Film Review on Documentary Sustainable

The documentary Sustainable is a close investigation into America's food and agricultural system. This film focuses on exposing the climate crisis we face if we don't unite to find solutions to sustain our future for not only us, but also our future generations.

The film focuses on a local central Illinois farmer Marty Travis. Marty is a 7th generation farmer whose land and neighbors' farms have collapsed from large industrial agribussines. Determined to overcome big agribusiness greed, Marty forms a cooperative of farmers, The Stewards of the Land, allowing these farmers to work together growing chemical free and to pioneer the sustainable food movement in Chicago.

Something that struck my attention during the film was the simple fact that 50-60 years ago mostly all produce was bought locally and seasonally. Today our food is thought of as a commodity, over time frozen, easy, and convenient food became more and more popular.

The face of agriculture slowly transformed into 'how can we make the most amount of money in the least amount of time.' This is a problem that maybe isn't evident to many of us everyday. This fast food, unsustainable, conventional food system we live on today is causing a huge health care crisis, a natural resources crisis, and climate change crisis.

The film interviews some of the most forward thinking farmers of our time who explain simple steps we farmers can take today to avoid using roundup ready and GMO seeds. I think soil is something most people take for granted. If people understood the incredible value soil has when treated correctly, people might be able to see the reality of one day ending world hunger. An estimated 6.9 billion tons of soil are lost every year in the US to erosion (Sustainable). Soil is one of the most invaluable resources we have, it's ability to sustain civilizations, sequester carbon, and maintain healthy biological diversity are essential to human survival.

Marsden Farm Research provides evidence that we can live on a sustainable food system less dependent on non-renewable resources while protecting our environment from harmful impacts. One simple practice they carry out on their farm is adding oats and red clover or alfafa to corn and soy rotations which reduces the need for mineral nitrogen fertilizer by 91% and herbicide by 95%. Just by adding oats and red clover, the plants themselves take out nitrogen from the atmosphere for the roots so farmers don't need to add anymore.

When our soil is healthy and full of life, we can feed people for thousands of years to come. If we continue on the path we're on today with monocrops, spraying pesticides and herbicides on our food, and using GMO seeds, we are essentially destroying our soil and our ability to continue to feed the world in a sustainable manner. 

This isn't only a climate change issue, this is also an enormous health issue. Over $800 billion are spent annually on disease related expenses to diet and inactivity in the US (Sustainable). Little people know that 95% of meat in the United States is raised in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), where millions of chickens, pigs, or cows are piled into one concentrated area, injected with medications and antibiotics because of the diseases and enlarged cysts they accumulate from their living conditions. Each CAFO produces these murky pink lagoons which is essentially pig manure and raw sewage from the hog and cattle operations. These lagoons flow into streams and are used to spray local farmers' crops, the food that will eventually end up on your plate.  Our agricultural system has somehow gradually accepted these conditions.

Image from CAFO Connection

Image from CAFO Connection

Around the 1950s a lot of the knowledge people had of plants and animals working together and that nothing is wasted and everything is recycled was thrown out. To reach a sustainable agricultural system we first need to have a conversation about regenerative agriculture where plants are naturally resistant to pests, resilient to climate crisis, and where nothing is wasted and everything is recycled.  One way we can start the conversation is by demanding a national food policy in America. The United States is one of the only countries in the world without a national food policy. A national food policy would demand that our food be produced for the well being of everyone instead of putting big agribusiness' interests first. Our current system has caused immense damage to our health, air, water and biodiversity. We must wake up to these threats and demand change. For more information about a national food policy visit here.

Image from Permaculture Podcast