Why is prairie important? Water filtration. Prevents erosion. A nursery for native insects which do the core of pollinating 70% of our food and are the base of the wildlife food chain. Grasslands also used to be incredible carbon sinks hedging against climate change, and cleaning the air like the Amazon rain forest; you've read my rant about that I hope. Lot's of graphs and stats there.
|Red = a ton of conversion going on|
Yes, let's plow up marginal prairie land that's highly erodible, that may or may not get enough rain year to year, because we have crop subsidies -- the farmer will make money no matter what. And let's be clear the farmer is not the Super Bowl ad's romantic version, it's big ag companies. It's lobbyists in government. The farmer is dead and died half a century ago.
Yes, let's plow it up. We need more corn, 80% of which goes to feedlots to fatten up animals as soon as possible, and those fat animals increase our risk for heart disease because they're so fatty. This is not the bread basket of the world (if it was we wouldn't be growing monocultures), it's the bread basket of corporate greed and genocide on a scale I thought we'd left behind: give us our beef, our diabetes-inducing high fructose corn syrup snuck in to almost every product. What a killing Cargill makes.
Yes, genocide. We did it once with the Plains Native Americans, and in the process were pretty thorough with countless species of flora and fauna. But we didn't finish the job. There's still land left in the northern Plains. The prairie pothole region where some 90% of North America's waterfowl breed. But why do we need ducks? We need ducks because they need prairie. Bible-thumping conservative rural folks, scripture says what you do the least of these you do to Me. Me = God. If you take away homes, cause extinction of species, you are eradicating any hope of heaven. You are eroding divinity.
Look at the lesser prairie chicken, an animal now relegated to northwest Oklahoma and southwest Kansas almost exclusively. One chicken needs literally tens of thousands of acres of open prairie to survive. If you save the prairie chicken, you save countless other species -- you also save us. You save us from the dust bowl and real starvation, you save us from climate change (for a while), you save us from our darker selves. We are better than this.
Maybe we should stop chaining ourselves to oil pipeline equipment and move to the prairie. Let's see thousands of people in a field chained together, preventing that last habitat from vanishing forever. Why? Because damn it, we can't be this bad. We can't be this evil. We can't be this stupid. We can't.
If we don't value the land that sustains us, we don't value each other and ourselves. We might as well start jumping off buildings and shooting each other -- end the misery our children and grandchildren will endure because of us, this culture. We are better than this. We love our children, don't we? We value our lives, don't we? Must our rage and ego condemn all life to just hanging on? Must our own insecurities be forcibly echoed on the landscape around us until all creation suffers the human condition of doubt, longing, and fear? If you can't love the least of this planet, there's little hope you can genuinely love anything at all.
*Mother Jones came out with a piece that has lots of fun facts:
-- If farmers set aside some land for pasture we'd have healthier and tastier beef, and that grassland would mitigate farming greenhouse gas emissions by 36% since it'd be a carbon sink.
-- Prairie loss from 2006-2011 was on a pace similar to that of the AMAZON RAINFOREST. So where's a "save the prairie" campaign with sad tv commercials? Prairie is our rainforest!
-- This level of rapid conversion has not been seen since the 1920s and 1930s. We all know what happened as a result. If we plow up erodible land, fill in ponds, and take down trees, we're undoing everything the government made farmers do to prevent a dust bowl repeat! Lordy we are stupid.
-- Prices for corn and soybeans doubled between 2006-2011, thanks to ethanol mandates (you know it takes as much energy / resources to produce the equivalent amount of ethanol) and crop insurance.
-- This month the USDA issued a report, "Climate Change and Agriculture in the US" which states that it won't be until mid century when climate change starts to inflict serious yield declines. (But if we plow up more prairie, won't we be releasing more stored carbon and creating more temperature increases? We have to leave prairie alone NOW and pray to God, that's what the report really should say.)