One Shot by John Leary takes on all the major issues of the day–climate change, poverty, hunger, emigration, and more– and puts forth mankind's "one shot" at saving the world–forest gardens. Leary is director of Trees for the Future which has planted millions of trees around the world and has innovated an approach to devastating deforestation and soil erosion in the most impoverished areas of the world. A forest Garden encourages small farmers in Africa to plant a ring of fast growing trees around their small 1-4 acre plots. Bushes keep animals from trampling crops and vegetables are planted under the trees. A wide diversity of trees and crops gives greater economic sustainability and the leaves from the trees fertilize the soil. The trees trap the water into the earth interrupting the downward cycle of drought, deforestation, starvation.
Leary recites the bad news of the world that is probably familiar to most aware folks. He gives a good overview of the mess the world is in and all of us who have been freaking out about climate change and other environmental problems are receptive to the "One Shot" to solved these problems. What is novel about this book is not that it advocates forest gardens for impoverished countries but that he advocates a similar approach for Western agriculture. He mentions, but doesn't elucidate, the dilemma of large scale farms in the US, especially drought, soil depletion, and lack of biodiversity. I kept reading to discover what that change might look like in the US where mono crops and huge agri biz dominate. In the end I was disappointed although not surprised as Trees for the Future focus exclusively on farmers in the most distressed environments like Haiti, Africa, South America.
But what would Forest Gardens look like in Central New York? We have rapidly become an important agricultural area with small farmers, innovative entrepreneurs, and government encouragement. One feature that Leary suggests is small farmers taking charge of their own land and lives. It's hard to imagine giant corporate farms transitioning to more diverse crops but it is possible to conceive of family farms in upstate NY adopting some of these methods to overcome our own challenges in agriculture. Anyone have an idea of what that would look like?