UPDATES
- Future posts include Start with basics, No quick fix, Charging for plastic bags, Water shortages
- Related blogs added in sidebar to allow further reading (12th August)
- Feedback form added at bottom of sidebar (16th August)

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Agriculture that makes sense

I recently learnt some interesting facts about the agricultural situation in Cuba and the massive improvements they have seen over recent years. The article I first read about it is here. There is further reading provide at the bottom of this post. To set the scene imagine the scenario of dwindling oil supplies and the effects that will have on an oil reliant agriculture system that we have here in the UK (and many other places). This is a situation we will be facing in the future if our systems and attitudes don't change. What could be done about this?

Now back to Cuba. About 20 years ago they were using a very oil reliant system to produce crops on large scales. They had access to cheap oil to fuel their system. So what went wrong for them? The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 lead to there cheap oil supply running low. Also the US trade embargo would further lead to a lack of resources to keep the whole system running. Recognise the situation? Understandably their agriculture suffered a steep downturn. Their tractors couldn't be fueled. The oil based fertilisers couldn't be produced. The current system wasn't designed to take such a loss. We see again people focusing on short term goals rather than long term sustainable approaches.

When Cuba was faced with this crisis they had to find some alternatives to food production and become much more self sufficient. Now this is the interesting part that we all can learn from. These days in the capital of Havana there are many urban allotments scattered amongst the buildings. A variety of crops were being grown such as potatoes, beans, maize and many more. But along side these were plants such as marigolds and basil which were there to reduce the amounts of pests that can reach the crops. Sunflowers and corn are grown as well to encourage the helpful insects such as lady birds. There are a chain of 220 bio-pesticide centres promoting and providing safe alternatives to pest control. Fresh fruit and veg is produced for the local communities. No transporting required. You are feed from your local allotment and it is the local people who work on them.

Their system was producing enough for everyone. By 2000, the average daily consumption was 2600 calories and 68 grams of protein which is perfectly reasonable. In 2003 approximately 200,000 people throughout Cuba work to maintain the urban allotments. Also the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture was using 50% less diesel than in 1989 as well as less than 10% of chemical fertilisers and less than 7% of synthetic insecticides. Cuba is now approximately 90% self sufficient. These numbers clearly show that the Cuban agriculture system is far less reliant on oil based products and as a result more sustainable for the future. They will be much more resilient to a future food crisis than many other countries.

Other benefits include a much healthier diet that the west could really do with. Also the systems are better for the environment as less resources are used and there is a huge focus on natural methods of pest control to produce the yields required. Overall the system seems to benefit all. History tells us of a country that suffered a food crisis and recovered using the above system and methods. Around the world this should be adopted so we can all have these benefits and also help reduce the severity of any future food crisis. Cuba has demonstrated to the world an agricultural system that makes sense.

Related links
Cuba Agriculture
The Vegetable Gardens of Havana
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Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Green Marketing??

Did I say green marketing? Sorry...typo, I meant marketing talking rubbish. You may already know what I'm talking about. Think about that last advert you saw saying a product is "green". For example a car advert bringing these amazing "green" solutions. Well ask yourself; what is solid truth and what is marketing rubbish? Whoever writes this stuff knows that more and more people are becoming concerned for the environment and that this is influencing consumer decisions. Sales people are going to want to use these words if it will help persuade consumers to buy their products.

Now lets not fall into these traps. Think carefully when you buy. Take a look at some tips below that should help you remain open minded in your purchasing decisions.

  • First and foremost think back to why you wanted the product. Maybe you can make do without it. Clearly this won't work everytime but its definately worth considering as its the greenest solution.

  • If someone says this product is environmentally friendly then think why are they being so vague. This should rouse suspicion. Maybe only part of the whole process behind this product has been made better for the environment. Try and get specific details about these claims and make your own judgement.

  • Does a company allow you to find out more about their environmental claim. If they had solid evidence then surely they would provide it. Adverts are meant to be short and sweet so such evidence is unlikely to be provided on the actual advert but take a look on the company website to see if there is further explanation. If there is little or none then be wary about what they say.

The good news is there are regulations in place to prevent green marketing from misleading too much. But I feel it is valauble for people to remain smart and informed about such decisions and not always take their word for it.

I welcome more tips and further discussion to be provided in the comments section below. If comments are not displayed below then click on the post title to view them at the bottom of the page.

The links below are provided to allow you to view other opinions on this matter and hopefully gain more knowledge to help you in the future.

Related links

False Green
In Norway, No Car Is "Green"
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Friday, 7 August 2009

Take Action...What's it all about?

Hello, I thought I'd start by explaining what I want to achieve with this blog. The title, "Take Action for Future", simply means acting now as reasonably intelligent humans to make our society sustainable for the future. I feel many people don't seem to want to take responsibility for protecting the environment. Maybe they don't feel its in their interest or maybe they think what effect could I have on it. Well if saving the planet isn't your thing then rephrase it to saving ourselves. The problems we cause now are only going to create worse situations for us in the future. Unfortunately there are limits on resources and space so we need to become sustainable and we need to do it now.

To give it to you straight it is in everyones interest as we all are part of the environment and we can have an effect if we all work together. In this blog I wish to encourage discussion about such issues that effect the environment (sorry I mean effect us all) and come up with plans of action.

I'll leave it there for today but will write again soon. I'm looking forward to some smart discussions and I'm sure we will all gain some decent knowledge along the way. Lets take action!
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