We are facing a double whammed food crisis.
Modern food contains a surplus of energy food (fats and sugars) but is sadly lacking in the complex chemicals needed to regenerate our bodies. Our bodies sense this lack, sending out hunger signals leading to the current health epidemic of excess storage of fat, diabetes, heart attacks and dementia.
Longer term we are destroying the land which we need to grow nutrient rich biologically active food essential for health.
We need to change to a food system based on recycling rather than degrading our planet – regenerative agriculture.
The school garden project
We are facing the oncoming food crisis so we need to prepare the next generation, the current school kids to combat this challenge. This is the aim of the School garden project. You can read more about this School garden project here .
Gbiota ™ beds were developed by Colin Austin, pioneer of Wicking bed to grow plants that provide the essential nutrients and biology to regenerate our bodies by breeding beneficial biology in recycled organic waste with essential minerals.
You can learn how to make Gbiota beds by going to the growing, video and blog items in the menu above.
What should we teach our kids?
The expected answer is the STEM subjects, science, technology, engineering and maths and that is probably true for right now, particularly if our aim is to grow the economy.
But what will life be like when they mature? The world is changing at an ever increasing rate. Who would have predicted the Corona virus just a couple of years ago? So what will life be like in twenty or fifty years times and what skills will the next generation need then?
There are not many advantages in being old but one is having lived through one of the most turbulent periods in history. So let me give you a first-hand account of how the world has changed and what we can expect in the future.
Learning from the past
As kids my sister and I used to visit our grandparents. There was a well in the backyard for water – there was no running water, the toilet was a bucket in the outside dunny which was duly emptied by burying in the garden. There was a wood stove continuously burning for cooking and oil lamps for night – there was no electricity.
Life had not changed much for centuries.
I was never aware of our grandparents leaving their village. Then technology struck in the form of the bicycle. People rarely appreciate what a miraculous piece of technology the good old bike is, people could travel five times the distance of walking at five times the speed. This is relevant to me as this is how my mum and dad (who lived in the nearest village) actually met and was the enabling technology which resulted in my birth.
But that was a long long time ago, at the start of the second world war. Have no delusions – these were terrible times, two world wars, the great depression and the era of dictatorships and politicians grabbing power with varying degrees of brutality. Not much has changed on that front, but we need to recognise the enormous changes that have occurred since then in both technology and society.
As a kid my planetary load was small, my bike – the transport system with the lowest planetary load was the normal means of transport, much of our food was home grown using ‘natural’ fertilisers, manufactured products were simple and could be easily repaired so had a long life and apart from the Bakelite radio there were no plastics.
Now I go shopping by car, use electricity for my computers, air conditioning and cooking so my personal planetary load has increased significantly. But there is a lot more of us now.
When I was borne the global population was just under one and a half billion people, it is now close to eight billion – three fold increase in one generation putting a great load on the planets resources.
But that three fold increase is tiny in comparison with the change in how society works. At the time of my birth manufacturing was confined to a handful of countries with the vast majority of the people living various forms of subsistence agriculture – just like my grand parents and their grandparents – had been living for years – with minimal planetary load.
But now the number of people living a subsistence agriculture life style has shrunk dramatically, if you want to study them you really have to search them out in the few remaining truly remote parts of the world – and these are disappearing fast.
The bulk of those people have now moved to the cities where they work in factories producing much of the worlds manufactured products. We should be concerned about the planetary load by the trebling of the worlds population, but we should be even more concerned with the estimated ten fold increase in planetary load per person.
This is the world that today’s kids are going to grow up in and so when we ask the question what should be teaching the kids we have to ask what skills they will need to lead a comfortable and pleasant life with these planetary pressures. They wont be able to avoid this challenge whether is comes from climate change or some virus or some totally unexpected source.
The biggest problem will come from being able to access the right sort of food.
Now if I knew the answer to this I would not be writing this article but I have a pretty good idea what skills the next generation will need when they come to battle this planetary overload.
They really need to understand how evolution works, particularly how this impacts human nature. Evolution is a simple idea, the next generation is always a little different from their parents, the successful features will create a better chance of breeding so those characteristics will gradually become dominant.
Humans have become the dominant species because we have evolved to cooperate with each other and work within groups – we are a social creature that shares information and can plan and execute complex strategies – such as building piles of stones to throw at marauding ferocious creatures.
But not all humans are cooperative – some individuals just want to benefit themselves which they do by becoming the dominant leader.
Because we are a cooperative creature we tolerate these individual and allow them to adopt positions of power. This is why we have a history of tolerating dictators until they have created a position of unassailable power over the society.
It is important that the next generation understand that our great strength is our willingness to cooperate together as a group but this leaves us exposed to individuals who want to exploit the community and our natural resources for their benefit.
Control of information
Manipulation of information is a now a major social problem. The internet has changed society and we now have global organisations who have financial resources beyond that of many sovereign states with the power and skills to mass manipulate information.
They are willing to manipulate information for their own benefit by influencing community attitudes and the decision of sovereign governments.
It is important that the next generation understand just how effective and powerful the manipulation of information is on changing group behaviour, particularly with the internet.
Where food come from and the role of biology
The earth is some four billion years old. For the first billion years the earth was just inert dead rocks with no life.
But microscopic organisms came from somewhere that could break down these rocks and turn them into soil.
To break down rocks required energy which generally comes from the sun. These first creatures, the lichens and the mosses, were a combination of algae and fungi. The algae could capture energy from the sun while the fungi could penetrate the rocks and break them down.
This is an incredibly slow process which is why it took so long for the first soils to form. However when there was sufficient soil some plants started to grow.
Micro biology was here first, it created life on earth and we cannot live without it.
It is important that the next generation understand that life on earth is totally dependant on micro biology.
Plants can capture large amounts of energy from the sun but they also need nutrients which come from soil formed by the broken down rocks. This led to the development of one of the most important synergistic relationship.
Plants capture energy which they use to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars. The plants then exuded these from their roots which feed a range of fungi and biology which are able to break down the rocks and convert them to soluble minerals the plants could use as food to make more soil.
This must surely be the most important synergistic relationship on earth.
It is important that the next generation understand that life on earth is totally dependant on the synergistic relationship between plants which provide energy and the soil micro biology which release nutrients.
Delightful as this synergistic relationship may sounds there is a nasty side. Micro biology is the result of the natural process of evolution which produces both good bugs which are beneficial to us and bad bugs which will do us harm.
We need the good bugs but it is exceptionally difficult to kill of the bad bugs without harming the good bugs.
In the natural world evolution led to the creation of both good and bad bugs which could have been a disaster had it not been for ecological balance. There are millions of different sorts of bugs which are continuously evolving into new species – if they can.
But by the laws of evolutionary balance the good bugs can out compete the bad bugs so there is a limit to how much they can breed. This ecological balance is one of the key reasons why humans are alive on this planet.
It is important that the next generation understand the principle and importance of ecological balance.
Over billions of years soil has been growing naturally over the earth which is now largely covered with huge amount of soil, full of nutrients and biology.
It may seem inconceivable that we could actually use up that soil but this is precisely what we have been doing and is one of the great challenges that the next generation will face.
In the natural environment soil is produced at an incredibly slow rate and we are simply using it far faster than it is being developed.
But we understand how soil is made so we can produce it much faster than in nature.
The raw material for soil is rocks. These may be full of essential minerals but these are not soluble and hence available to the plants.
But micro biology (particularly fungi) can break down these rocks quite rapidly but this micro biology needs energy. We can supply this using green and food waste to feed the micro biology.
Soil also needs macro biology, particularly worms to create the soil structure and distribute the nutrients so they are available to the plants.
This is the essence of Gbiota beds – to make nutrient rich biologically active soil to grow food which feed our guts which produce thousands of complex chemicals to regenerate our bodies.
It is important that the next generation understand that we need to be regenerating soil and that we can readily do this by recycling waste materials and using rock dust which is available in almost unlimited quantities.
Energy and body building foods
There are two types of food, ice cream and cabbage. That may be on oversimplification but there is still a lot of truth in it. Early man needed energy, hunting woolly mammoths takes a lot of energy and this comes largely from sugars and fats.
These are simple chemicals which burn off to give carbon dioxide and water and lots of energy. But there were very little sugars and fats available for our mammoth hunting ancestors but there were a lot of edible plants. So we developed a real liking for sugars and fats but don’t get too excited about cabbage.
In the modern era food technologist have refined the ratio of sugar and fats to what they call the bliss point, then added some artificial flavouring to create something that most people find really appetising.
That is essentially what ice cream and most processed food actually are.
And the good news (for the food producers) is that the raw materials are cheap and easy to grow so we are busy chopping down the last remaining wild forests to grow sugary fatty foods.
There is actually nothing wrong with sugary fatty foods that taste really good, the problem is we are producing so much of it. We are producing enough to feed a population of some thirteen billion people – if we distributed it evenly.
But we also need food to replace our body parts and feed our guts
The problem is that our modern diet has far too much sugary fatty foods and not enough food to replace our body parts.
If the food industry had put as much effort into making cabbage taste good as they did on making sugary fatty foods taste good there may not have been a problem.
But they didn’t so now our modern diet it totally skewed to sugary fatty foods and we are just not eating the right sort of food to replace our body parts and feed our guts.
This is the basic cause of the modern epidemic of diseases that stem from being overweight, diabetes, heart attacks and dementia.
It is important that the next generation understand that we need a balance between energy foods and food to replace our body parts and feed our guts. We produce far more energy food than we need but no where near enough food to feed out guts and produce the wide range of complex chemicals we need to replace our body parts and remain healthy.
The school garden project
So these are the basic aims but we are not going to get the kids who will form the next generation convinced by dull boring lectures on food.
We need to get them to experience first hand how to grow food which has the right balance between energy and nutrition, how it affects their bodies and can actually taste really nice.
We need to recycle food and green waste to grow soil which in turns grows nutritious food.
We need them to understand that humans are social creatures which naturally cooperate and we will only save the load on our planet by changing from a society based on exploitation to one based on recycling.
The kids have fun, learn about food, how it works in our bodies and how we need to change our food industry. Learning about the complexity of nature in a fun way is also helping them develop the critical thinking skills they will surely need to tackle the problems they will inevitably face in their future life.
That is what the school garden project is all about.
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Colin Austin © March 2021Creative commons this document may be reproduced but the source should be acknowledged. Information may be used free of charge for private non commercial use.