Rosanne Greco: We can save ourselves from a food crisis

Rosanne Greco is a retired Air Force Colonel, former South Burlington City Council President, and advocate for climate action and environmental protection. Greco writes from South Burlington.

Growing problems are before us. No, as in growing difficulties; but rather as in the difficulties of growing food.

Experts warn that our agricultural soils are at risk. The condition of the soils that grow our food has deteriorated mainly because of industrial agriculture. Big corporations, which have taken over farmland in the United States and around the world, are using unsustainable and downright destructive farming practices.

The heavy use of chemicals, including fertilizers and pesticides, along with overgrowth and other detrimental actions have destroyed the quality of the soil to the point that soon the food grown in it will no longer possess enough nutrients to sustain human life.

Half of the world’s farmland is in trouble. Estimates are that we only have 60 more years of crops. The impacts of the climate crisis caused by droughts, floods, storms, fires, insects, invasive species, loss of pollinators, etc., have aggravated a bad situation. The pandemic, wars and international conflicts are also contributing to food supply problems.

If you stop reading now, thinking you can’t handle another national or global crisis, you’ll miss the good part. Unlike many other issues we face, we have the capacity in some of our own cities to deal with this potential disaster – if we act now. We do not have to hope or rely on national or international leaders to take the necessary action. We have the resources in select cities in Vermont to ensure that we and future residents have access to nutritious food. All we have to do is save the earth.

For example, here in my hometown of South Burlington, we have enough fertile soil to feed most of the city’s residents. A few years ago, the city commissioned a study to determine if there was enough arable land to grow enough nutritious food to feed the entire population of South Burlington. The conclusion was YES! Since that report, some of this fertile soil has been paved over for housing construction, and South Burlington’s population has increased.

However, this is not an all or nothing effort. South Burlington still has enough land to feed thousands of people. I bet other towns in Vermont do too. But that can’t happen if we don’t stop the land from being paved for housing developments. Housing on open land eliminates soil and, at the same time, adds more people who will need to be fed. Our city has plenty of space for affordable housing in already developed areas. Any new housing should be located away from open land that has arable soil.

For decades, experts have known about the climate crisis and have been trying to get policymakers to change course. Tragically, elected officials failed to take the necessary action. Now we find ourselves precariously close to the point of no return. If leaders had taken the actions recommended when they were first alerted, we would not be in the climate crisis we find ourselves in today. Now experts are sounding the alarm that our food system is in danger. Will this threat also be ignored?

We have the time and the resources to deal with the impending food crisis. Vermont’s elected officials can take action that will help feed thousands of people. Everything depends on the preservation of our soils, one of our most precious natural resources. If we do this in our cities and towns in Vermont, maybe other places will follow our example and do the same.

Specifically, I advocate that our city and state officials enact strict regulations that protect all remaining topsoil from development, and establish guidelines and incentives to enable local food production. Preserving the ability to feed ourselves will save our lives. Will you join me in calling on your advisors, selection committee members, and state officials to save our soils?

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Keywords: food, Rosanne Greco, soil quality

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