Solving for Pattern in a Time of Emergency: Food, Farming, Fracking, Climate, COVID, and Justice

American agriculture rides a tandem bicycle with a the fossil fuel industry—with natural gas-derived anhydrous ammonia used to fertilize crops and petroleum-derived pesticides sprayed to protect them. The result is a public health crisis climate crisis that threatens the future of food production and drives wildlife and human populations to migrate and collide with each other in ways that accelerate the jump of infectious pathogens from animals to people. The resulting pandemic threatens to crash economic systems, further reveals instabilities in our human food systems, and targets exploited food workers throughout the food distribution chain—from farm laborers to meatpackers to grocery store clerks. The pandemic, as well as the climate crisis that underlies it, is a race, poverty, and justice issue.

Meanwhile, U.S. oil and gas extraction activities are expanding into agricultural lands, contaminating soil, introducing invasive weed species, and diverting water for irrigation and livestock to fracking operations to blast even more fossil fuels out of the ground. Studies from across the nation show death, neurological disorders, aborted pregnancies, and stillbirths in farm animals that have come in contact with drilling wastewater. Fracking operations invalidate organic certification and industrialize farm country that bring ecological and monetary harm to farmers.

Biologist Sandra Steingraber brings an agroecological perspective to all these disparate issues, exploring how we can, in the language of farmer and author Wendell Berry, solve for pattern rather than single outcomes and put in motion a ramifying set of solutions. Of special interest will be Green New Deal, the climate justice movement, and their combined potential to redesign US agriculture.

Additional Resources

Follow Sandra on Facebook and Twitter: @ssteingraber1

Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings on the Risks and Harms of Fracking: