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Ian Angus part one "Nitrogen Crisis: A Neglected Threat to Earth's Life Support Systems"

Sandra Lindberg

Hopefully, at least some of you who read these posts are from the Midwest. Farm country. In addition to being excited at finding this article by Ian Angus, I'm very interested in its topic: the nitrogen cycle's disruption of the Anthropocene. Whahh... ? I fear some of you may say. Bear with me.

What I'm about to describe may true for your city, too. If you live in Iowa. Or Wisconsin. Or Indiana. Or, as I do, in Illinois. Where I live, local water comes from a human-made lake. The human abuse of the nitrogen cycle has a direct effect on local humans in my part of the country. An effect that is easily perceived by non-scientist types, including me. In my part of the world, farmers have been persuaded to bet their lives on the production of soybeans and corn. Mostly it's used for cattle feed or for the production of food additives. Precious little of these crop yields are actually eaten by people. Meanwhile, to get the yields they need given the ridiculous profit margins that enslave farmers to industrial agriculture, most of these farmers use a lot of nitrogen on their farms. And because it's convenient and cost effective in this wonky agricultural system decreed by large multi-national corporations and even large banks (and a complicit federal government), farmers apply nitrogen in the fall. At a time when living plants cannot take it up. And in such high amounts that what will be needed in the spring will survive the winter and a large portion of it will become runoff that makes its way into drainage ditches, creeks and rivers until, ultimately, a lot of it ends up in the Gulf of Mexico. The run-off also ends up in local lakes, including the lake that provides my city's drinking water. And that nutritional 'supplement' is not one humans cope with very well. So city's spend a lot of money, but actually not enough, to 'polish' water from the lake before they send it through city pipes for us to drink. High levels of nitrates are linked to premature births, so-called 'blue babies' who are unable to properly take up oxygen and literally turn blue from the poison in their systems, and certain cancers.

OK, so that's the immediate human link I wanted to describe in the hope that you will read the Angus article. Thank the educators for insisting we take chemistry and biology in high school, and in college. We are now in a time when a solid understanding of these sciences are important if we are going to provide informed opinions about how we are to leave behind industrial agriculture and why we need to do so. Angus will no doubt describe the macro view of the nitrogen environmental imbalance and explain why it may be even more devastating to us all than the high levels of CO2 that are so worrying many of us. But I want to emphasize, in case Angus does not, that the effects of the overuse of nitrogen in industrial agriculture is hurting soil, water, plants, animals and us right now.

So without further ado, please go to the Ian Angus article, "Nitrogen Crisis: A Neglected Threat to Earth's Life Support Systems." And remember, there will be a part two in the near future. I'll post it here, too.

Thank you for reading and considering.

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