Climate Change, Ethics and the Role of Ecological Agriculture

Position paper for the Board Meeting of EAAA, 8 September, 2015.

Dr. Johannes Bauer,
Pillar Board Member Ecology of the Ecological Agriculture Australia Association (EAAA)

Over the past 30 years+, there has been growing discussion, momentum, and eventually political will to address the rapidly growing threat of changing rainfall patterns, rising temperatures, growing storm intensities, degrading freshwater and soil resources, biodiversity-NR  depletion and rising sea levels. While our scientific understanding has grown rapidly, our actions and successes are lagging behind. We also know now that these trends are exacerbated by a global trend in agriculture, forestry and fisheries to simplify, modify (chemicals, monocultures, GMOs) and corporatize production systems. Mazoyer and Roudart, two leading figures in world agronomy have described that process in their book ‘The Pillage of Agriculture’ as it leaves two billion farmers around the world behind as it speculates with a production base, our (agricultural) ecology  we can ill afford to lose.

Human food and fibre security through agriculture, forestry, fisheries and environmental management are at the forefront in our responses to  global changes. I have just returned from a mission as FAO advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Bhutan. Our team has visited agricultural communities which are currently changing their rice varieties from wet to dryland rice because the rains have become too unreliable. Others are getting rid of orange  crops because citrus fruit have, over years now, stopped setting fruit in spring because of too much rain (and associated fungal diseases) while Mango, Papaya, Cardamom and Bananas are thriving. Adaptation for these farmers will not be too difficult I am sure. They have developed such a diverse and sustainable system of ecological agriculture – no chemicals- in an environment of mostly steep hills, that they will find the diversity and suitability of crops with which to adapt. My role, as advisor in participatory forest management was helping them to set up projects, with the out-phasing of less efficient cooking stoves and heaters, with biogas development through dung and improved forest management. Two good reasons for that: not only improve their lives but also make them a part of a global community which has realised that it needs to support (and fund)  every activity which reduces our  carbon and fossil fuel print. I am learning during these visits in Bhutan how important the guiding and supporting role of the state is. In giving advice, in training,  in the development of capacity, generally in getting things started  In a place like Bhutan this is all there and an international community stands by to go even further.

We are not so lucky in Australia where government has, instead of guiding and supporting landowners in that change, confused them and made them even more cynical as to that role. Perhaps worst of all, isolated us from the truly amazing and momentous action now developing around the world.

All the more we need independent organisations, which are not motivated by political or financial gain but make it their role and responsibility to inform, to discuss, to educate,  to advise and to connect  where change is needed and where opportunities beckon: Organisations like EAAA and whatever that may grow into are more important than ever before.

*Just how much the world has changed (for the better) is perhaps best evident in a speech, a few days ago (31. 8.2015) in Alaska by President Obama, discussed by D. Brown, a Professor of Climate Change Ethics. If one considers that this speech is from the leader of the US, which over more than 20 years has played a tragic role in preventing change and adopting measures by the world community, we realise that for Australians, more than ever before perhaps, it has become essential to look for information on what is going on and inspiration also from abroad. Here in Australia we have moved into a deadlock of ‘splendid isolation’  generated by fossil fuel interest –and influence, and politicians who are unable and unwilling to lead.

Download: Supporting Document, EAAA Posit Paper Climate Change by J. Bauer. | D. Brown. Ethics and Climate The Obama speech 31.8.2015

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