In the past decade or so, the term “sustainability” has become the rage and is used at every turn, and in every realm of study and project-analysis. It’s important, then to understand the meaning of the word, for our modern use of it is broad and difficult to define precisely. Originally, sustainability meant making only such use of natural, renewable resources that people can continue to rely on their yields in the long term, but it wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that the concept became more mainstream (as “sustainable development”) in international and institutional parlance.
Here are some numbers: Animal agriculture generates between a shocking 51% of GHG emissions (findings by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, in the report Livestock and Climate Change, published by the Worldwatch Institute in 2009) and a whopping 87% of GHG emissions (findings by Sailesh Rao, Ph.D. from Climate Healers, in Animal Agriculture Is The Leading Cause of Climate Change – A White Paper, 2019). It is no surprise that these estimates are much higher than the 14.5% stubbornly advanced by the FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), but even if we were to go by their underreported estimate, animal agriculture emits more GHGs than the combined exhaust from all transportation at 13%.
Organic farming has thus been heralded as the healthy and sustainable alternative to conventional agriculture, for instead of relying on chemical intervention, it relies on natural principles like composting and biodiversity, for example, to produce healthy, abundant food. Organic farming has a smaller carbon footprint, conserves and builds soil health, replenishes natural ecosystems resulting in cleaner water and air, all without toxic synthetic pesticide residues. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, but there is a major pitfall: to avoid using chemical fertilizing agents, organic farmers depend on fertilizers consisting of large quantities of animal products such as manure, blood, ground fish and bone meal.
Permaculture, (a word first coined by assembling the words ‘permanent agriculture’) is a system of ecological and environmental design that was developed by two Australian researchers, educators and writers, Bill Mollison and David Holmgreen. Permaculture is “the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.” (Bill Mollison) It is an agricultural philosophy that allows us to use the resources that we have around us to their fullest potential. A totally integrated design system that’s modeled on nature, permaculture integrates land, resources, people and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies – imitating the no waste, closed loop systems seen in diverse natural systems. By careful observation, we can learn how nature has adapted to the specific climate of our area; how nature replenishes its soil; how nature protects and conserves its water resources; how in nature, there is no such thing as waste; and lastly how perfectly sustainable and generous nature is when we work with it instead of against it.
Food is responsible for nourishing every single part of our body and mind, and is thus one of the most vital elements of our life. Yet for most of us, our lifestyle is such that we rarely ponder the actual source of our food – in other words, where our food originates: in nature. With most foods readily available in a processed, manicured and packaged form, the word ‘food’ has been misconstrued to mean just an item to be picked up from shelves in stores and supermarkets. Food has become to be perceived merely as a factor of sensual pleasure and entertainment, rather than as the foundation of health for our body and mind.
If you’re anything like us at Jeeva Bhavana, you are fascinated by seeds! These tiny bits of life, sometimes no bigger than a grain of sand, are actually fertilized ripened ovules – embryos – enclosed in a protective outer covering. Seeds contain everything biologically necessary to become a new plant but depend on appropriate growth conditions (like water, sunlight, nutrition from the soil, etc) to germinate. In other words, seeds contain the promise of new life and it is up to those who sow the seeds to nurture them to their full potential.