Crow here. As you may know I've lived in this world for a good many centuries, have seen lots of changes and met many creatures both human and not. All in all it's a lovely place and it seemed there would always be space for all of us to share. Now I'm getting worried, really worried, about how the human race seems to feel justified in taking up not only too much of the space but misusing what was given to all of us. Mountains have had their peaks cut off so coal can be scooped out; thousands of square miles of tar sands in Canada are being dug up to extract heavy oil; water is being pumped into old oil wells to keep what's left of light crude oil rising; watersheds have been paved over for shopping malls and factories; slash and burn farming is still being practiced in poor countries where the newly uncovered ground is soon infertile. I could continue with examples but it should be clear things are a mess and not just for people. My main concern has always been for all my fellow beings but for now we should consider one problem at a time.
Not just in this country, but all over the world farming is failing because of climate change, the overuse of pesticides and artificial fertilizers, water shortages and plain old worn out soil. For instance, the worst drought in 70 years has decimated northern China's winter wheat crop and the soybean harvest was down 40% in South America. Two huge hurricanes hit the US within the past five years. The world food crisis continues to expand while the demand for plant based biofuels strains agricultural land. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization there are nearly a billion undernourished people in the world and although it's getting worse there are some people who've been thinking and planning for some big changes.
A couple of years ago I was sharing a branch in a favorite banyan tree restaurant with a guy you've probably never heard of, Dickson Despommier, and we talked about soil erosion occurring from wind blowing it away during droughts or from flooding. Topsoil isn't just plain old dirt you can find anywhere. It takes the world a thousand years to make a decent foot deep batch of the stuff and using current methods developed in the 40's, it hasn't taken long to ruin lots of it. To make things even worse farms near cities have been rezoned and sold to developers. Even if you don't have wings you do know when you leave your house for a country drive you'll be lucky to find any before you run out of gas or get tired and go home.
Anyway, Dickson came up with an idea that might eventually become a solution to feeding city people where, in 30 years or so, most people will live. It's called vertical farming, which doesn't mean growing cabbages on top of lamp posts (although I wouldn't mind flying by for a nice juicy cabbage), but actually building high rise farms in cities. Now that sounds pretty fine to me and even though there would be complications it certainly sounds not only doable but in the long run cost effective for everybody. No more huge transport costs for one thing, jobs, fresh food produced very locally even in the biggest cities and tall greenhouses would not only be beautiful but could be liveable. There are some nice pictures here.
It's a big topic and one that deserves some thought and discussion but if even the land now devoted to growing strawberries and vegetables could be returned to growing trees and grass then I know my fellow non-human creatures would once again have a chance to thrive. There's nothing better than a forest to help rid ourselves of all the extra carbon that's heating the place up faster than you can make thermometers. Why not take advantage of the growing mechanisms developed by the indoor marijuana entrepreneurs?
As we enjoyed another glass of brandy and watched the sun set over the suburbs of Detroit, Dickson mused, "For the first time in human existence, farming won't have to rely on soil types. You'll be able to build a farm in the middle of the desert or on the tundra. You'll put it wherever you want and people will live there as a result. You don't need a lot of water for hydroponic farming."
In the meanwhile, how about a little retrofitting of the now bankrupt sky-rise banks? I can think of a few people we could use as compost starters.
(Note - No obscenely wealthy bankers, humans or animals are part of hydroponic farming methods. That was just my little joke. Now I'll have a tumbler of Bailey's Irish Cream before climbing up to the sleeping perch.)