[Reflection] Climate March on September 17 and Action: Interconnection between Climate Change and Petrochemical Pesticides and Fertilizers
(Beyond Pesticides, September 8, 2023) In a united effort, climate and environmental justice movements from around the world have come together to announce a global “end to fossil fuels,â€ť including the end of pesticides.
The “March to End Fossil Fuels” is scheduled for September 17 and the Secretary General’s Summit in New York City on September 20. See the full map for other marches around the world.
At the Beyond Pesticides, 2022 National Forum session on climate (November, 2022), we discussed the science and the urgent need for a strategic response to the climate crisis as part of a constellation of crises that intersect. Whether we are talking about a health crisis borne out of chemical-induced diseases, the collapse of life-sustaining biodiversity, or the dramatic catastrophes caused by greenhouse gases and rising temperaturesâ€”the interconnectedness of the crises requires strategic solutions that are holistic and nurturing of our relationship with nature â€”a relationship we have minimized as a matter of policy and practice.
The data on climate calls on us to be audacious in our demand for urgent change in our households and communities, and from decision makers at all levels of government.
At Beyond Pesticides, our audacious goal is to ban petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers by 2032 and transition to a society and world committed to organic management practices. To do this requires a change in public understanding of what is possible. And, it will take a fair amount of public outrage that we are not moving fast enough to embrace this goal in all sectors.
Leveraging the science, we need to show with hands-on examples what change looks like. That process has begun, and today we will hear about some of whatâ€™s possible now. But the change will take people working together locally across the country and around the world. The audacious goal is achieved through on-the-ground work that becomes mainstream. If we buy or grow food, use a park or a playing field, buy consumer products, advocate for change, or hold elective office or advisory positions, we all play a critical role.
Our work at Beyond Pesticides offers daily insight into the destruction that is being wrought by holding on to practices and toxic chemical dependencies that are defined by piecemeal approaches, antithetical to holistic thinking. As a matter of policy, we are neither preventive nor precautionary. We too often accept the underlying premise of statutory and regulatory frameworks that have been created with this thinking â€“the thinking that has brought us to this moment of existential crises.
Many see the solution in building resilienceâ€” and apply a narrow definition of the word.Â Â
In the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report,Â Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, they write:Â
â€śResilience in the literature has a wide range of meanings. Adaptation is often organized around resilience as bouncing back and returning to a previous state after a disturbance. More broadly, the term describes not just the ability to maintain essential function, identity and structure, but also the capacity for transformation.â€ť
The IPCC continues:
â€śThe drivers of transformation are multidimensional, involving social, cultural, economic, environmental, technical and political processes. The combination of these creates the potential for abrupt and systemic change . . . .â€ť
In the U.S., the foundation of our agriculture and the management of our built environment is intricately tied to polluting practices, with disproportionate harm affecting segments of our society and world who are exploited, low income, in ill-health, and disproportionately people of color. We have a responsibility to find a different path and we can.
We do not have to be theoretical about this. We have organic systems in place, governed by a clear definition and requirements for compliance with standards. Under the Organic Foods Production Act (in the U.S. and similar statutes worldwide), those selling products as organic are required to adhere to a legal definition of soil management practices, a list of allowed and prohibited substances, a certification and inspection system that establishes compliance with defined organic standards, and a participatory public decision-making process for continuous improvement. This approach, whether in agriculture or in our parks and playing fields, eliminates the reliance on fossil fuel-based toxic chemicals that release greenhouse gases. It also employs the ability of healthy soil, rich in biodiversity, to draw down atmospheric carbon. To this end, Beyond Pesticides advances the continuous improvement of organic agriculture (see Keeping Organic Strong) and the development of Parks for a Sustainable Future. Both programs advance in real-time and with urgency the elimination of petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers. See how you can get involved and to make a difference along with thousands of others.
Our goal must be to adopt productive land management systems that do not use toxic petrochemical pesticides and fertilizersâ€”substances that we can no longer use, if we are to sustain life.
Despite a growing global consensus on the urgency of addressing the climate crisis, the Biden administration has sanctioned several major fossil fuel projects, ensuring the United States maintains its status as the world’s foremost oil and gas producer and exporter. In 2023 alone, the administration approved multiple liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities in Alaska and along the Gulf Coast, conducted a substantial oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, and expedited the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Furthermore, more onshore and offshore oil and gas lease sales are slated for this year.
Â Over 500 groups, including Beyond Pesticides, are calling on President Biden to:
- STOP FEDERAL APPROVALS for new fossil fuel projects and REPEAL permits for climate bombs like the Willow Project and the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
- PHASE OUT FOSSIL FUEL DRILLINGÂ on our public lands and waters.
- DECLARE A CLIMATE EMERGENCY to halt fossil fuel exports and investments abroad, and turbo-charge the build-out of more just, resilient distributed energy (like rooftop and community solar).
- PROVIDE A JUST TRANSITION to a renewable energy future that generates millions of jobs while supporting workersâ€™ and community rights, job security, and employment equity. Our renewable energy future must not repeat the violence of the extractive past. Justice must ground the transition off fossil fuels to redress the climate, colonialist, racist, socioeconomic, and ecological injustices of the fossil fuel era.
The climate crisis is part of a broader set of interconnected crises, including health issues from pesticide-induced diseases, the loss of biodiversity, and catastrophic climate change events. Â A study in the journal Nature finds, â€śThe interaction between indices of historical climate warming and intensive agricultural land use is associated with reductions of almost 50% in the abundance and 27% in the number of species within insect assemblages relative to those in less-disturbed habitats with lower rates of historical climate warming.â€ť A study in Environmental Health Perspectives finds the loss of pollinators, â€ś3%â€“5% of fruit, vegetable, and nut production is lost due to inadequate pollination, leading to an estimated 427,000 (95% uncertainty interval: 86,000-691,000) excess deaths annually from lost healthy food consumption and associated diseases.â€ť That study also finds the economic value of crops to be â€ś12%â€“31% lower than if pollinators were abundant.â€ť
To address these crises, we need holistic and nature-based solutions, as our relationship with the natural environment has often been overlooked in policy and practice. At Beyond Pesticides, our audacious goal is to eliminate petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers within a decade, transitioning to organic management practices. Like the transition off of fossil fuels, achieving this goal requires changing public perceptions of what’s possible and generating public outrage over the slow pace of change.
In this moment of international environmental momentum, we must work together locally and globally, whether it’s buying or growing food, advocating for change, or holding elective office. We must examine the destructive consequences of maintaining toxic chemical dependencies and piecemeal approaches that lack a preventive or precautionary stance.
We need to embrace holistic thinking, recognizing that resilience involves not just bouncing back but also transforming our systems. Organic systems offer a path forward, with clear standards and a focus on healthy soil and biodiversity, reducing reliance on toxic petrochemicals and contributing to carbon sequestration. Our ultimate goal is to sustain life without the use of harmful chemicals that threaten our planet.
For more information on the dangers ongoing pesticide use poses to our ability to combat climate change, see talks from Beyond Pesticides climate change webinar, featuring Rachel Bezner Kerr, PhD, Cornell University professor and co-author of the definitive United Nations (UN) report on climate and food production and Andrew Smith, PhD, chief operating officer of the Rodale Institute and coauthor of several landmark reports on soil biology and carbon sequestration in organic agricultural production. As reported in Beyond Pesticides Daily News in 2022, the longest-running â€” four-decade â€” investigation comparing organic and chemical-intensive grain-cropping approaches in North America yields impressive results forÂ organic. In 2022, the Rodale Instituteâ€™sÂ Farming Systems Trial â€” 40-YearÂ ReportÂ reports on these outcomes: (1) organic systems achieve 3â€“6 times the profit of conventional production; (2) yields for the organic approach are competitive with those of conventional systems (after a five-year transition period); (3) organic yields during stressful drought periods are 40% higher than conventional yields; (4, 5, and 6) organic systems leach no toxic compounds into nearby waterways (unlike pesticide-intensive conventional farming), use 45% less energy than conventional, and emit 40% less carbon into the atmosphere. And, as the Rodale Institute reports, â€śHealthy soil holds carbon and keeps it out of the atmosphere.â€ś Beyond Pesticides reported in 2019 onÂ similar results, from the instituteâ€™sÂ 30-year project mark, which have been borne out by another three years of the trials.
Think global and act local: Join the global climate march on September 17th, 2023 and transition your local park to organic land management to end fossil fuels.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
Source: March to End Fossil Fuels