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Raise less corn and more hell!

That's the advice of Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association and Regeneration International. Both organizations are taking on industrial agriculture whose input heavy methods have depleted one third of arable land and vastly reduced biodiversity.

The often indiscriminate use of pesticides has killed off untold insect and microbial life. Synthetic fertilizers and lack of ground cover cause the soil to crust. Rain (or irrigation) water does not penetrate but runs off into the nearest water way carrying soil and excess nitrogen with it.

These methods have to change radically if the soil is to be made healthy again. Besides supporting OCA and RI, there is not an awful lot an individual can do on a grand scale. But we can all do something about regenerating the soil around us - in our yards, parks and (almost) green spaces. The goal is to create healthy soil which readily absorbs, and retains, rain water. Healthy soil needs lots and lots (many billions) of microbes. The first thing to do is to stop using chemicals of any kind.

Then look at grass, and imagine a landscape without it. If that's too much to ask, then make sure it is cut correctly. Cornell recommends letting it grow to 4 1/2 inches before cutting down to 3". In other words, don't cut more than a third at a time. Use a mulching mower and leave the cuttings where they fall.This is all the fertilizer that a lawn needs. Weeds - you will have to pull those by hand, or with a neat long-handled tool that allows you to root our dandelions without bending. ( . For the last mow of the season, rake all your fallen leaves on to the lawn and go over them a couple of times. The chopped up leaves will protect the lawn all winter

This is just a glimpse at a huge subject, even at a local level. There will be much more in the book I am working on, and a short session at PHE's symposium, Dare to Care. (

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