control over food systems.
In other words: agroecology is not a set of agronomic/biological principles which can be assumed by large corporations that aim to adapt their management without risking their power. Truth is that climate change won’t be tackled until we truly question and transform power systems. We won’t be able to adapt to the effects of this climate change that will affect our health and future of humanity under the current system. The answer is in the soil: we have to reconnect ourselves with nature and strengthen our link with the soil and its life to avoid this painful inequity in which humanity is entangled now. We need to reintegrate to life. That is what agroecology is all about.
Youth or nothing
Youth, as one of the most vulnerable groups (Ref 6) facing major threats from climate change, has to lead this agroecological revindication. We, the first generation fully aware of climate change and the last able to realistically have an impact on it, have the moral imperative to be the leaders of the defense of life and equity. Leaders of this moral challenge that humanity faces nowadays and review old development models that put imaginary borders to the soil and deplete them from life.
It is two sides of the same coin. We need to increase investments in agroecology and in the participation and awareness of consumers to make the act of buying food a political act. We need to invest in adaptation through the empowerment of youth: their access to land and family farming are investments in safety, equity, employment, productivity and in better soils, air and water.
And we need to stop looking at soil, air, water, etc. as natural resources and shift to an approach in which we consider them a reserve of life. The stronger the conservation of these elements, the better its value will be for our communities as well as their increase or decrease. Although excluded from political debates, youth is already leading this cultural shift that brings on a sense of sisterhood and brotherhood among humans and between humans and the soil.
Youth still have to be permanently involved in agenda setting, policy making, implementation in decision-making processes about the management of reserves of life. Youth are the key to boost a change of our planning strategy and install a long-term vision that analyses seriously intergenerational issues. We, as a global society, are desperately lacking this right now.
It is crucial to involve youth in the transformation of governance and financing systems and to incorporate the firm regulations which are necessary to stop the current power system that is based solely in economic interests and also in order to stop further climate change.
It is time to look at our soils as a loan from our sons rather than a heritage from our ancestors.
1.Examples of dying water bodies worldwide: Lake Popoo: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/160121-lake-poopo-bolivia-dried-out-el-nino-climate-change-water/
Lake Urmia: http://www.theguardian.com/world/iran-blog/2015/jan/23/iran-lake-urmia-drying-up-new-research-scientists-urge-action
Aral Sea: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-a0c4856e-1019-4937-96fd-8714d70a48f7
2. Oil spill in the Peruvian Amazon: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/03/year-major-oil-spill-peru-160305151737783.html
3. Drought in SubSaharan Africa: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-africa-drought-idUSKCN0VO1DG
Drought in La Guajira: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-34051253
4. Youth groups present: CERAI, FIAES, Multiversidad Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, PRONATUR, Kibele and Materia Activa.
5. Global inequality and Climate change: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/12/07/climate-change-is-going-to-make-inequality-even-worse-than-it-already-is/
6. Vulnerable groups: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/People_at_risk_of_poverty_or_social_exclusion#Children_and_active-age_people_more_at_risk_of_poverty_or_social_exclusion_than_elderly_people_in_several_countries