Counter-balancing the rate of global warming

Introduction

The world in the twenty first century has encountered a global problem in the field of environment that appears as the increasing average temperature of the Earth’s surface or widely known as global warming. The increasing amount of greenhouse gasses[1], among which carbon dioxide is the foremost substance, said to be the leading factor why the average global temperature greater than ever. The greenhouse phenomenon explains that the sun’s heat trapped in the atmosphere due to the role of greenhouse gasses and this relation makes the Earth temperature suitable for living. But, as the volume of greenhouse gasses expand, the amount of sun’s heat kept in the atmosphere also rise and it triggered the increasing of the temperature. Thus, the grave threat presents by the phenomenon has motivated the elite in international politics to include the environmental problem as one of the aspect of security in the twenty first century.[2] Therefore, according to this approach of security, discussion over environmental issue can be prosecuted in the political realm.

But, the spotlight for resolving this global problem given more to the reduction of fossil fuels in industrial process that put the developed world and the developing countries in, sometimes, a hostile relation, and the other nature of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is disregarded. As one of the main contributor in greenhouse gasses proportion, CO2 believed to involve, if we put in number, 82% of the whole problem and this fact made the CO2 as the center of the issue. It is the cyclical nature of CO2 in the biosphere that often disregard by those who are trying to make sense of the issue.

The Earth as a system provides ‘checks and balances’ mechanism to treat its own problem. The water for example, exist not only in the surface as we see in the oceans, sea, or river, but also in the evaporation process that will further determine the chance for precipitation; and it exist in a cyclic process. As the water, carbon dioxide also exists in so called carbon cyclical process within which the amount of carbon produced in the Earth controlled by the photosynthesis and soil absorption process.[3] Soil is the greatest resort for Carbon [C] in the land ecosystem; it keeps 1400 x 1015 gram of Carbon (read: 1.4 million Megaton of Carbon) and has significant role in the global carbon cyclical process.[4] In this framework of thinking we can conclude that decreasing level of CO2 absorption to the soil can make the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere even higher.

The trend in increasing level of carbon dioxide volume in the air tells us two things: first, the industrial development is the catalyst in carbon emission as in manufacture process and transportation. Second, the capacity of soil in carbon cyclical process has diminished. Furthermore, this paper argued that the human activities in agricultural sector especially by using artificial (non organic) fertilizer and pesticides deteriorated the capacity of the soil in carbon cyclical process as it changed the natural compound of the soil. From this point of view, this paper will focus more on the reason behind soil degradation and to find alternative way to redo the process in order to decreasing the current rate of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Theoretical backgrounds

Tragedy of the Commons

Tragedy of the commons is the term to denote the form of counter-finality to which common pool resources are subject. All ‘commons’, whether land or sea, food or raw materials, are relentlessly depleted by those entitled to take from them, since each argues that if he holds back then others will deprive him. Hence every form of common ownership ends in tragedy, as the resource is exhausted (Garret Hardin: 1968 cited by Robert Scruton, Palgrave and Macmilan Dictionary of Political Thoughts: 1982). In other sense, it can also mean that most of the people who extract the resources think that his part in consuming the area, if it is land, will not significantly endangered the whole; and the tragedy took place when majority’s beliefs are not evidently accurate. As the case in agricultural sector, every farmer used to, some are still, think that using chemically modified materials in the form of fertilizer or pesticides will gain their production and would not harm the land. The tragedy happen when most of the agricultural land in this planet is subject to the using of various types of fertilizers and pesticides that are not biodegradable which means that the substances cannot be decomposed by the biological decomposer such as bacteria and therefore, affect the compound of the land or soil.

Sustainability

It is the concept that approach to the ability of the Earth to maintain its support toward human activities, in this particular issue, agricultural, and therefore, the human need to make sure that the Earth capability to do so can be enjoyed by the next generation of human civilization. In the field of agriculture, the current mechanism of cultivating the land has to respect the rights of the future generations to enjoy the same conditions of the Earth support toward agriculture.

Hypotheses

Based on the backgrounds above, I argue that the widespread use of chemically constructed fertilizer and pesticides instigate the tragedy that is the threat of the Earth losing its environmental support in agricultural sector. Therefore, to ensure sustainability of the agriculture itself, the conduct of farming need to be done in a way that can restore the Earth’s support, in this context, in the carbon cyclical process in order to guarantee the environmental security of future generations of humankind. This is also significant in controlling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so that by restoring the Earth capability in carbon cyclical process we can also ensure the sustainability in farming and in controlling the current rate of global warming.

Agricultural Production and Land Use

In the modern society and capitalistic system of economy, we recognize the concept of mass production in which the production process of things, including the crops, conducted with less consideration of the actual needs from the market of consumers; in simple way, it’s over production. When it comes to the agricultural business, the farmers, whether like or not, sway to this method of production. One of the advantages of the mechanism is the potential for exporting the products of agriculture. But, the lost is even bigger. Then the fact that in everyone’s mind that his deed in using artificial fertilizer and pesticides consider the small amount comparing to the Earth system, leading the problem of environment into a major catastrophic since everyone think alike. The Earth carrying capacity has its limits in terms of the capacity to restore the land that once used for planting crops.

Environmental discourse cannot therefore simply take the terms of industrialism as given, but must depart from these terms (Dryzek: 1997).  When agricultural activities follow the flow of the industry, then the farmers only care for the efficient way to boost the harvests and sometimes disregard the impact their way of doing things to the mother Earth. For example, in order to enlarge the products, fertilizer is very necessary, but the fertilizer cannot work all alone, it also has to be the pesticides to play its part in controlling pests. But, the nature has a unique capability to adapt to whatever put into it. Pests, in this context, can adapt their immunity to certain pesticides and therefore can no longer be controlled with the same pesticides, or at least not with the same portion of dose.

The way the modern-industrial minded farmers interact with the nature tells us one thing, the nature will become more resist and the farmer cannot afford to use minimum amount of fertilizer and pesticides use in their farming. Regardless the nature capacity to adapt, to some extent the nature just can’t compete within this race. As the result, vast areas of farms become stiffer and harder to be plant upon. The other impact to the soil is erosion. In riverbed area in Cimanuk, West Java, for example, the rate of erosion reach the number of 5.2 mm per year that incorporate 332 thousands of hectare area.[5]

Besides, the rate of destruction is even accelerated through deforestation for farming area. Although the lands are still ‘green’ the ecosystem fundamentally changed. This deforestation for agriculture cause decreasing production of organic elements of Carbon and the amount of Carbon stored within the soil in the first year of conversion.[6] Prediction of Carbon loses because of the conversion of forest into agricultural farms in the world reach 55 Pg (Cole, 1996). This level of loses become the reverence level for the potential recovery of the carbon cyclical process with the assumption that the agricultural mechanism is improved in the way favorable by the nature.[7] As mentioned before, the amount of natural Carbon store in the soil also impact the global warming in the sense of increasing the rate of climate change that will later on decrease the capability of land for agriculture itself.

The New ‘Green Revolution’

Considering the impact has been brought by the way we cultivating the land, the way of farming must be change to a ‘greener’ concept. The new way of farming in prediction, can restore the amount of Carbon loses up to 50% within the period of 50-100 years that would reach, if the process went smoothly, 20-30 Pg (Cole, 1996). In comparison, this amount is equal to 7-11% of fossil fuels emission rate in 1990 for 50 years.[8] And, one of the possible ways to restore the amount of Carbon to the soil is by using natural fertilizer and pesticides.

Natural fertilizer is basically the nutrients for crops that can be found in the other creatures. In other word it is called ‘bio-fertilizer’ that is defined as inoculants containing active material of living microorganisms which functions to fix a particular nutrient and facilitate the availability of soil nutrients to plants. Facilitating the availability of nutrient can be carried out by increasing access to soil nutrients by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, phosphate solubilization by phosphate-solubilizing microorganisms, as well decomposition by fungi, actinomycetes or soil worms. Many research findings indicate that most agricultural lands have been degraded and their productivity has been decreasing. Organic fertilizers and bio-fertilizers can play a great role to improve the fertility of the soil.[9] It is recorded from Indonesian Ministry of Farming that the resource of bio-fertilizer can also help in soil recovery composition. By this approach of planting and farming, we can ensure the sustainability of the Earth system by keep restoring the natural or organic materials back into the ground.

Conclusion

The practice of modern farming has surely set drawbacks to the nature by the mass production of crops and dependence towards artificial fertilizer and pesticides. The agricultural activities are not only damaging the fertility of the soil, but in larger terms, it also disrupted the carbon cyclical process in which the environment works and therefore worsened the rate of global warming. But, the Earth also provides us the solution through the potential use of several living thing as the source of fertilizer and pesticides. Through the research of environmental scientist, we know that the green way of agriculture can restore the loss of organic Carbon up to half of the losses. Nevertheless, the current findings of facts still do not influences the environmental policy of Indonesia for the farmers are still dependent upon the chemical fertilizer. If the ‘green’ policy still not put on high priority of consideration, the damaged to the Earth support system will be more difficult for us, human, to cope with.

Bibliography

Dryzek, John S. The Politics of the Earth: Environmental Discourses. Oxford University Press.1997

Meadows, Donella H., Meadows, Dennis L., and Rounders, Jorgen. Beyond the Limits: Global Collapse or Sustainable Future? Earthscan Publications.London.1992

Cole CVK. Agricultural option for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Climate Change 1995. Impacts, Adaption and Mitigation of Climate Change. Cambridge University Press. 1996

Horne , James E. and McDermott, Maura. The Next Green Revolution: Essential Steps towards Healthy, and Sustainable Environment. Food Products Press

Suriadikarta, Didi Ardi, and Simanungkalit, R.D.M.  Organic Fertilizer And Bio-fertilizer, Balai Besar Litbang Sumberdaya Lahan Pertanian Badan Penelitian dan Pengembangan Pertanian, 2006 (pdf)

Widjaja, Hermanu ‘Penyimpanan Karbon dalam Tanah’ Alternatif Carbon Sink dari Pertanian Konservatif, accessed through <http://tumoutou.net/702_04212/hermanu_w.htm&gt;,28 March 2009


[1] Greenhouse gasses is the term represent the type of gas that able to keep the heat from the sun in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxides (N2O). Human activities like burning of fossil fuels, from agricultures, and waste dumps are blamed for the producer of these gasses in huge amount and released it to the air.

[2] United Nations developed new framework for seeing the security in the contemporary world and proposing the concept of human security which is the guarantee of protection from grave threats, and empowerment of people to pursue their potential. This concept of security validates in several aspects: economic, health, food, environment, personal, community, and political security. Furthermore see Judith Large and Timothy D. Sisk in Democracy, Conflict and Human Security Pursuing Peace in the 21st Century’ published by IDEA.2006

[3] The soil has capacity to absorb carbon through binding the chemical reaction of substances by the Calcium and Magnesium Carbonate.

[4] Hermanu Widjaja, lecturer in Bogor Agricultural Institute (IPB), cited Post et al in his article ‘Penyimpanan Karbon dalam Tanah’ Alternatif Carbon Sink dari Pertanian Konservatif, accessed through <http://tumoutou.net/702_04212/hermanu_w.htm&gt;,28 March 2009

[5] Abdurachman Adi, Degradasi Tanah Pertanian Indonesia Tanggung Jawab Siapa? (pdf)

[6] Hermanu Widjaja, Op.cit.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Didi Ardi Suriadikarta and R.D.M. Simanungkalit, Organic Fertilizer And Bio-fertilizer, Balai Besar Litbang Sumberdaya Lahan Pertanian Badan Penelitian dan Pengembangan Pertanian, 2006 (pdf)

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