Is intensive agriculture good or bad? Was the Green Revolution one of the best, or one of the worst, things ever to happen on this planet?
In that regard, check out this article by Richard Black, for the BBC: Green Revolution’s diet of big carbon savings
US researchers found cumulative global emissions since 1850 would have been one third as much again without the Green Revolution’s higher yields.
Although modern farming uses more energy and chemicals, much less land needs to be cleared.
“Converting a forest or some scrubland to an agricultural area causes a lot of natural carbon in that ecosystem to be oxidized and lost to the atmosphere,” said Steven Davis, from the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University in California.
“What our study shows is that these indirect impacts from converting land to agriculture outweigh the direct emissions that come from the modern, intensive style of agriculture….”
Of course, what this study doesn’t cover (or at least, not mentioned in the BBC story) is the other, non-carbon-emission environmental impacts of different forms of agriculture. None the less, this study seems to put one very large plus sign in the column of intensive, industrial agriculture.
(Thanks to Andrew Potter for showing me this story.)