Permaculturing in Portugal

One family's attempts to live in a more planet-friendly way

Modern farming methods and human health

Amidst all the furore over CO2 emissions and global warming, an equally serious and every bit as deadly a consequence of our modern lifestyle is escaping almost unnoticed.

As the 1999 publication from the World Resources Institute Critical Consumption Trends and Implications: Degrading Earth’s Ecosystems by Emily Matthews and Allen Hammond states, “What emerges from this analysis is that fundamental changes are taking place in global biological processes. Our attention has perhaps been focused too much at the local and regional level – on specific polluting emissions, or loss of specific habitats and species – and too little on whole ecosystems. Our understanding of how complex ecosystems function remains relatively limited, but the evidence of serious disruption is now widespread. Chronic, human-induced imbalances in major biological systems – for example, nutrient cycling, inter-species relationships and food chains – are more insidious than acute incidents of pollution or other damage. Their consequences, however, may be much harder to reverse, and more serious for the developmental and security prospects of every country.”

Matthews and Hammond go on to say “World cereal consumption has more than doubled in the last 30 years, while meat consumption has tripled since 1961 and is increasing at a linear rate. The agricultural success story is that rising demand has been met; more people are now better fed than they were a generation ago. One of the many environmental consequences, only now becoming clear, is significant disruption of the global nitrogen cycle. In the past half century, the application of inorganic nitrogen fertilizers world-wide has increased more than ninefold, and the number of livestock has more than doubled since 1960. Fertilizers and animal manures have increased and concentrated, respectively, the amount of nitrogen entering soils, freshwater and marine ecosystems. Human activity has actually doubled the natural annual rate of nitrogen fixation, and by far the largest single cause is agriculture.

Cardiovascular disease

The World Health Organisation estimates that 17 million people every year die of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the collective term for all diseases of the circulatory system including heart attacks and strokes. This total is more than 30% of all deaths worldwide. In developed countries the proportion is even higher. Globally, coronary heart disease accounts for over 7 million and strokes approaching another 6 million. It’s the world’s number one killer. Since 1990, more people have died from coronary heart disease alone than from any other cause, and the WHO estimate that 60% of the global burden of coronary heart disease is now borne by developing countries, comparative newcomers to this global epidemic.

Could there be a close and causative connection between the two? Between modern farming methods and cardiovascular disease incidence? Here’s the summary of my research. A word of warning. It’s long …

I’ve spent a fair bit of time over the last 4 years trying to find organisations and/or individuals interested in helping me take this to the next stage, since further investigation requires access to detailed data that appears possible only through research institutions. I’ve found several ecologists who believe as I do there’s a strong possibility this hypothesis is correct and that it needs immediate and thorough investigation. The reaction from the medical research establishment, on the other hand, has been resounding silence.

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2 Comments

  1. mike August 4, 2009

    fasting and purges: have to clean all this crap out of the body.

  2. Quinta do Vale August 29, 2009

    Unfortunately I don’t think that would work. When we inhabit an environment that’s oversaturated with organic nitrogen, then you can’t really avoid it. We’re like fish swimming in polluted waters.

    And organic forms of nitrogen aren’t “crap” per se. You need them. They’re essential to various metabolic pathways and processes. It’s just that the entire global ecosystem (and consequently all its component sub-systems and parts) is in a state of overload. It needs to come back to balance.

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