I recently read Restoration Agriculture: Real-World Permaculture for Farmers by Mark Shepard (2013).
In this book, MS makes the case that we should shift our agricultural focus from annual crops that are planted as monocultures (e.g., corn, soybeans, wheat, rice) to highly diverse and integrated ecosystems that primarily consist of perennial, woody plants (e.g., fruit and nut trees, fruiting shrubs and vines, and perennial vegetables).
MS provides a compelling case, supported by a significant amount of data, that current conventional practices are not only unsustainable, they are in fact propelling us toward a completely degraded planet (and, thus, a human population with dim prospects for survival).
MS reinforces his case by posing a series of questions for proponents of current conventional agricultural practices: “Can you
restore ecosystem function? Can you remove carbon from the atmosphere? Can you
increase the populations of native pollinators, amphibians and other at-risk
wildlife? Can you naturally aggrade soil over time without massive external
inputs? Can you prevent runoff? Can you detoxify ground and surface water? Can
you increase the numbers of wetlands?
Can you restore springs, prevent erosion and floods? Can you do any of
this while only planting your crop once every thousand years?” (p. 183) He argues rather convincingly that his methodology, called restoration agriculture, can answer all those questions in the affirmative.
My favorite quote: “We are responsible for the
health and well-being of all life on earth, not just human life.” (p. 292)
MS challenges a lot of conventional assumptions. A very good read.