By Kendra Klein and Kari Hamerschlag
Forty five years have passed since Earl Butz, then U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, asserted, "Before we go back to organic agriculture in this country, somebody must decide which 50 million Americans we are going to let starve or go hungry." Time has proven Butz very wrong.
The weight of four decades worth of scientific evidence tells us that organic farming is critical to feeding ourselves, now and into the future, as a new report by Friends of the Earth explains. Not only can organic farming yield enough to feed a growing population, it helps to protect and regenerate the ecological basis of food production: the water and soil that provide us with nourishment, the pollinators that are responsible for one in three bites of food we eat and the ecosystems that sustain all of life.
Industrial agriculture, on which Butz bet his chips, is a losing gamble and not a small one. Environmental harm caused by industrial farming costs the world $3 trillion each year according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Evidence of industrial agriculture's destructive path is everywhere. From soil erosion and depletion of water resourcesto oceanic "dead zones" associated with synthetic fertilizer run-off and generation of major greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than feeding the world sustainably into the future, the industrial food system is cutting off the branch we're sitting on.
Compared with industrial agriculture, organic farming is less energy intensive, helps pollinators and other beneficial insects flourish and promotes biodiversity. Organic systems provide greater resilience in the face of climate-related weather impacts like drought and floodsby improving soil structure and soil water-holding capacity. By sequestering more carbon in the soil than industrial practices, organic and other conservation-based farming systems are crucial climate change mitigation strategies.
Along with environmental benefits, organic also outperforms industrial agriculture on measures of economic stability and well-being. Organic farming systems are more profitablefor farmers and boost local economies. One study found that in U.S. counties with high levels of organic production, median household incomes are higher and poverty levels are reduced. Importantly, organic farming protects the health of consumers, farmers, farmworkers and rural communities by eliminating the use of highly toxic pesticides.
A series of expert consensus reports over the past decade affirm this evidence and make it clear that ecological approaches to farming are fundamental to feeding all people, now and into the future. So why is Earl Butz' opinion still so prevalent?
Agrichemical companies and their allies spend tens of millions of dollars to spread misleading messages about the safety and necessity of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture, as Friends of the Earth's Spinning Food report details. These myths—along with a political process captured by corporate interests—bolsters a system that delivers billions of dollars a year in profits to agribusinesses from costly inputs—including pesticides, synthetic fertilizers,antibiotics, growth hormones and genetically engineered seeds.
It's time to change the conversation. Across the country, demand for organic food isskyrocketing, the number of organic farmers in the U.S. has increased by nearly 300 percentsince 2002, concern about agricultural chemicals is mounting and the need to create resilient farming systems in the face of climate change is more pressing than ever.
It's also time to change our policies. Less than two percent of U.S. public agricultural research dollars go to organic and biologically diversified farming and less than one percent of total U.S. cropland is certified organic. Retailers and manufacturers are increasingly looking to foreign producers to satisfy Americans' demand for organic food. The U.S. accounts for 44 percent of the global organic market but just five percent of global land under organic production. Organic is now a $43.3 billion market in the U.S.—we need policies that help our farmers meet that demand.
The opportunity to create fundamental shifts toward a more just and sustainable food system is here. To feed ourselves while confronting the environmental challenges that threaten our future food security—including climate change, soil erosion, water scarcity and loss of biodiversity—we need policies, incentives and public investments that promote diversified organic farming and improved conservation practices on all farms.
Friends of the Earth and our allies are helping to lead a groundswell of citizen, consumer and farmer action focused on building a sustainable, healthy and equitable food system for all. Please join us!
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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