The Mother of All Problems Facing Our World Today?

Desertification_CirclesMany people are familiar with 2 Chronicles 7:14 where God says basically “if we repent, He will heal our land.”  Yet I cannot see that our land is getting “healed” yet – quite the reverse actually. This post explores this verse a bit from a different angle.

Today I feel that we are facing “The Mother of All Problems” in our world today, a problem of such magnitude that I feel it is foundational to many of the other problems – political, economic, social, spiritual – problems many of us are working on. Now that I have been made aware of this problem and have studied it, I feel that it is much bigger and more pressing than any of the other big problems and that if we were to all work together to solve this one very big problem, many of the other smaller problems would be solved as well - automatically.

[NOTE 5/14/14: In this article I used the word "rape" to describe what is happening to our cropland.  I'm now sorry I used that word and will not use it again because it could be taken offensively by cropland farmers.  I do NOT mean to imply that cropland farmers are "raping" land.  There is NO mal intent on the part of farmers that I am aware of at all.  Cropland farmers are just doing what has always been done for centuries - plowing, planting, harvesting.]

The Problem

What am I talking about?  Well, at the risk of sounding crass … the problem I see is Land Rape. [Please note: the True Mother of All Problems is SIN - Land Rape is just another sin, but it happens to be one that I believe very few people focus on and it has had huge effects and how can we repent of any sin if we aren't even aware of it?]  Land Rape?  What am I talking about?  Genesis 1:28 says “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and *subdue* it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
Notice it says “subdue” the earth, not “rape and pillage” it.  But how are we raping and pillaging the earth?  Well … everyone knows what the Sahara Desert in N. Africa looks like today (below left). But few people realize what N. Africa (where the Sahara is now) used to look like – perhaps 3000 years ago (below right) … Click HERE for some scientific discussion of this …

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And even fewer people realize what caused the degradation (land rape).  Joel Salatin, one of America’s most prosperous and well known farmers, and a prolific writer, the “High Priest of the Pasture” according to the NY TImes, is one of the few who understands the cause and I was alerted to this a few years ago through one of his books, “Salad Bar Beef.”  Joel’s life mission is to “heal land and thereby heal people and many other things.”  The cause, stated simply, is “misguided agriculture” – tillage is the biggest culprit, but also mismanagement of grazing animals.
Now N. Africa is by no means the only problem area.  The problem is worldwide (see Google Earth photo at top left from Allan Savory) and the problem has only accelerated in the last century because of the availability of huge mechanized equipment – millions of new acres are being tilled every year by large equipment. Inline image 7  It’s really, really bad and getting worse.  This “land rape” which has been going on since Noah’s Flood 4500 or so years ago has also given rise to unhealthy food and lifestyles, which in modern times has caused a host of health problems in our “civilized societies.”  Big topic for another day.
There is starting to be some awareness of this problem in the media as indicated by this recent article (pic at left) in the U.K. about the loss of topsoil … FULL ARTICLE HERE.

And thanks to Permaculture leaders like Allan Savory, Mark Shepard and others, I have come to realize how this “land rape” problem is foundational to most (if not all) other problems in our world today.

Allan Savory writes …

“Because desertification plays a key role in increasing drought, poverty and hunger around the world, it also contributes to increased social violence, abuse of women and children, cultural genocide and emigration to cities and other countries.” LINK


Enough about the “Mother of All Problems.”

What About the Solution?

The solution, as far as I can tell, is found within the “Permaculture” movement, a movement which I have been working in more over the last few years.  There are small examples of the “solution” found around the world but what is needed is Mass Implementation of the “solution.”  To give you an example of “the solution” (or at least “A” solution) on a small scale, consider what Mark Shepard, recent Permaculture Voices Conference speaker, has done at his little farm in Viola, Wisconsin.  Fifteen years ago, Mark started with a 106 acre crop farm, which had been under tillage for years and years.  It probably looked like most other crops farms, probably something like this … (picture on left). Now, 15 years later, after much work on Mark’s part, it looks like this (picture on right) … that’s Mark on the left.

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The really interesting part for “money men” is that the net income $ per acre of farm products from Mark’s diversified farm is probably in excess of $5,000 per acre wholesale (compared to $1000 per acre for an annual tillage crop like corn).  His chestnut trees alone – 86 trees per acre – produce at least 1000 lbs per year at a wholesale price of about $2 per lb against minimal harvesting expense.  In addition to these 86 chestnut trees per acre, there are another ~1300 or so fruit and nut producing trees and bushes, so when we put a calculator to this, the numbers are impressive.  I have not yet done a full analysis, but if you assume only 5 lbs of produce per plant per year, that’s 7000 lbs per year of all tree and bush products, not counting the rotationally grazed livestock.  Even at only $1 per lb net wholesale, that’s $7000 per acre of net income not including the livestock income.  7X the profit per acre of corn is impressive to me. The catch is that it takes 7 – 10 years to get trees and bushes like this into full production so it would take some investors with some deep pockets and some patience.

For people interested in “feeding the world,”  Mark has calculated that his system produces more calories per acre than corn – something like 5 million calories of food per year – enough calories for about 5 people per acre.  AND … Mark does not have to replant every year.  The planting work is done once and never again because these are perennial crops.  The only work remaining is harvesting and maintenance, because Mark’s whole system is based on perennial plants, not annual plants.  Many also do not realize that the world does not need corn, soybeans and wheat – at all.  These crops can be replaced with perennial tree and bush crops which do not need to be replanted every year, thus no soil would have to be tilled (and lost down the streams and rivers).
I’ll stop here with the technical info and let you digest all this.  I have some early ideas for how to integrate a large “Mark Shepard” type “food forest” into a subdivision / community – and there are others working on this as well, but I don’t want to get into that now, and I’m not an expert – just an idea guy at this point.  My only firsthand expertise in permaculture so far is in wood chip gardening and mob grazing of cattle and sheep.  Another important item I won’t get into in this email is the recent research into the global hydrologic cycle and how “regreening” areas that are desertifying today, if done on a wide enough scale, would actually restart the hydrologic cycle and cause it to start raining in those areas again regularly – another revelation that came to me from Joel Salatin.
Although I have bits and pieces of “the solution,” and I believe that permaculture may hold the answers, I myself certainly do not have all these answers.  I simply want to throw these ideas out to you for consideration.  I don’t know if God would raise up money people who might launch “subdivisions with permaculture farms” or if He might use millions of people in grassroots efforts such as “The Urban Farming Guys” … or what.  What I do know for sure is that our agriculture is broken and we are raping the land and this is causing all kinds of diseases and problems in the present and will lead in the future to mass starvation and I also know that I – for one – would like to live in a community / subdivision with like minded people who are aware of these huge problems and their causes and would like to help solve them.  That’s all I know.

For my pastor friends reading this

I have several pastor friends addressed on this email (this post was originally an email) and of course, pastors focus on evangelizing and discipling people. What we have been talking about here is “feeding people sustainably” with physical food, but spiritual food is even more important.  Many missionaries down through history have opened people’s ears to spiritual food by helping them with their physical food needs.  I think if we could show people how to feed themselves sustainably, it would go a long ways towards opening their ears to the gospel.

In closing, let me revisit the verse I mentioned earlier … 2 Chronicles 7:14 … “if we repent, God will heal our land.”  Notice it says “heal our land.”  Not heal other things, but heal our LAND.  Repent, then land gets healed. (And Joel Salatin says – heal land then other things get healed … hmm)  Repent of what?  Well, lots of things to be sure.  I repent of things several times every week.  But isn’t anything that deviates from God’s design sin? And one of God’s designs and a very early mandate (Book of Genesis) is to “subdue the earth” but instead, we have raped it and I don’t think many people realize this.  Certainly I never had heard of it in my church circles. Maybe we need to repent of violating Genesis 1:28 in addition to all the other things?  Maybe there’s a reason that God has not yet “healed our land”? Food for thought anyway.

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