A debut ecology book examines agriculture’s role in global warming and proposes individual and collective responses to avert a human-made sixth extinction.
In the climate crisis, Erickson, a screenwriter and filmmaker, finds potent drama: “A fight for our lives” and a ticking clock. His cast: disparate creatures, including Hazel the triplewart sea devil, Thomas Q. Piglet, Lucinda Monarch, Earl the Worm, Pat the Pooper (a microorganism), farm animals, meerkats, and numerous people—all facing different challenges but the same fate. The plot: unmask the “Arch-Villain” behind the interconnected crises of rural decline, unhealthy food, chronic illness, and climate change. The author pens poignant stories before deploying facts and figures. Children near factory farms suffer asthma. A piglet, ripped from its mother, never spends a day outdoors. A teen battles obesity. Family farmers confront policies tilted against them. Midway through, Erickson confirms “Industrial Agriculture. And factory farming…Big Ag. This is our Arch-Villain.” Concentrated animal feeding operations are not only inhumane; their hormones and antibiotics breed resistant pathogens. Monocrop methods, with pesticides, herbicides, and tilled fields left bare, destroy the soil’s microbiome, nature’s most effective carbon storage system. Large-scale regenerative organic farming, the author argues, could offset current carbon dioxide emissions. He advocates “compassionate activism” —raising awareness of farming and food issues, using purchasing power to reduce meat consumption and increase healthy options, and harnessing voter pressure to rewrite the Farm Bill and enact a Green New Deal. The ambitious book’s five chapters highlight compassionate approaches toward animals, self, the land, community, and democracy. Erickson’s writing displays passion, clarity, and a grasp of every topic he tackles. He is also verbose and prone to repetition. His refrains may delight some but annoy others. But his analysis is solid, and his sourcing is supported by 900-plus endnotes and four expert contributors (Berry, Fuhrman, McArthur, and Lewis) credited on the cover. An index and bibliography would enhance future editions. Erickson’s ability to connect climate science, copious data, and public policies with the lived experiences of people and other creatures sets this book apart. His emphasis on humane and caring methods reminds readers that winning hearts and minds is a prerequisite to capturing carbon.
An inspired synthesis of environmental, cultural, economic, and political calls to action.