Thursday, April 14, 2016

Agriculture: How to Transform America’s Most Unsustainable Industry

**This blog is part of a sustainability series written by student members of the BSOS Sustainability Task Force. To find out more about the task force, click here.**

Written by: Nikki Waxman

Lack of raw food is a problem plaguing UMD students. Our campus is so developed that there is no space for a supermarket accessible to students within walking distance, or even within a mile. As a result, it is hard to get raw food, let alone locally grown or organic food while living close to campus. Living in a dorm, most underclassmen are relegated to seeking food at the diner, or restaurants on Route One and at Stamp. Even with access to proper cooking facilities and food, the process of acquiring food and preparing it is too much for students prioritizing their midterms, internships, and homework, etc. That forces students to choose between prioritizing their diet or their career success. Fortunately, students do have some opportunities in the form of the farmer’s markets on campus on Wednesdays and in the City of College Park on Sundays during the growing season, and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) that deliver to home.

Agriculture is not only a major consumer of resources, but it is also a large contributor to global warming and environmental degradation. Agriculture is responsible for 70% of freshwater consumption in the United States, and as freshwater becomes increasingly scarce, conserving our water resources is becoming more important than ever. Additionally, with the rise of the global population, food resources are becoming scarce. people. The United Nations released a report in 2006 warning of the alarming environmental impacts of meat consumption, and urging people towards a more sustainable plant-based diet.

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The impacts of the industrial agricultural system make it an unsustainable way to grow our food over the long term. Some of the worst of these impacts include; Monoculture, the use of chemical inputs, and the use of antibiotics. Monoculture involves the use of only one species over an area such as the huge swathes of corn throughout the midwest. Monoculture reduces the biodiversity not only on the farm but also in the surrounding areas as diversity of birds and beneficial insects decline. It’s also a problem because using one species quickly depletes soil of the nutrients that plant needs and can leave it vulnerable to erosion. Monoculture farms are also more vulnerable to certain weeds and insect pests. This makes farmers rely heavily on chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. Chemical fertilizer runoff and waste from concentrated animal feeding operations pollute nearby water bodies and often create oxygen-deprived “dead zones”. These concentrated feeding operations have also been known to overuse antibiotics which is leading to the development of super resistant bacteria.

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Cutting out just a little meat from out of the diet would be enough to warrant a change in the market for vegetables in College Park. Information on how our diet affects our health is easier to get than ever before because the Internet has become almost omnipresent. It is now time for the citizens of College Park to make wiser decisions about what we eat and to demand wider accessibility of raw food.