Make no mistake: Agriculture alone has the potential to reboot the economy -Devinder Sharma

-National Herald

Agriculture, food and trade policy expert Devinder Sharma writes: “My understanding is that only agriculture can reboot the economy, sustain millions of livelihoods, and reduce global warming.”

At a time when Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz says that neo-liberalism is ‘dead and buried’, and the world as a result is increasingly grappling with the gigantic problems of rising unemployment, gnawing inequality and climatic change reaching a tripping point, agriculture alone has the potential to reboot the economy.

While the accumulation of wealth in the western countries is essentially built on greenhouse gas emissions, as author Amitabh Ghosh would say, the former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had the courage to acknowledge: “The world’s current economic model is an environmental suicide. Climate change is showing us that the old model is more than obsolete. We need a revolution on how best to make the global economy sustainable.”

His clarion call at the World Economic Forum 2011 however went unheeded. No media even thought of initiating a discussion on this grim portrayal of the global economic future.

While the current economic model has outlived its utility, more of the same will only exacerbate the destruction of natural resources, advancing the climatic catastrophe the world is staring at, and lead to unimaginable socio-economic disruptions. Already with the Himalayas melting at an alarming rate, reducing the snow depth by one-and-a half feet every year, with river flow shrinking, lakes and water bodies disappearing; and with oceans polluted and rising, the environmental consequences of economic growth have been dastardly.

As if this is not enough, look at the environmental fallout of industrial agriculture. Soil fertility has declined to almost zero in intensively farmed regions; excessive mining of groundwater sucking aquifers dry; and chemical inputs, including pesticides, becoming extremely pervasive in environment, the entire food chain has been contaminated.

As soils become sick, forests are logged for expanding industrial farming, soil erosion and water depletion takes a heavy toll leading to more desertification. Not drawing any lessons, Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has launched an assault on the Amazon rainforests. Within hours of assuming office he issued an executive order that practically spells a death-knell for the pristine forests, considered to be a global lung.

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National Herald, 13 July, 2019,

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