It seems there is only one common metric in a world of people looking for a greener future: emissions. The larger culprits tend to be conventional energy companies who supply the world with the power and products they demand, but another “emissions-heavy” sector is agriculture. While nowhere near as laden with CO2 as the energy sector, it still serves as an easy target for politicians to throw similarly useless (and often harmful) policies towards in the blind pursuit of emissions reductions. Unfortunately, toying with agriculture tends to be a risky practice, and much of the world is beginning to discover that the problems of the future are not to be prioritized over the problems of the present. Chemical fertilizers may not be as evil as initially thought, and that demonization could cost the world its grain.
The Gospel of the WEF
There are dozens of coalitions and organizations working together to guide policy making in the green-space. One such organization is the World Economic Forum (WEF). The international NGO has been very involved in the environmental space as advisors to summit groups and independent researchers. The WEF recognizes that many changes will displace people from their fields of work. They are one of many groups who develop outlines for transitioning so someone working in a coal plant can be retrained into a solar tech. The idea is to ensure that all transitions are just and equitable in order to ensure no communities are left behind.
One report from the WEF outlined outlined how exactly we can lower nitrogen oxide emissions in agriculture, therefore improving air quality. Adjunct Professor Laxmi Pant wrote an article for the WEF (though the disclaimer at the bottom of the page is quick to sever ties between org & author) and highlights some simple methods for approaching an improved agricultural sector. As Pant writes:
“Agroecology includes a mix of social, economic and environmental goals. It has implications beyond technological innovation and sustainable production, beyond its environmental impacts. Case studies confirm the optimism that the adoption of agroecological principles and practices would feed the growing population in socially, morally and environmentally responsible ways.”-Laxmi Pant, WEF
A more conscious future of Agroecology is certainly the way to proceed, though balancing the production with social impacts is proving to be incredibly difficult according to the countries that aim to follow this advice.
The Gullibility of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has been in the midst of an economic crisis since 2019, the worst since its independence in 1948. The crisis was a result of many contributing factors including inflation, depletion of foreign currency, and agriculture. Many argue that the agricultural aspect was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
It all started in April of 2021 when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa decreed that the island of Sri Lanka would be embracing organic farming. This meant the banning of inorganic fertilizers and agro-chemical based fertilizers. This goal was to drastically decrease emissions associated with fertilizer use and work towards a future of more sustainable farming. Even program advisor Vandana Shiva welcomed the idea though many farmers and scientists raised concerns over its effectiveness. Farmers reported that these new organic practices were actually more labor intensive while being less cost effective. Later that year tea production fell resulting in an economic loss of $425 million dollars as the country missed out on export revenue. Even rice production fell 20% within the first six months. In a matter of weeks a once sufficient country had transformed into one that needed to import $450 million worth of rice just to have a chance at surviving through the winter.
The resulting fallout culminated in a country wide protest against the current government. On July 9th, the Prime Minister’s house was stormed during a protest turned violent. By July 22nd the new Prime Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena, was appointed and now the country looks towards rebuilding their broken economy starting with the return to inorganic farming practices that established the base of the quickly developing island nation.
The Ignorance of Trudeau
Sri Lanka serves as an excellent case study as a country who pushed for more renewable, organic, emissions friendly farming. Unfortunately, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to think his country can do it better. At about the same time Dinesh Gunawardena was voted in as new prime minister, Trudeau and his team released an official plan to reduce nitrogen emissions from fertilizer use despite protest from several provincial agricultural ministers. This eerily similar setup has sparked much debate. Though the Canadian government plans to reduce emissions 30% from 2020 levels by 2030, experts still claim that this is not the policy to be pursing. A press release from the governmental meeting said:
“Western Canadian farmers already produce the most sustainable agri-food products in the world, and they’re continually being asked to do more with less. We cannot feed the growing world population with a reduction in fertilizer.”-Official press release from Alberta and Saskatchewan Ministers of Agriculture
The greatest fear is that crop yields would decrease, potentially damaging the massive Canadian grain export trade while simultaneously exacerbating the global grain shortage. At this point, many question why Canada would pursue such a risky goal that is opposed by agricultural ministers. Economist Pete Earle says:
“The fact that Trudeau is pushing forward with these plans mere weeks after the economic collapse of Sri Lanka proves what many of us already suspected. These Green plans and this ESG craze are … all about rigid adherence to political dogma, regardless of the consequences or tradeoffs.”-Pete Earle, Economist at the American Institute for Economic Research
While there is still time for Canada to reverse the decision to curb agricultural emissions, it becomes less and less likely with each passing day. No one can accurately predict how much grain yield will decrease, but the consensus is that it is going to decrease. Navigating the energy transition is going to be difficult, but it would be a lot safer if we did not decrease the amount of energy and food available to people globally in the process. It is also important to elect policy leaders who are capable of listening to experts when the dogma of “environmental goodness” is challenged. Otherwise we risk reversing the transition entirely.
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