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Shrinking Agriculture's Footprint

Our newest podcast episode with Miriam Horn

For optimal sustainability, which farming practice is best? Miriam Horn, who worked for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) for over ten years, says: well, it depends. Don’t choose a sweeping solution; farming smart is place-dependent: where can we sacrifice the least biodiversity, the least sequestered carbon? Agriculture’s footprint is already vast – half of the ice-free planet – so the stakes are high. But taking Miriam’s practical stance toward conservation moves us past political divisions. Her book (now also a film), Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman, pushes against both the myth that conservation is a liberal coastal value and that you must be small and local to contribute to the solution.

In this interview, Miriam walks us through the many waves of environmentalism: from the bedrock laws of the 60s to the combative postures of the 80s, from bridge-building partnerships and market leveraging to information technology integration. Tune in for Miriam’s lessons on balancing land sparing with land sharing, how EDF taught Walmart to prioritize better farming, and why we must move past agrarian romanticism.

You can find us on iTunesSpotifyStitcherGoogle PlayOvercast, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

Casting a wider net for a better food future >>>
Jamie Fanous on depolarizing agriculture
The way in which farming should approach conservation, climate mitigation, and production has been greatly contested among individuals in the agriculture community. Many leaders have deeply rooted beliefs on the single best farming system for the future. But it’s not that simple; all strategies have a role to play. Miriam Horn reminds us that no one solution works for all ecosystems, crops, or farmers. It is critical that we think about the most sustainable strategies on a local level, work to encourage more partnerships, and recognize the opportunities technology presents, rather than argue about which system is best across the country or world.
Further reading
Small-scale farming does have value and will remain to play an important role where it makes economic, ecological, and socio-cultural sense. But as a broad direction for the future of global agriculture, we believe it is the wrong model.

A Plausible Vision to Feed the Planet.
Setting aside half the earth for conservation is a daunting but not impossible challenge. But it’s clear that our agricultural systems will have to become much more productive. The future of conservation and our global food system are inseparably tied to one another. 

Toward a Half-Earth Future.

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