Those who forget history are doomed to re-eat it

By: Marc R. aka Mental Masala
Published: Dec. 19th, 2008 / 8:00 a.m.

Above the din of the enthusiastic multitude of Green Festival attendees in San Francisco, renowned author, ethnobotanist, food preservationist, and historian Gary Paul Nabhan gave a whirlwind tour of topics with global, regional, and personal scope.

Nabhan started with a big-picture perspective. The current and future food crises, he said, are closely linked with the energy and water crises. At the same time that we are depleting our planet’s non-renewable fossil fuel supply, we are also draining ancient water sources much faster than they can be refilled. Nabhan called this “fossil water” to highlight that some groundwater sources, like the Ogallala aquifer in the American southern plains, were slowly filled across the span of many millennia.

One of the causes of this is agribusiness’s focus on forcing crops into places where they don’t belong. Importing a water-hungry plant into an arid climate leads to a reliance on artificial irrigation, and often other imported inputs like chemical fertilizers. As our water and energy supplies diminish, he said, it is time to start choosing plants and animals that are place-appropriate.

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