Western society has experienced a growing disdain for meat and dairy production and agricultural techniques. While most of this is directed at conglomerate companies in the food industry, local farmers have also been the target of ethical debate. Social media users may have seen various videos of activists pouring bottled milk down the aisles of Waitrose or clamping the infamous 'Meat is Murder' slogan to t-shirts and banners. All of these demonstrations signify that public attitudes are shifting; YouGov's bi-annual survey of 2,000 people recorded that 2% identified as vegan in 2020 and this rose to 3% the following year. With this growing interest in choosing herbivorous appetites, it is also true that this is about more than just diet. Veganism is, in many cases, as much about lifestyle choices and personal ethics as it is about consumption. A 2022 article for The Guardian reported several accounts of individuals going vegan for 'environmental reasons'. This may be because meat and dairy production releases biotoxins including CO2 and sulphide, commonly known as a 'greenhouse gas'. Agricultural industries have undergone huge amounts of public criticism for their responsibility in this.
U.K. farming has held an integral part in our society's economic and cultural makeup. So, what happens when farmers care about the planet too? With the wave of eco-conscious gen Z-ers and Millennials, alongside societies elders who also share green ambitions, there is undoubtedly room for a cross-over, and for those invested in eco-conscious agriculture. it is clear that business as usual is not an option. Regenerative farming is on the rise in the wake of climate change, a conscious technique that adopts ambitious farming methods designed to increase agricultural resilience to climate change. The main objectives of this include:
Improving the water cycle
Conventional farming is travesty. Everyone's talking about sustainability, but why would you sustain something that's wrong? - Jams Rebanks for the Guardian 2021.
Of course, a very valid argument for increased biodiversity would be to eliminate the consumption of meat. Yet the hierarchy of our diversity problem runs much deeper than mammal level. Our biosystems have gaps from the ground up. Regenerative farming is about keeping the cycle of nutrients within the environment they exist. When nutrients are taken from land by an organism, they change the structure in the way that it needs. When that organism becomes a food source for another, the same happens again. Therefore, nutrients must keep cycling and re-cycling for land quality to improve. Healthy soils absorb carbon dioxide, and if soil qualities are met across more farmlands, the capacity for biodiversity on the ground is increased at a level that can be sustained through farming. Moreover, regenerative techniques in the U.K. could well have a positive effect on controlling ground temperatures as healthy soils facilitate Co2 absorption. Restoring ecosystems at the landscape level includes restoring natural land behaviour and consciously constructing hospitable environments for animals to thrive.
In other corners of this movement, regenerative farming has encouraged a new wave of farmers to restore their natural land. James Rebanks recalled in a Guardian interview that letting the grass grow longer than average resulted in the return of barn owls within two months of leaving the land naturally. In other cases, across the country, marsh and bog lands have been curated to encourage a resurgence in species such as ducks, mallards and kingfishers. The aim is to create practices that support natural ecosystems rather than a monolithically cultured field.
The argument against farming stands firm in certain corners of society, but one thing that cannot be disputed is that climate change is going to affect every systemic and large-scale practise we rely on for market and societal function. Being such a densely populated world, the possibility for independently sourcing food and building private production systems is seemingly impossible against a housing market so dominant on the ground that sky-rights are becoming the norm. For as long as our national-international trading systems are going to be upheld, agriculture will have its place in the sustenance of our economy.
The possibility of environmentalists having an active voice in the agronomy field means that more space can be made for progressive practises that improve our on-the-ground capacity to mitigate further damage to our natural world. We face a dire circumstance in climate change. The more collaboratively these sectors work, the more chance there is of providing solutions that keep food production sustainable and provide tangible opportunities to participate in restoring the natural cycle of our biosphere.