Thursday, October 23, 2008

Save the Amazon: Grow a backyard garden

There are myriad data and stats thrown around all the time about the rate at which the Amazon rain forest is shrinking, due to land being consumed for crops and animals. So many feet per second, acres per year, football fields per day, and such. It's all very disheartening to hear about a large wonderful ecosystem like the Amazon being desecrated for the sake of soy and beef. I'm not much of a numbers guy so I won't add a digit to the orgy. But what I will do is offer a solution. And in this solution can also be found answers to many of our other societal shortcomings that become more apparent daily.

You will often hear proponents of organic foods say, "eat local." This means to consume food that has been grown within a predetermined range of let's say 5 to 10 to 100 miles. Some will argue the exact distance from farm to table, but the point is the closer the food was grown to where it is eaten, the better. Reasons for this are aplenty: it supports local economy/farmers; it's fresher; due to freshness, it tastes better; the foods ripen on the plant/vine; less chemicals are needed to produce nutritious foods; it has traveled less and therefore spent less fuel; it promotes healthy land development; ad infinitum. Another major reason is that is puts less strain on ecosystems/economies in far away lands, like the Amazon. You can trust that a tomato grown 7 miles from your doorstep has done less damage than one that has traveled hundreds or even thousands of miles.

But what about the beauty of a vine-ripened tomato that was grown 7 feet from your door? A sprig of rosemary clipped minutes before being added to a dish? An onion so fresh, clods of dirt still stick to its roots? Apart from the philosophical aspect of growing your own food, the practical benefits are endless.

No need to run to the store to pick up a bottle of thyme that was dried months (or years) ago in a farm where pesticides and fungicides and chemical bathes called fertilizer were used to "make" it grow. Forget tasteless lettuce, grown hydroponically in a hothouse thousands of miles away in the winter, apples that have sat "ripening" in a warehouse for months, or oranges with waxes and chemicals to make the fruit orange and plump.

You can have the best of all these plants right in your back yard. Unbeatable freshness, minus the enigma of where it actually came from. As a matter of fact, do you know where your food comes from? Honestly, I must admit that I too am not aware, which further proves the point that I don't know what has been done to it, and how it has affected its place of origin. For all I know the soy beans I pop in my mouth could have sprouted in the same place where mammoth trees once stood.

Another reason to grow your own food, is that it will lessen our dependence on fuels like oil. If you organically grow your own potato, for instance, there is little if any oil consumed in the process. On the other hand, if you purchased a potato that was mass produced in Idaho, petroleum based chemicals used as fertilizers and pesticides, gas used to plant and harvest, energy used to transport, separate, and ship, you have run up quite a high energy bill for a single potato. Growing your own foodstuff will greatly reduce our need for resources.

All it takes is a seed, in your mind or in the ground. It starts somewhere. And where you end up may be miles or steps from where you expected.

P.S I "borrowed" the above picture from, if you couldn't tell. I hope this frees me from liability.

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