The Meddler’s “Shallow” Take on Deep-Water Wells: Two Responses

iRRIGATION

Preamble

Below is a response from David Weale to Alan Holman’s (the Meddler’s) Guest Column in last Saturday’s Guardian posted on his Facebook Page.

You can read a copy of the Meddler’s Guest Column Here

And you can read a copy of Weale’s Guardian Guest Opinion Here

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Facebook Response to the ‘Meddler’ – by David Weale

“I am writing in response to Alan Holman’s column in last Saturday’s Guardian in which he wrote dismissively about the passionate concern of those Islanders alarmed about the connection between high-capacity wells and the continuation and expansion of industrial farming on the Island.

At one point he referred to “industrial agriculture” as though it were a term we just made-up because we don’t like potato farmers, when actually it is a very accurate, straight-forward description of what has happened across the Island for decades.

What do you call it Alan?

What do you call that ‘get-big-or-get-out’ process that has contributed to the elimination of 10,000 farms on the Island over our lifetime?

And what do you call a process that has increased dramatically the amount of commercial/industrial fertilizer pesticide used, and decreased dramatically the amount of organic matter in the soil, to the point where some biologists have declared that much of the earth on the Island is approaching a condition where it cannot be accurately identified by the word ‘soil’.

What term might you employ to describe that process? Some crass individuals call it “progress.” Don’t tell me you are one of those. Unfortunately, it rather sounds that way. At the very best you came across as a fatalist, resigned to the Irving hegemony over the Island countryside.

You have spoken disparagingly of the deep concern of many Islanders for the health of the soil and the well-being of rural culture. Indeed, you attempted to make it sound as if such concern were a tad silly, or overly dramatic.

But I have a question for you Alan. What do you care about? Where is the line in the sand for you, where inaction seems unthinkable and resistance essential?

I think perhaps it is a question you should answer for otherwise many will be left with the niggling suspicion that you care more about the monoculture of the Irvings than about the need for a diversified, more sustainable agriculture; and more about length of french fries than the shortness of the time we have to clean up our ecological act in this province.

And perhaps I am over-reacting! After all, you do call yourself ‘the Meddler” and perhaps that’s all you were doing; having a little fun meddling, and the worst I should say is, “go meddle someplace else,” where the stakes are not so high.”

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My Facebook Reply to David Weale’s Response to the Meddler

 

Brilliant response to the Meddler David Weale! I have posted your response to Holman (and what follows) in a blog post.
 
David, you speak from the heart, with an obvious intention to heal. It’s not clear from where, exactly, the Meddler is speaking. Nor is his intention clear. And those are indeed the tools employed by “meddlers” – e.g., entering public discourse to deflect attention away from more-sincere efforts underway to discover the root causes of significant social problems.
 
Meddlers deflect away from solving problems pretending they don’t exist, with questions like: “It doesn’t really matter how much extra water we take from our groundwater to grow potatoes for processing…..there’s lots of fresh groundwater in our aquifers to go around.” The really important problems with Island agriculture are totally ignored with this line of reasoning – completely camouflaged. Now that’s meddling!
 
So why do processing potato growers need more water? PEI has been losing the “water-holding capacity” in topsoil at an alarming rate over the past number of decades from a steady and truly alarming loss of Soil Organic Matter. Can the volume of water that is lost in an acre of topsoil with a 1% drop in Soil Organic Matter be calculated? Yes.
 
An article by the Natural Resource Defence Council titled “Organic Matter Can Improve Your Soil’s Water Holding Capacity,” calculated the amount of additional water retained from an increase of 1 percent SOM based on a number of reasonable assumptions: “If an acre of soil is 820,264 kg, then 1 percent organic matter would be 8,202.6 kg/acre…. If we make the assumption that organic matter holds 10 times its weight, or 82,026 kg (180,836 lbs) of water. There are 8.3454 lbs in a gallon, so that is 21,668 gallons of water.”
 
21,668 additional gallons of water per acre from a 1% increase in SOM is significant!
 
When the Pat Binns Government first implemented the ongoing Island -wide Soil Organic Matter Quality study in 1999, the first round of testing discovered a significant rate of decline in the health of PEI soil. No one argued about the source of the negative trend-setting problem – it was being caused by intensive farming methods associated with industrial agricultural farm practices. A minimum acceptable level of 3% SOM was established by Binns.
In the first Island-wide testing results in 1999, it was discovered that only 20% of PEI soil had really good 4% SOM or higher soil, and 38% of PEI farmland was below what was regarded as the minimum 3% SOM level required for farming. Anything below that requires much higher doses of chemical fertilizers to maintain yields.
 
Things have gotten much worse since then! A target was set by Binns to bring 90% of PEI Soil to 3% by 2010, but that didn’t happen. By 2017 there was no longer any PEI farmland with 4% SOM or higher soil, and by 2017 only 24 percent of PEI farmland sampled had 3% or higher SOM. Please allow me to repeat that in a slightly more deliberate and enunciated voice: BY 2017 ONLY 24% OF PEI FARMLAND SAMPLED HAD 3 PERCENT OR HIGHER SOM.
 
As Ian Petrie concluded in a recent article in the Eastern Graphic (shared on Vision PEI’s Facebook page) declining soil quality and the need to restore soil health now makes a strategy to address depleted SOM a priority. I came to the same conclusion as a result of my Farmland Bank study, making the restoration of soil health the priority policy objective informing all other policies and programs.
An Idea for Meddler’s Next Guardian Column
 
Start by calculating the total volume of water wasted in PEI over the last 20 years in PEI, based on the rate of loss of water from decreased SOM in each acre of farmed land each year.
 
Then explain to Islanders how massive volumes of additional water to flush more and more pollutants and toxins into both our groundwater (lower SOM lowers the water-retention capacity of soil) and surface water (lower SOM increases erosion, run-offs, and contamination of streams, rivers, lakes, and estuaries.
 
 
If you’re going to meddle in these historically-significant social issues Mr. Holman, why not meddle by shedding light on the true problems not only seriously affecting our environment from industrial farming but how allowing processing growers to have as many deepwater wells will not be in any way a remedy to the ills from which David Weale seeks relief on behalf of us all, nor an answer to the relentless stress and financial hardships on farmers leading to the continual reduction in the number of family farms. Perhaps you are unaware of all that…meddlers seldom get the whole story.
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3 Responses to The Meddler’s “Shallow” Take on Deep-Water Wells: Two Responses

  1. Tom Sawyer says:

    Alan Holman is a liberal hack disguised as a journalist. He got a plum appointment by Lawrence Macaulay on the Indian land claims Commission. These people who pose as journalists only for personal gain and political favour are the present day Judas’ to the public. I don’t know how he shows his face in public. Worse yet Holland college will probably have him teaching “journalism ” to young people. Kinda like Rick MacLean.

  2. waburden says:

    Mr. Holman definitely appears to have captured a sentiment that reflects a majority of Islanders that prefer to remain ignorant and sit on their hands while the powerful money-driven Corporations and their political supporters place short term gain over long term pain for those of us that remain behind when they pull up stakes and head for greener pastures. Previous research has identified the problem and established a remedial goal which it has NOT met. I wonder who is accountable for that and why this fact, and others, has not been brought up in the house???

  3. Paul Brown says:

    With regard to this issue, how do we begin to “teach” bigger isn’t always better, because that is the problem. This is especially true when dealing with nature/environment/sustainability (whichever term you identify with) because the concentration of anything removes balance and nature is all about balance. The largest single evolution in the past 80 years (since the end of WWII) has been the redistribution of our population from 80% rural and 20% urban to exactly opposite with those numbers reversing and it is my understanding that this is true globally. The rural voice has been lost to most of our populations and unless we begin to build a new generation of understanding we will continue to experience this downward trend. By the way, why do we need 4 inch french fries anyway?

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