Science | Design & Technology | PSHE

How to live without destroying ourselves

Should we abolish farming? A new book argues that if food prices reflected the true cost of food, then modern farming and animal suffering would be revealed as indefensible. The family sits down to breakfast. It is 17th May 2032. Tara is looking forward to a bowl of Weetabix; Sam cannot wait to tuck into bacon and eggs. But none of these things are on the table. “From now on,” their mother announces, “we’re all going to live on bacteria pancakes.”  This could be a common scene if George MonbiotA columnist for The Guardian whose previous books include Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding. has his way. In his book Regenesis: Feeding the World without Devouring the Planet, he writes about a HelsinkiThe capital of Finland, situated on the south coast of the country.-based scientist in who hopes to create large amounts of protein from a type of bacteria. The protein would be as good as that produced by traditional farming – but need 1,700 times less land. Most of the world’s farms could be returned to the wild. Monbiot argues that farming is hugely inefficient and destructive. It degrades the land, causes pollution, makes animals suffer and uses vast amounts of fossil fuel. Monbiot’s solution is radical: get rid of farming altogether. Not surprisingly, farmers are opposed to this.  One of them is James RebanksFrom an old farming family, he left school at 15 with two GCSEs. He later studied for A-levels at night school and won a place at Oxford University., who has a farm in the Lake DistrictA mountainous area of northwest England. It contains the country’s largest natural lake, Windermere.. Rebanks believes in regenerativeImproving or bringing back to life. agriculture: using traditional farming methods to help biodiversity and fight climate change. His is a strong critic of industrial farming. This involves creating bigger fields, using lots of fertiliser and keeping animals in huge sheds. On his own farm, he has re-established hedges and planted thousands of trees. He leaves each field fallowUnused, so that the quality of the soil improves. for up to 150 days a year. Farmers, he says, need to show that they are the “best stewards of the land.” But farmers need support if they are to survive. Rebanks argues that we must buy more local produce, and be willing to pay more for it. Food should account for 12% of a household’s budgetFood accounts for much less of this today than it did in the past., rather than the present 7-8%. Should we abolish farming? Tractor factors Yes: It is highly inefficient and damaging to the environment, as well as cruel to animals. We should rewild as much of the world as we can so that nature can restore a proper ecological balance. 

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