Urban agriculture is the way to regain the joy of eating healthy, tasty food.
Whether you've been watching Blue Planet 2, or Al Gore on climate change, or personally been devastated by a drought or hurricane, you'll know that the human race is facing a huge challenge; it's being called ecocide.
Either we change our ways, or like the dinosaurs we face the very real possibility of extinction; the very least is that our children's children will be at war with each other on a scale unimaginable over water and food.
Roughly one third of the food grown by farmers is never actually consumed; today we are getting by with that, just, but with the astronomic growth of the human population, very soon there are going to be serious riots as the price of our basics spirals out of control.
Part of the solution is urban agriculture; growing your own food, be it in small measure on a balcony or a huge garden as I am privileged to enjoy.
Have you ever read this quote by one of the most influential men in history?
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you ever need."
- Marcus Cicero, Roman politician, lawyer and orator
A garden and a book; that's what Bernard Preston stands for.
Urban agriculture is fundamentally dependent on water. If you have a few herbs and perhaps a pot with a tomato plant, then you can probably rely on the utility, though even there the price is set to rise. Before planning to grow your own food, you may first have to consider how to harvest and store rainwater.
There's a radical line of thought that a large proportion of water in our dams and rivers should be reserved for agriculture to cope with feeding the population explosion, and for factories to provide work for the masses. City dwellers must become in large measure responsible for their own water supply; from the heavens, and perhaps from boreholes.
So too there is this interesting interplay between agriculture and climate; the more we chop down forests to grow cocoa and palm oil, for example, just to cite two products, the higher atmospheric carbon rises, and with it the greenhouse effect.
That means climate change, drought and floods, which impacts on agriculture; it's the circular nature of how our food choices are having a dramatic noxious influence on the weather and how farmers will be able to continue to supply that huge and growing demand that is of such concern.
Whilst red meat consumption is set to rise in the short term, perhaps dramatically, impacting on greenhouse gases, within a hundred years the vast majority of humans will be getting their protein from legumes like chickpeas and lentils. They require far less water than animals for food production, and release no noxious nitrogen or carbon into the atmosphere.
These are all uncomfortable thoughts, but they won't go away with the ostrich mentality. Action needs to be taken now to preserve civilization; otherwise the mother of all wars will end it all in our struggle for food and water.
Urban agriculture means you know precisely how most of your food is grown, fertilized and sprayed. All around you, friends and family, are they suffering from cancer and an astonishing array of autoimmune diseases as never before? Have you made the connection?
Added to the mix is the way agricultural practices have changed to provide food exactly the way we demand it; the potatoes must be all be the same size so the plants must be sprayed with a herbicide; wheat and soya beans get the same treatment and the size of broccoli head must conform to the dictates of Brussels and the housewife; traces of these noxious chemicals are in most of our food today.
Cattle must be raised in feedlots, pigs in sties and chickens in cages and indoor barns; their lives have become utterly inhumane, if that's the right word, to satisfy our demand for meat. But it means that our food source has become as unhealthy as we are. Do we honestly think that milk from a cow raised on pastures is the same as that kept in a shed 365 days a year?
Take a loaf of bread, for example. The genetically modified wheat is grown in Canada, sprayed with Glyphosate just before harvest; an insecticide is added to the grain to stop the weevils; it is transported to your country where most of the germ and bran are removed and sold back to you separately as vitamin E capsules, omega fatty acids and the B-complex; if you buy them; the majority simply suffer deficiencies. Then the baker adds palm oil from Indonesia to it, soybean flour from Brazil and perhaps a few sesame or poppy seeds from elsewhere.
It was in fact bread that got me thinking half a century ago as a student in Chicago. Why did it taste so terrible that we had to smear our slices with jelly and layer them with processed meat? A lecture from the renowned Dr Shute on how the refining of vitamin E, an anti coagulant, out of bread flour was the principle cause of the cardiovascular epidemic that has characterised the last 150 years, put a scientific basis to what was just an impression, and confirming this is not fake news; prior to the refining of wheat, heart disease was almost unheard of.
Perhaps even worse, it's the removal of the bran, rich in lignans, that has contributed so strongly to the horrific rise in breast cancer.
Although our personal journey of urban agriculture will have a minuscule effect on the global changes that need to be made, should growing our own food become a world wide trend, it will have an impact.
For the moment it's just the improvement in one's own health, giving the reality of a life without medication substance rather just a pipe dream, and the inner peace that comes with gardening, that drives one on when there are setbacks. If all over the world we can again discover the joy of real food from our own urban agriculture, reaped straight from the garden to the kitchen, reducing our need for the plastic that's clogging our world, then there's hope for a greener future.
Each of us must make our own green journey; for it to be sustainable, it has to be in answer to the beat that is drumming in your own heart; it's often known as backyard permaculture; working with nature rather than against it.
If it's the call to better health that is summonsing you, start by finding a source of 'real bread' as it's being called, with none of the germ or bran removed. And then urban agriculture, for you, might mean planting four rows of vegetables in your garden; spinach and kale, lettuce and green beans would be my recommendation.
If you are sick of the tasteless food that can only be eaten with flavour enhancers and preservatives, both of which you know are killing you and your family, return to your own kitchen instead of the fast food outlet.
If you are really tired of taking pills, start exercising, avoid the supermarket as far as possible and spend more time at the greengrocer getting fresh fruit and vegetables grown in your own locale. Drink unsweetened ice tea instead of colas, look for new potatoes and start reading and studying; what is resistant starch for example? Can you again begin to enjoy carbohydrates that will not make you fat? Find out why we should all be enjoying at least eight, and preferably fifteen coloured foods every day.
In my lunch below, there are least seven, in one meal, more if you include the trace of parsley in the hummus and the lemon juice and garlic in the bean salad, and this a 100% wholemeal slice of bread; the taste is to die for, only spoiled by smearing it with jellies or slices of cold meats.
If your passion is to reduce greenhouse gases, look to harvesting and
storing rainwater, digging up the lawn, and start growing your own food
on a much larger scale. Urban agriculture in an incredibly broad topic; dive in where you feel led.
I can promise you one thing to weigh, one cost to consider, and that is that all this all takes time; could you halve the attention you give to those having fun on television, and start enjoying your own life instead? For one immediate benefit, you can cancel your gym contract and get your exercise by turning the sod, humping compost about the garden and digging a hole for a lemon tree; I promise you it's a lot more enjoyable than a treadmill.
Our food needs to be local as far as is possible; visit the farmers' market around the corner, eat what's in season and get inspired to grow your own food.
Enjoy the ride; urban agriculture has been one helluva journey for me; not for a moment would I step inside a fast food restaurant again, not after tasting the produce from my own garden.
Cicero was consumed with the garden and books; we should be too. If you have neither you are leading a deprived life.
In the Netherlands, Wagening University and Research looks at value creation cooperation. There's plenty of space for the entrepreneur.