River Wissey Lovell Fuller

The missing reply from Cyril Marsters

September 2010

Cyril comments on peter Bodles letter in the June edition.

Dear Ray,

I was tempted to reply to Peter Bodle's June letter in the same fashion as his own response to the 'Our Food Our Future' article in the April issue - i.e. that his argument seemed so flawed a basic concept that it need hardly be responded to. This particularly applies to his first paragraph and, as for the rest of his letter, I feel that he really had to 'scrape the barrel' for arguments.

He came up with an estimated figure of about 5 million people, living in a 'non-garden' position who, if they wished to take part in growing their food, would all have to buy the long list of garden tools and equipment that he specified. Peter complained that the making and delivery of these would produce a massive increase in pollutants, in consequence of which he suspects several (perhaps many) years will have to pass before any green saving is to emerge.

Let's put these particular purchases in context. Look at all the advertising and purchasing that is going on continuously around us. Take mobile phones: there is ongoing development of these, giving them ever more 'clever' capabilities, the awareness of which we are constantly made aware of by leaflets through our doors and on TV. Most of us will have met people who have to keep up with the latest developments and replace perfectly efficient phones. It is a similar situation with many other items, e.g. televisions, music equipment, lap-top computers, which are continually being 'improved' - tempting people to replace their old ones. TV and other advertising gives hundreds of items that we are prompted to buy, but which in reality amount to little more than 'retail therapy'. They pander to our acquisitiveness but often give us no real satisfaction in life. BUT, what they DO, is to use up valuable materials and send increasing amounts of carbon into the atmosphere!

So, in this context, consider the heinous crime of the 5 million thoughtless people who, potentially, could pollute the atmosphere by equipping themselves with some tools for producing own-grown fresh food! Seriously, I cannot think of a more justifiable purchase, when compared to the pollution caused by the unnecessary trade that goes on continuously. Unlike a mobile phone - or many other serviceable items being constantly replaced - basic garden tools are not the sort of things that are continually being 'improved' and renewed every five minutes! For instance, my current spade has been in use for 45 years, and the rest of my tools almost as long. Any pollution involved in the manufacture and delivery of tools for 'My Food, My Future', when spread over their years of use, is infinitesimal!

Next Peter's comparison of the bulk deliveries of farm chemicals with 1 Kg boxes for gardeners. In my experience, gardeners' use of chemicals is by no means as great pro rata as their routine use by modern farmers. Not many gardeners wish for chemical residues in their vegetables, even if they allow sprays for their roses. To date (6th June) this year I have noticed already at least four routine sprayings carried out on a cereal crop growing nearby.

As for use of chemicals in the form of artificial fertilisers, I do not know the total quantities used by gardeners, but bearing in mind the increasing interest in organic growing, I would guess that, pro rata, it is by no means comparable to the huge usage in agriculture.

The manufacture alone, of the many millions of tons of nitrogen fertiliser used annually in farming, accounts for a massive release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, not to mention the pollution that has been caused in other ways by this fertiliser. Personally I have never used the stuff. In my younger days I used to rent an allotment to provide fresh produce for our young family. As was the usual practice, I used to rely for nutrients on a large compost heap, plus the occasional delivery, in bulk, of some farmyard manure. I have once or twice called on the services of a mole catcher, but have otherwise never needed to use any of Peter's specialised packets of treatment.

As for his disparaging comments about the 'Dig for Victory' campaign - in his red herring 'Pots and Pans for Spitfires' - I bow to his superior knowledge that these utensils could not have been used for this particular purpose. However, there can be no doubt that the pots and pans collected, as also the many iron railings removed from the fronts of people's homes and elsewhere, were used for the war effort. There were far more important things needing to be done in those days, than to organise collections simply as 'morale boosters'. In the circumstances of the time, the Dig for Victory campaign was a necessity.

Cyril Marsters

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