Of California’s nearly 100 million acres of land, over 40 percent of it is used for agriculture. Although agriculture is a vital industry for California’s food supply, the environmental impacts of the business is detrimental towards the future of California’s once fertile lands. Agriculture is a leading cause of accelerated erosion, pollution through excretion of greenhouse gases, and deforestation. Because of China’s rich agricultural history, its soils are subsiding 40 percent faster than nature can replace it. In comparison to China, California’s 10 percent soil degradation rate may seem minor, but if California continues to abide by these environmentally flawed practices, the fertile land will surely and entirely erode away.
Sustainable agricultural practices have begun to develop over the past few decades and are slowly becoming the new standard. The forerunner of this movement is an ecological design system called permaculture. Modeled after natural ecosystems, permaculture design promotes not only agricultural biodiversity, but faunal diversity as well. Compared to conventional agricultural practices such as the application of pesticides and fertilizers, a permaculture landscape allows nature to take its course. The animals foraging the lands will eat the unusable fruits fallen from the trees and in turn produce manure to keep the soils fertile. The concept of a permaculture landscape reverts back to predevelopment ideas while having people added into the mix. Although the goal is to have a “self-maintained” system, people reside in the hub of the system to constantly manage the land and harvest the fruits and vegetables to eat. This mixture of people, plants and animals creates a community with an idealistic synergy.
Although permaculture may have an innumerable amount of benefits, this design system is yet to be seen at a large scale. The San Joaquin Valley is currently California’s main agricultural hub with a large chunk of this land being prime farmland, but there is another valley on the other side of the mountains that may have farmland that is just as good. The Owens Valley’s smooth profile along with its convenient location to adjacent river systems branching from the mountains make it a suitable area for agriculture. Although this area may be scarcely populated, creating a series of permaculture landscapes throughout may result in not only environmental benefits, but communal benefits as well. By using the Owens Valley as a model, the revolution of sustainable agriculture will surely be set in motion.
I appreciate your concern about the impacts of agriculture. This is a subject matter that is important to be aware of in our academics.