I have recently been in southern Spain for a yoga retreat. Here’s the view from the yurt I was staying in. Lovely, right? But this photo actually tells a different tale – a darker tale of drastic intervention, depletion, destruction and, dare I say it, devastation. How could that be? Look at the parched land. All of the olive trees, some of which were over 1000 years old, and whose roots prevented soil erosion, have been cut down to grow wheat instead. And why? EU subsidies – farmers get paid via these subsidies for growing wheat, not olives.
But it gets worse. Losing the trees and hedgerows has created a monoculture, which is fed with chemical fertilisers and sprayed with Monsanto pesticides, according to the farmers I spoke to. Sometimes the harvest is so weak that it just isn’t worth cutting and processing it, so they burn it instead. After all, they get the EU subsidy for growing the crop, regardless of whether they end up harvesting and selling it. This burning, which I witnessed whilst in Spain, adds more carbon to the atmosphere, messing up the carbon cycle and, as I understand it from the permaculture experts, making the land even less useful.
This is a very sad state of affairs, adding to a worrying trend in southern Spain – that of desertification. In fact, if you look at a satellite image of southern Europe and north Africa, Spain is becoming an extension of the Sahara, and the region already contains Europe’s only true desert – Almeria. It is predicted that in 50 years the entire region could be totally dry and unproductive if nothing is done.
Even if these weak crops were harvested, would you really want to eat them? They contain very low levels of useful nutrition, and will be especially depleted in minerals, since the soil is mostly pesticide-ridden dust. With such farming techniques becoming more widespread, and the soil becoming ever more depleted, it’s more important than ever to consider food supplementation. Yes, I know, in theory if you’re on an excellent wholefoods raw or high-raw diet, you shouldn’t need it. But life isn’t perfect and our monocultured soil is in a mess.
Artificial fertilisers only provide “NPK” as it is known – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Where are you going to get your other 89 minerals from? Not to mention the thousands of phytonutrients that you need for optimal health. Please click here to listen to why I believe supplementation is essential (scroll down on the webpage for “Do we need supplements?”). And click here for what I recommend to bridge the gap between what you are eating and what you should be eating. To find out more about the importance of minerals, click here.
You can avoid adding to the problem by reducing or eliminating your demand for monocultured crops. Why eat wheat anyway? We don’t have to – in fact, eliminating it is a positive health upgrade that is easy to do. You can also support local organic farmers – they know what to do to replenish and regenerate the soil, working with nature rather than against it.
And to prevent the northern extension of the Sahara into Europe? I attended an excellent presentation about what the retreat centre is doing about desertification. It was given by a representative of Danyadara, a non-profit organisation that is planting trees (olive, fig, almond etc.) in this part of Spain, regenerating the land and teaching local farmers to get the benefits by doing the same. No more monoculture and crop-burning. Making Spain greener again. It’s a long-term project, but highly worthwhile. You can find out more here. I’ve donated. I hope that you’ll consider doing the same.