Article #7: A Case for Tree Crop Agriculture by Mark Chass and Don Weaver
We are trying to alert people to act on nature's imperative while there is still time and resources. The earth's soils must be completely remineralized and our mode of producing food entirely revamped. Otherwise we'll destroy our beautiful earth and what terrestrial life remains, including ourselves.
Humans must either work towards purifying and replenishing our earth and themselves or expect a tremendous crisis in our ecosystem due to interolerable toxemia and malnutrition. Whether glaciation, ozone depletion, oceanic death that leads to oxygen depletion, massive earth upheavals and quakes, magnetic field reversals, excessive carbon dioxide or other calamitous events occur; whether any or all of these come to pass, our path is presently fraught with doom and will steadily worsen so long as we continue to be led by and grovel at the feet of exploitative minds.
This being the core of our convictions, we hope you can see the importance of reaching and bringing together people who are interested in rebuilding our ecosystem, and in conserving rather than exploiting our resources. The quality of human life is foremost in our minds and we don't wish to see our brethren in life's journey plunged deeper into the disastrous course that prevails. We abhor the unchecked tide of earth destruction that is leading to catastrophic world upheavals: unbearable weather, glaciation, mass starvation, and other evils with which we are running a collision course.
The unimaginably great capacity of this earth for being a paradise beyond our wildest dreams and our inherent potential for beauty, goodness, and exalting joys makes our quest all the more urgent.
This is why we seek your cooperation, why we ask your attention and care to this message, and why we ask you to extend your area of awareness and coverage to all facets of human existence. Our total well-being depends on the well-being of our entire ecosystem on which we depend.
The one most powerful, widespread and growing destroyer of our environment is agriculture. In all its ramifications, today and throughout history, it has changed untold millions of square miles of virgin land into neat square fields of overcultured and overdomesticated plants and animals. Its requirement of raw materials is so huge that when all is added up, we humans are net losers. Not only do we suffer nutritionally, but the earth suffers even greater and the situation is like a time bomb set to destroy us.
This article will bring to light and confront directly the root causes of humanity's critical and unprecedentedly urgent global crisis in virtually all realms of existence. Most specifically it will question our approach to the problem of securing nourishment from the soil by agriculture. The authors have learned that it is too late for any more fragmented or half-hearted solutions to the rapidly accelerating environmental crisis. This article will outline a sane and beneficial course for meeting our most pressing problems of living here and now and in the unlimited future. Fundamentally, this is a call for a worldwide movement towards a biologically-oriented culture and a nonirrigated and noncultivated tree crop agriculture. This is the only long-term approach nature can afford and accept of humanity. The survival of all life as we know it is at stake. One can sense that the land has changed from its original design and unhampered course. Where are the great valley oaks of magnificence that once provided shade and food for humans and animals? Where are the riparian zones that used to extend for great distances from free-flowing rivers, even in rather arid central valleys? Why is the water table dropping, forcing ever deeper wells and more dams? Why are fruits and vegetables becoming more and more unnutritious and tasteless at the same time disease is becoming more rampant? Why is the weather so unusual and causing unseasonal floods, frosts, and decreased yields even though the USDA still claims that harvests have never been better? Possibly the most obvious change is the declining quality of our air and water, even in remote areas. Even the rain is becoming toxic as it washes poisons from the skies.
To understand this situation a little more clearly, the authors did extensive research and found quite a bit of evidence that documents the change in our earth's fragile skin over the last 6,000 years of recorded history, a very short time in the course of our existence. In his classic book "Man and Nature" written over a hundred years ago, George Perkins Marsh states, "There is good reason to believe that the surface of the inhabitable earth, in all climates and regions which have been the abodes of dense and civilized populations, was, with few exceptions, already covered with lush forest growth when it first became the home of man." In fact, one can go to areas of past civilizations and realize that, because of misuse and incorrect vision of nature, the forests were destroyed. Marsh adds: "Ancient historical records . . . prove that large provinces, where the earth has long been wholly bare of trees, were once clothed with vast and almost unbroken woods when first made known to Greek and Roman civilizations." In Losing Ground by Erik Eckholm and the Worldwatch Institute, the author states, "The bare hills that characterize the Mediterranean today provide little hint of the extensive woodlands that once existed. By the end of the Classical Age, deforestation in the lowlands around the Mediterranean was acute. The clearance of farmlands, grazing herds, and wood gathering for fuel and construction all contributed to this condition. The region's dry climate and nimble goats discouraged natural forest regeneration, even in centuries when the pressures of civilization slackened." It was common for builders of that area to cut down as many as 2,000 mature oak trees to build a single sailing ship.
Eckholm also presents us with a most interesting picture of the extent of natural forestation in recent history. For example, the area now known as the United States was, at the time of European colonization, approximately one-third forest. Mexico, now largely arid and desert-like, had an extensive tree mantle on over half of its surface prior to European influence.
Another method of land alteration is fire. Fire became an important tool for the developing agriculture and domestication of grazing animals. Brush, young trees, and mulch material are all destroyed by fire. Overgrazing prevents their return and accommodates erosion. Complete generations of successional plants are eliminated. When the older trees eventually die there are no replacements and an evergrowing wasteland takes over. This can be seen in many areas of California where the land is used for grazing. Further complications arise when the unprotected soil begins to be washed away adding to the silt burden of our streams and rivers which disrupts and destroys river and ocean environments. The Eel River in Northern California carries more silt from eroded hillsides than the Mississippi River which drains a manifold larger area.
The advent of agriculture and the domestication of grazing animals, most notably goats, Sheep, and cattle, was, and still is, a major cause of deforestation. One can see that if land once under cultivation and grazing is left alone, a spontaneous nature will soon cover it with herbacious plants and eventually a dense forest. Marsh even believed that forests would soon cover many arid areas of Arabia and Africa "if man and domesticated animals, especially goats and camels, were banished from them. Young trees sprout plentifully around springs and along the winter water courses of the desert. A few years of undisturbed vegetation would soon suffice to cover such points with groves, and these would gradually extend themselves over soils where now scarcely any green thing is seen."
For centuries man has based his agriculture on clearing, plowing, cultivation and irrigation of annual crops. Only in a few rare instances are there people who have, because of necessity or enlightened vision, based their sustenance on perennial tree crops. J. Russel Smith in his book "Tree Crops" describes cultures who eat most of their food from tree produce and who allow their animals to self-feed themselves on the fruit and nut drop of the trees. Plowing and cultivation have taken their toll on Earth's fertility. The soil is bared of its covering of leaves, broken and loosened by the mechanical action of implements, deprived of its Fibrous root hairs which hold it together, dried and pulverized by sun and wind and at last exhausted of its vitality. The face of Earth is no longer a sponge but more often a growing dust bowl.
The practice of irrigation has also become a major factor in today's crisis. Pumping deep wells lowers the water table for indigenous species of plants. The volume of water is tremendous. In California and Arizona 85% of all diverted water can be attributed to irrigation and this irrigation is both wasteful and even unnecessary. Rivers are diverted, dams are built, and the fresh water cycle drastically altered. The great rivers of the world have been reduced to a predictable flow, at least temporarily. Since the irrigated fields are so saturated with water-soluble chemicals from fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, the water runoff has become laden with toxic compounds deadly to all life. This water must be treated before it can become of acceptable quality for further irrigation or usage. This is now occurring to the Colorado River where it enters Mexico loaded with chemicals from U. S. farms. In Nebraska ground water is so loaded with chemical nitrates from nitrogen fertilizers that it is infesting potable water supplies of the area. Physicians are now diagnosing nitrate poisoning in children of the area.
Historically nothing was much different. The Sumerians in the fertile Tigris-Euphrates valley in 4,000 B.C. had a complex irrigation system. However, the water left so much dissolved salt in the soil that it ruined the soil permanently. We witness an ominous recurrence in the California desert. Areas all through the U.S.A. are losing valuable cropland due to irrigation. Irrigation experts say all that is needed is a very costly underground drainage system which would drain the salts from the uppermost levels of the soil; but this is not the answer, obviously. All irrigation water contributes to an unbalance of the soil that might well be called "mineral-poisoning." Salt may be characterized as a "junk mineral" that destroys. This has its consequences too. We really do not realize how we are disrupting the natural order just from the way we grow our food which, in itself, is an apparent innocent and innocuous endeavor.
In some cases stream flow becomes so low from diversion that water temperature rises past the point at which fish can spawn. Many of the dams built in recent years to supposedly help conditions are silting up quicker than expected from up river erosion. This not only shortens their effective time of usage, but also has disastrous effects on fish and other life in the water as well as irrigated land downstream.
Farmlands are covered by the rising waters behind the dam. Farmlands below the dam are deprived of the supplies of fertilizing silt which would normally be deposited by the river but still receive certain of the deadly soluble salts. An example of this is the Aswan dam which backs up the waters of the Nile River. The Nile's silt had kept the soil along its's banks fertile for ages.
When water is backed up behind dams everything changes. The water's chemistry, kinds and numbers of indigenous flora and fauna, the salinity, the water's pressure on surrounding hills and on earth faults are all altered. Incredibly, a world-wide recognition of the immense problems entailed has not yet occurred. More and more dams are being built to supply the world's suffering agricultural systems with water.
All of these situations culminate in the fact that the amount of oxygen producing biomass on the earth and in the oceans is decreasing. In many areas the vegetation remaining is so mineral deficient, with a resultant decrease in water storage capacity in the plant's tissues, "that it is on the verge of bursting into flames." The minerals tied up in our forest trees and grounds have been exported from the forest for so long by logging practices that widespread forest destruction by fire becomes ever more ominous.
Mineral depletion is also causing our agricultural soils to dry out, ready to be blown away in another dust bowl. When crops are harvested and shipped off to supermarkets, the soil loses its ability to replenish itself. The plants would usually return to the soil, decompose and nourish the next cycle of growth. Since none of our excrement returns to the soil either, the soil loses again. The only thing receiving minerals is the ocean where everything seems to be ending up, not only to the detriment of the land but the ocean itself.
The latest insanity of soil depletion concerns the burning of biomass to generate electricity. This practice not only pollutes our atmosphere but it burns vegetation, crop residues and forest slash. It thereby removes vital carbon and minerals necessary to the soil life cycle. Without these vital humus-to-be components, soil microorganisms cannot exist. Without these necessary organisms upon which new plant life becomes stunted due to malnourishment. It becomes susceptible to insects and diseases. Animals and people cannot thrive on these plants—they likewise become stunted, malnourished and diseased. Modern farmers respond to this situation with massive chemicalization to stimulate plant growth and insecticides to destroy the pests that thrive on such plant life.
Furthermore, since photosynthesizing plants are our source of oxygen, we are really disturbing the whole oxygen-carbon dioxide balance of our biosphere with our unwise activity. Along with the increased burning of fossil and organic fuels, carbon dioxide levels are expected to double in the next forty years—nothing less than a disastrous situation! To relate this to agriculture, overoxidation of humus by tillage exposure also increases carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Tillage exposure permits the oxidation that releases carbon to the air and, simultaneously, decreases the carbon storage the humus provides in the soil mantle. The harvests of the forests, which conduct more photosynthesis worldwide than any other form of vegetation, the extension of agriculture onto soils high in organic matter and the destruction of wetlands all speed the decay of our precious humus heritage. The worst aspect of this trend is the destruction of the tropical rainforests. Most of these will be gone in 20 years if the present trend continues. In Brazil alone in 1975, 62,000 square miles of forest were cleared. For what? Primarily for cattle grazing for beef ' production. Satellite mapping indicates this is happening throughout the world's tropical zones. All over the world, in fact, forests have been removed and replaced with grasslands for domesticated animals and animal food crops. As amply attested to, these lands are due to become deserts without their protective forest covers.
Forests account for 90% of the carbon held in vegetation and contribute more than 60% of the net primary production of biomass. In contrast, all cultivated land on Earth accounts for only 8% of net primary production and stores only 1% of the carbon. This represents a tremendous loss from forest to cultivation and is adding to our atmosphere's carbon dioxide imbalance at breakneck speed. These observations have come as quite a surprise to many agriculturists and foresters since they assumed that modern agricultural and forestry practices were establishing a good carbon balance. Secondary and managed forests compared to untouched climax forests still represent a loss in carbon balance such that increased carbon dioxide is still being released to our atmosphere. German foresters have shown that yields decrease with succeeding timber harvests because more and more minerals and carbon are removed with each cycle without replenishment.
So now we have an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, a decrease in terrestrial and oceanic biomass, and an acute mineral shortage in plants and people. All of these play an important role in Earth's weather machine and the changes, often disastrous, that we now witness. Excess carbon in the air as a result of mineral depletion causes a cooling in Earth's mean temperature. Earth has slowly been cooling since 1950. Observation of glaciers reveals that they are now extending their mass after thousands of years of retreat due to a warm and stable climate. Glaciation is Nature's response to conditions such as are being created by our unwise exploitation of the earth's resources. Increase in the ice pack forces the earth's tectonic system to release the pressure from added land mass through earthquakes and volcanic activity, both of which are noticeably increasing of late. The glaciers give soils mineral replenishment and help restore long-term balance by grinding the rocks they dislodge and push along. The new minerals begin to accumulate, plant growth and vitality return, remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thus bring warmer, more stage temperatures. With this the glaciers retreat and volcanic activity subsides. South Pole drilling exploration confirms this since dust layers were found intimately associated with past glacial periods. During the onset of glaciation, however, (and we are now in the beginning stages of a new ice age), the weather will, become more turbulent and erratic with an increasing subsequent loss in food production and starvation for many people. The wearing out of the soil initiated this process. We are now losing three billion tons of soil per year from U.S. croplands alone! Only 8% of the world's soil can still be cropped by current methods. This situation worsens with each passing year. An accelerating downward spiral has been initiated. The practice of exporting huge quantities of food amounts to a soil loss just as much as if it were washed out to sea.
Obviously, we must stop the burning of fossil fuels and crop residues. We must also reduce our consumption of wood which includes paper products, lumber and firewood. Many Third World countries have an acute firewood shortage and are resorting to burning dung for fuel. Their soil will become even less productive without dung as fertilizer. Most importantly, we must change over to an agriculture based on nonirrigated and noncultivated tree crops. We must again subsist on our natural diet of unfired foods. This system utilizes the same approach nature observes in the growth and maintenance of all living creatures. Under the natural order, forests grow to tremendous proportions and vitality. In contrast to the natural order, humans are the only ones that use fire to alter foods before ingestion. Nature had going a beautiful system of recycling and conserving carbon and minerals as a basic and for the welfare of her creatures as an adjunct.
Plentiful microorganisms in the soil can supply up to 97% of the tree's needs through symbiotic atmospheric assimilation. The remaining 3% of the trees' needs are met by the minerals in the soil. Trees produce abundant crops. Each year millions of bushels of fruit and nuts drop to the ground. With more nursery and selection work many of our native trees could be supplying us with luscious fruit and nuts of extraordinary high quality. This would also help save trees from needless destruction by farmers who, because of a meat-demanding populace, cater to it by growing grain and animals. Midwest farmers are now cutting down tree windbreaks to make room for new irrigation systems and massive machinery that require big stretches of even and unbroken ground.
So our first task on our depleted lands is to remineralize their soils as quickly as possible. Deep rooted weeds do part of the job, but time is critical now. Glacial gravel, granite, prophyry and gneiss, all rich storehouses of minerals, should all be ground into fine particles and added to the soil in amounts of up to ten tons per acre. Especially should applications be heavy on land where overgrazing and logging have taken place in order to provide the basis for rapid development of microorganisms. Soil carbon must also be preserved. Dr. Julius Hensel did extensive research in Germany in the late 1800s on stone dust fertilizers and found the plants to be remarkably free of disease and the produce of very high quality. We must, therefore, resupply our soils with the complete spectrum of elements in their balance as found in the mixed rocks of Earth. Hensel used no animal manures in his experiments, thus fixing minerals as the primary deficiency of our soils.
Tree crops supply us with highly-nutritious, complete, and balanced foods. Under nonirrigated and noncultivated practices, nutrients are either available or unavailable and in high concentrations or scarce in respect to the heat and rainfall, of a, given area. These concentrations fulfill the biological requirements for the animals and people living in that area.
Calcium, for example, is more prevalent in tropical fruit than in temperate fruit. Calcium helps the body to stay calm and cool, a much needed factor in warm climates. Phosphate is more prevalent as the weather cools and helps the body to stay warm. These and other elemental concentrations help the body to thrive in the same environment that grew the plants. This seems to imply that food from a particular climate and soil is not suited for people of other climates and soils. While not necessarily so, importation and exportation of foodstuffs and fertilizers would largely cease with optimal recycling programs on a local level. Each geographical area would supply most of its own food, shelter and other needs that draws upon soil resources. Our needs can be met like the needs of the other animals without excessive technology and as nature provides it. All our needs are provided for in nature.
Ripe fruits and nuts as they come from the tree and vine are still the most delicious and palatable foods for the small and the large, for the strong and the weak, for the healthy and the sickly. Fruits and nuts offer us sound health and great vitality. It has been scientifically shown that fruits and nuts furnish the basis of superb health. They do not cause anything but the most wholesome intestinal processes while in the intestinal tract. They do not cause health-robbing putrefaction or fermentation in normal amounts eaten under normal conditions. These facts solve the problem of human excrement. It may be added to the soil without vitiating it in any way. Besides the feline family, humans are the only animals that bury their feces. A person on a fruitarian diet can sustain himself or herself on a fraction of an acre. Little labor and very low input of materials are required. This makes possible true self-sufficiency. A fruitarian learns about the true nature of bodily processes, the true causes of disease and assumes full control and responsibility of and for his or her health. Coldness and heat become more tolerable as the body becomes pure and its system achieves physiological balance. Hunger and appetite take on new meanings as the body's innate intelligence emerges to again dictate our eating habits.
Upon the fruitarian diet, a clarity of perception and a joy in understanding add to individual strength and integrity. A fruitarian finds that the body, if intake is not cooked, assimilates a larger proportion of nutrients than on a conventional diet. Less food is required. This not only helps to relieve some of the pressure on the world's food production, requiring as little as 5% of the land meat eaters require, but it also gives fruitarians immensely greater survival ability should environmental conditions become harsh—something we're bound to see more and more of.
The state of most tree nursery practices is in equally as poor a situation as our agriculture. Commercial fruit and nut trees are grown on soils that have been heavily fumigated, chemically fertilized, sprayed with insecticides and overwatered. These trees lose a great deal of their feeder roots when they are dug up by machine from nursery stock. Covered with plastic film or other material to reduce water loss during storage and shipment, these trees undergo considerable transplant shock and have difficulty in adjusting to unnatural farming practices.
Natural tree culture requires more work and attention to grow healthier and more productive trees. Wild and original rootstock, seeds, or seedlings must be used to assure hardiness.
There are countless varieties of fruits, some of which would help to extend the fresh fruit season to year round in most of the world. Slightly more than 100 years ago there were over 1,000 varieties of apples grown in this country. Some of them would remain on the tree ripening until early spring, unaffected by intense freezes. More intensive planting can also be done. Two or three tier agriculture is common in some countries. Trees occupy the highest level with vines growing among the lower branches. Around the trees and vines, melons, berries, or other food crops ideal to the human dietary can be grown. In the partly shaded areas that are cooler, shade-tolerant plants can grow.
The widespread adoption of tree crop agriculture and nutrition is urgently needed. Slight modification in present practices is not sufficient. A thoroughgoing revolution is the only answer. More dams, more implements, more chemicals, more cookbooks, and more of the same solve no problems. Rather they lead us deeper into the crisis. Humanity cannot continue on this self-destructive course. The holistic health movement must recognize its total dependence on our soils. All the yogas, nerve treatments, manipulations, drugs, or whatever can't substitute for nutrients, clean air, and other factors for which the body is starved.
We all realize that it is our own false sense of need that compels us to overconsume food, water, and other materials. This dictates a system of agriculture to supply these false or fancied needs. Surely this is bringing us to destruction.
So look around. Find out where your food and needs are coming from. What had to happen that your meals could show up on your table? Be concerned for the quality of your air and water, of the foods and clothing you use. This is very vital to your health and, if posterity is to be, then it is especially important to our children's welfare.
There are some pilot programs being started by our group which we will be demonstrating in a village atmosphere. These will stress tree crop agriculture and the fruitarian diet. We have already been on this diet for 19 years between us. We feel alive, alert, and well-nourished. We will be happy to communicate with anyone of similar motivation and commitment who has concern for human well-being.
The time for right action is now. Catastrophies are in the making. Just a few more degrees drop in Earth's mean temperature will trigger glaciation that will force all remaining life back to the equator where it all began eons ago. Every day of procrastination and lack of interest brings us closer to this and other irreversible processes of human and Earth destruction.
Can we make the required change in our thinking and practices to reestablish biological health and stability? We must do so if we want humanity, as well as all other life, to survive on this planet.
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