Book Review – Green Gone Wrong

Joanna Schroeder

Everyone has an opinion about the veracity of global warming, except, maybe global governments who are pursing economic improvements on the back of climate change. The quest for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and predominately carbon dioxide (CO2) has led to a spurt of new research around the development of more sustainable practices and technologies. But at what cost to the environment? This question is asked and answered in the new book Green Gone Wrong, by Heather Rogers.

This question may on the surface sound like an oxymoron. How can you be developing technologies to improve the environment, yet hurt it at the same time? According to Rogers, this is in fact happening every day, all over the world. Rogers breaks up the offenses into three categories: food, shelter and transportation.

The crux of the food section studies what organic farming really means (or doesn’t mean) and the movement to “beyond organic“.

So let’s talk a little about Rogers’ view of agriculture. She writes, “The fallout from conventional agriculture can be devastating. Synthetic fertilizers typically contain high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, much of which is eventually washes into coastal waters where it fuels rampant algae growth.” The result are Dead Zones where no fish can survive.

She continues by saying that pesticides linger on food, which “wreak havoc on human health.”

Ironically, she does note that organic farming may not be all that friendly either. Many farmers who are part of the locally grown organic movement, barely, if at all follow USDA’s guidelines for organic food due to expense and time constraints. And many opponents to the current definition of organic claim that food grown this way is virtually no better than conventional ag.

Rogers defines the locally grown organic movement as a group of farmers who are going above and beyond government regulations and are growing food in a manner that is truly environmentaly sustainable. She cites examples of how this group of people are expected to lead the reinvention of the food system. However, she writes, they can barely make ends meet. Even accounting for the people who are willing to pay a higher price for organic food, farmers working in this niche are barely, if at all, making ends meet. This she says, is just one example of green gone wrong. Green gone right would support these farmers.

While she doesn’t necessarily get into the debate or organic versus conventional ag, she does open your eyes to the fact that the move to “organic” is causing environmental disasters around the world. Farmers in many countries are tearing down rainforests in an effort to gain more cropland to grow more organic food to feed the world. This is an unintended consequence, that Rogers notes has major negative implications. She also demonstrates that practices in the name of the environment may be better on the surface, but are actually worse than current methods when you dig under the surface.

Regardless of where you stand on conventional or organic farming, I do believe that she is right. There are many environmental injustices happening around the globe in the name of sustainability. So, if you’d like to learn more about what is going wrong in the environmental movement and how to change course, then Green Gone Wrong is a good place to start.

Book Review, Farming, Food, Organic