Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book Club! My thoughts on Organic Manifesto by Maria Rodale

Maria Rodale’s book, Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe, presents a clear blueprint for change. In plain language she explains the dangers of chemical farming, the misconceptions of organic farming, and calls out the government on its irresponsibility towards our health and well-being in favor of corporate influence.

“Farmers are caught on a treadmill” she writes in her compassionate defense of many farmer’s reluctance to return to organic farming. They and their land have become dependent on the chemicals, GMO seeds, and tax breaks generously offered for chemical farming. She offers two scenarios – one of a farmer trapped in a chemically dependent farming system and another that follows an organic model of farming. Painting these two drastically different pictures she calls to task all those who say it can’t be done profitably. She further disputes the tale told by big business that the world would starve without chemical farming.

Rodale cites the rising costs to our health, particularly to our children, created by the poisoning of our land, air, and water. Studies bear out her claims, but are buried in the fears, rumors, and conflicting reports created to keep the public from hearing the evidence. Corporations, and therefore political campaigns, have much to lose should the public ever wise up to the true costs of chemical farming.

While Rodale paints a picture of tragedy, she also offers great hope. Her ideas and her enthusiasm color the entire book, leaving you hopeful that there can be change. I found a few things to change in my own little organic garden – learning how beneficial no-till planting can be and re-committing to using more cover crops to enrich my soil and help the beneficial insects.

Rodale’s style of writing is conversational. She brings deep, dark, disturbing concepts to light, making complicated systems seem simple and within our understanding. She offers the history of chemical farming in a clear, concise timeline that doesn’t bog down the book. If you struggle to explain your commitment to organics to skeptics, this book will give you plenty of talking points.

The book is a quick read (187 pages of double spaced print). There is not a lot of fluff. My copy is underlined and marked up on nearly every page. It is a book I will return to for inspiration, writing research, and help in my own organic garden.

I truly wish this book were required reading for every person holding political office, particularly anyone involved in the health, agriculture, and science policy writing. As Maria points out, we need our government to be “global leaders (not babies or bullies!)” when it comes to saving this planet, and therefore our health and future.

I also wish there was a way to get this book into the hands of farmers, so that they could envision a new way. I know many gardeners and farmers who say they’re sympathetic to the organic way, and they try to do some things organically. Rodale says, “As any addict knows, there is no halfway. You are either hooked and at the mercy of your drug, or you are free and clear.” It is not easy to break any addiction, it takes work and sacrifice. It isn’t cheap or easy. But it can be done. Our countries agriculture system is addicted to chemical farming.

After reading this powerful manifesto, I think it’s time for an intervention. And the only way that will ever
happen is if we educate ourselves and take action. Buy organic. Grow organic. Demand organic.

If you've been reading this month, I'd love to hear what you thought of this book. I, of course, have a hard time being objective on this topic, so maybe you had a different read.

Next Month's Book:
Cleaning House: A Mom's 12-Month Experiment to Rid her Home of YOUTH ENTITLEMENT.
Read along or wait for the exciting review. 

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