Sustainability - what could be more timely? But for many of us the word sustainability is confusing and has many interpretations. A loose definition of sustainable agriculture might be - farming in sustainable ways which meet societies present food requirements without damaging the environment or compromising the ability for current or future generations to meet their needs.
The past few weeks have amongst many other things, given us a badly needed opportunity to press the Pause Button in our busy lives. I suppose it must be my imagination that Spring and early Summer 2020 was the most beautiful ever. The birds are singing their little hearts out to cheer us up…everything on the farm and in the gardens is green, vibrant and blossoming. Mother Nature seems to be compensating for our misery and despair and reminding us that, given half a chance, she will provide abundance for us. Even in this short time, changes in human behaviour have benefited the planet - quieter skies, clearer water, cleaner air, healthier nature, bird and insect populations increasing…
We can’t stay in ‘lockdown’ forever but we now know that we can make massive, rapid changes when we adapt the ways we work and live. When this terrible pandemic is over, we have a chance to change our behaviour to offer a secure future, and survivable temperatures to our children and grandchildren, and we MUST. For years now we have heard and largely ignored the scientists and climatologists predictions. We could scarcely comprehend the scale of the threat to the planet and future generations….even if we could absorb the seriousness of the situation, many felt helpless - It was virtually impossible to believe that Governments and vested interests would ‘step up to the plate’ to implement the changes that needed to be made. Nothing but the Covid 19 enforced change could have achieved so much in such a short time. The pandemic should not have come as such a surprise, something of this magnitude was predicted over and over again, not least by Nostradamus, in Aboriginal Lore and by scientists, yet many Governments failed to listen and prepare.
As the planet became more and more polluted, causing almost irreversible climate change, extreme weather conditions - floods, tornados, cyclones, hurricanes… We were too distracted and growth obsessed at any price to notice. Food became increasingly less nourishing, compromising our health and immune systems so we are less and less able to survive the increasing number of viruses that are challenging our systems.
I know I’m like a broken record but surely it must now be beyond obvious that there is an urgent need to re-embed practical cooking and other life skills, including growing food into the national and secondary school curriculum. No Irish child, boy or girl, must ever again be awarded a Leaving Certificate without being able to prove they can cook for themselves. Otherwise, we are undeniably, failing in our duty of care to our young people, as many helpless 20, 30 and 40 year olds have realised to their cost in the past couple of months.
So how do we practice sustainability in our everyday lives? Once we start to think that way there are a myriad of opportunities. We can make a huge contribution in the way we choose to spend our food euro. Think about each and every item we put into our shopping baskets – really focus on supporting local producers and small businesses as much as possible. Let’s ask ourselves a few basic questions - Is it in season, does it’s production damage the environment, is it properly nourishing, are the producers being paid a fair price, how about animal welfare, packaging….After all that am I buying more than I need? Let’s work towards zero waste in every aspect of our lives?
Start to grow some of our own food, even if it’s just a few salad leaves on a windowsill – you can’t imagine the joy and satisfaction…Realize that it’s worth paying a little more for chemical free food – after all it’s surely better to be proactive and invest in our food as medicine rather than paying for meds and food supplements - let’s be proactive.