Earth is presently experiencing its sixth “mass extinction,” and humans are largely to blame, says a leading academic. In his new book The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy, Professor Patel of the University of Texas explains how mass deforestation to clear grounds to grow mono-crops, the creation of large dead zones in the sea caused by run-off of fertilizers, and the trend of over-fishing are a detriment to the world and are driving the destruction of our planet.
“The footprint of global agriculture is vast. Industrial agriculture is absolutely responsible for driving deforestation, absolutely responsible for pushing industrial monoculture, and that means it is responsible for species loss,” said Patel. “We’re losing species we have never heard of, those we’ve yet to put a name to and industrial agriculture is very much at the spear-tip of that.”
In an interview with The Independent, Patel pointed to the largest-ever “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. The region has too little oxygen for marine life as a result of vast amounts of fertilizers washing from farms in mainland US into the ocean. “That dead zone isn’t an accident. It’s a requirement of industrial agriculture to get rid of the sh*t and the run-off elsewhere because you cannot make industrial agriculture workable unless you kick the costs somewhere else,” he said. “The story of industrial agriculture is all about externalising costs and exploiting nature.”
Mono-crops, such as soy and corn, are big offenders in Patel’s book. Not only does the farming practice result in a loss of diversity, it eliminates habitats of potentially endangered species, including elephants, jaguars, and penguins.“Extinction is about the elimination of diversity. What happens in Brazil and other places is you get green deserts — monocultures of soy and nothing else,” he said. Evidence of this can be found in Sumatra, where forests are being decimated to make way for palm plantations and industrial meat factories.
In the oceans, anchovies and sardines and being overfished. Rather than being consumed by humans, however, they are ground up and added to feed for salmon, pigs, and chickens. For animals that feed on them, such as penguins, this spells trouble as their food source is declining.
The Professor is urging consumers to “think on a bigger scale.” Said Patel, “‘As a consumer’ you are only allowing yourself a range of action. ‘As a consumer’ you can buy something that’s local and sustainable, that’s labelled as organic or fair trade.” He added, “But ‘as a consumer’, you don’t get to do a whole lot of good. As a citizen, as a decent person, you can demand more from your government, from one’s employer, from yourself.
The activist urges people to be aware of their power “as part of a society where we can change things.” He said, “We have this power to change things in the future. What we have to do is make that change.” The answer is not vegetarianism, he said (though it will surely help). Rather, it’s time humanity switch to a world in which resources were shared and looked after. Patel urges a shift in mentality, as well, as people’s “images of consumption that are entirely unsustainable.”
Professor Patel will be a keynote speaker at the Extinction and Livestock Conference in London in October. The event is organized by groups such as Compassion in World Farming and WWF and is being held to raise awareness about the rapid rate of species loss which could ultimately lead to the sixth mass extinction of life.
Via The Independent
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