ireland-fields.jpgWhen I was a kid in the 70s, mom collected our newspapers and tin cans for recycling, and she and I would pick up trash by the side of the road. In school I saw a completely traumatizing film about a world constantly awash in grey polluted rain, in which a woman maintains a little green house. A green house that ultimately gets destroyed by a mob, desperate for a touch of beauty. I named myself an environmentalist with pride and did so up until I started studying sustainable food production methods.

That food production in this country spews vast amounts of poison onto the earth and water is not news. The fact that the larger environmental movement had more passion for spotted owls than acres of toxins was somewhat understandable. Food production was – and is – a political hot potato. The idea that modern farming methods saved millions from starvation was probably true enough for a short period of time - immediately after artificial fertilizers and DDT were introduced - but now that is the story that corporations like Cargill and Monsanto use to keep us convinced that they should be allowed to sell GMO seeds and pesticides. And the silence from the environmental movement is deafening. The focus on mega fauna and fortress conservation has separated the average American from nature. Nature is something we go to parks, or zoos, or media to see. School children are shocked and grossed out by the fact that vegetables grow from dirt. The same attitude that places Nature on a pedestal separates us from the source of what nourishes body and soul.

 But it is not just silence that has turned me from defining myself as an Environmentalist. It is their rejection of methods that can heal and restore badly damaged lands. In his book The Gardeners of Eden, Dan Daggett, founding member of Earth First, describes using pulsed grazing to turn piles of mine trailings into green hills. He interviews ranchers who use this same method to build top soil – which sequesters carbon and substantially reduces flooding and erosion – while simultaneously creating habitat for endangered species on their property. And why would Environmentalists not embrace this?

Sadly, the answer to this question is not about effectiveness, but ideology and money. And when ideology is more important that the original mission, then the movement is no longer viable. I love this planet and I want it to be a good place to live until our sun goes nova. Following the tenants of modern environmentalism isn’t going to do that.