Relationship between energy, environment examined

Kellie Bowen, Staff Writer

A farmland management expert weighed several pros and cons of the turbulent relations between energy and environmental savings.

Jason Bradford gave a speech at Ice Auditorium on Thursday evening titled, “The North American Food System in an Energy-Constrained Future,” which focused on agriculture as a way we interacted with the environment.

A wide array of students attended his speech, from political scientists to biologists to environmentalists to journalists. The speech was also a PLACE event.

Bradford, a managing partner at Farmland LP, a “sustainable farmland investment fund” according to their website, said that industrialized farming is using more energy than it is creating.

He also pointed out that the use and production of fossil fuels and synthetic fertilizers are taking up energy and potential agricultural land.

He used a slideshow to aid his presentation and accompany his speech.

Bradford pointed out that back when people did all the picking of crops – which, as he explained, was called peasant agriculture – there was more human labor per acre as opposed to people using machines to do all the work, especially on hundred-acre crops.

Bradford said, “What’s interesting with industrial agriculture and synthetic fertilizers in particular is that we then have the capacity to not set aside land and recover as much. We can take fossil fuels, convert mineral wealth that was extracted in one place, deposit it on the land, and have high heels going without allowing that land to regenerate more endemically … lower diversification on the land, very high heels but very low inputs.”

He continued to explain how work such as processing, fueling, running the tractors and getting synthetic fertilizers takes up enormous amounts of energy.

It takes “more energy to produce and tend to the crop than the crop itself has to offer.” But the amount of farmers has decreased while the farm fuel use has gone up.

However, “there has not been enough demand for their compost … a lot of it is still getting landfilled.”

It also takes a lot of fuel for people to take their compost to the deposits then take that compost to the plot where it is needed.

Sophomore and sustainability enthusiast Gabi Esparza said, “I liked how he explained how we’ve burned more fossil fuels and create more human bio mass at the expense of wildlife.”

There is still work to be done, and lots more to research to create a perfect agricultural system.