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Horticulture – Key to Earth’s Future?

By April 29, 2019No Comments
Bumble Bee working in my garden

I grabbed a mug of tea a few minutes ago, logged on to the RTE and BBC websites to catch up and felt compelled to stop everything and begin to write. Headline on RTE “Destruction of nature threatens humanity ‘at least as much as’ climate change: UN“. Headline on BBC “Climate change being fuelled by soil damage – report“.

As someone who has had a passionate interest for the past 40 years in Climate Change, Environment and Horticulture, and been fortunate to have worked in Government and elsewhere in relation to these issues, I have been frustrated by the lack of urgency and interest in tackling Climate Change and the inexorable decline of biodiversity. This continual frustration has moulded me to keep trying and hope that some day the world will come to its senses. Has that day arrived and is real quantum change about to take place?

Greta Thunberg has connected with the youngest generations. Bee decline and the threat to pollination and Attenborough’s Blue Planet Plastic revelations have begun to tune older generations into the realisation that biodiversity loss and environmental degradation are real threats to our survival. The only question now is how quickly can the world and its governments be mobilised to really act and make the necessary changes?

The world’s capacity to feed itself now hinges on stabilising and then improving biodiversity, and tackling Climate Change. To do this will require a move (already happening), particularly in the first world, to more plant based diets. Improving the science and practice of Horticulture will be key.

Horticulture systems will need to enhance soil quality and improve biodiversity. Every country will need to increase it’s production of fruit and vegetables and not solely depend on other countries to supply their food. Greater resources must be spent on educating and training people to grow sustainable food. A significant shift in how food is sold will also be required, so that primary producers and those that grow our fruit and vegetables can earn sufficient margins to support them to improve our soils and enhance biodiversity. Greater crop diversity and the development of agroforestry can build even greater resilience.

The recently published Oireachtas Committee Climate Action Report will soon go before government, Dáil and Seanad for approval. A small section on page 68 highlights the role horticulture can play in relation to agriculture diversification. One line in this section highlights some of the potential, “Major opportunities exist through import substitution in horticulture that would improve national food security, increase sustainable rural employment, promote a healthier diet nationally and fight obesity as well as reducing GHG emissions.”

Am I deluded or are we on the cusp of a real seismic change?