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What is Biodynamics and How Can It Help Solve the Climate Crisis?

Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition, according to the Biodynamics Association. The practice encourages a view of nature as an interconnected whole… “an organism endowed with archetypal rhythm.” It sees the farm as a self-sustaining, living organism that requires minimal external inputs. 

“It is the biodiversity of the farm, organized so that the waste of one part of the farm becomes the energy for another, which results in an increase in the farm’s capacity for self-renewal and ultimately makes the farm sustainable.” – Demeter USA

Biodynamics seeks to heal the planet through conscious agriculture, according to Demeter, the international biodynamics certification body. “An important social value of biodynamic farming is that it does not depend on the mining of the earth’s natural resource base but instead emphasizes contributing to it.” Biodynamic farmers are charged with overseeing the healthy balance of the ecosystem and maintaining the ancient principles of sustainability.

There are five pillars of the Demeter Farm Standard, which is a “comprehensive blueprint for achieving the goals of regenerative organic agriculture and carbon sequestration.” These include soil health, biodiversity, food quality, food security, and climate adaptation and mitigation.

The health of the soil, plants, and animals is maintained through farm-first methods, including careful crop rotation and the creation of a safe place for animals to thrive. Bare tillage is prohibited, and a minimum of 10 percent of the total farm acreage must be set aside as a biodiversity preserve. It also has much “stricter requirements around imported fertility, greater emphasis on on-farm solutions for disease, pest, and weed control, and in-depth specifications around water conservation and biodiversity.” 

This agricultural method yields better harvests when compared to conventional farming. The crops are superior in volume and density of nutrients. It integrates plants, animals, water, air, and soil into a self-regulating ecosystem. Why is this important, you ask? The effects of climate change on our ability to feed the population.

Biodynamic farming protects the environment from destructive practices that have left our lands depleted and defenseless. It is a regenerative approach to organic agriculture.

Horse Grazing on Green Grass
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The rise of industrialized farming in the 20th century led humanity into an era of monoculture, disease and sickness, and environmental destruction. Chemical fertilizers introduced into our food systems and water tables have led to acute poisoning, long-term chronic illness, and contaminated water supplies. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have developed as a result of the overuse of antibiotics in CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations). Biodiversity is deteriorating every day, and the soil is turning to mere dust. But there is a solution… 

Regenerative agriculture increases biodiversity, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services so carbon can be pulled from the atmosphere and sequestered in the ground. This is the “heart of a Biodynamic farm’s fertility system.” 

The need for petrochemical inputs into the farm is greatly reduced due to crop rotation and the integration of animal agriculture compared to conventional farming practices. By creating a self-sustaining ecosystem, farmers have less to import onto the farm, and it can be resilient enough to handle the ever-worsening effects of climate change.

“We don’t have to wait for technological wizardry: regenerative organic agriculture can substantially mitigate climate change now,” Rodale Institute writes.

Farmers are making the switch to regenerative agriculture because it can help reduce the negative impacts climate change will have on their livelihood. General Mills is even getting into the game by committing to advancing regenerative agriculture practices on 1 million acres of farmland by 2030. They are working towards three key outcomes, according to their website. These include healthy soil, above and below-ground biodiversity, and farmer economic resilience.

Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian-born scientist and philosopher and the founder of biodynamics, postulated that humanity would need to get back in harmony with nature to save it from itself. His original philosophy on agriculture appeared in his 1924 series of lectures. Sustainability and the personal independence and freedom it provides was incredibly important to Steiner. It has become an integral part of our existence, which is why we want to dive into who Steiner was further.

Portrait of Rudolf Steiner
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To truly understand what biodynamics is, we first have to understand who established the framework. Steiner wrote more than 6,000 lectures and dozens of books, designed buildings, developed an innovative approach to education (the Waldorf School), a methodology for spiritual development, and a system of organic agriculture now known as biodynamics. 

Steiner is the founder of anthroposophy, a philosophy that is a formal educational, therapeutic, and creative system which seeks to use mainly natural means to optimize physical and mental health and well being. He believed the human being is a threefold being of spirit, soul, and body.

Anthroposophy can be considered a spiritual science that is rooted in freedom and self-reliance. Steiner believed that “we each need to gain inner freedom and self-reliance to be change agents and conveners of a healthy future civilization, one where the whole community and the individual are seen and valued by each other.”

It is crucial to have a basic understanding of Steiner’s philosophy and approach to life because that framework is echoed in his system of agriculture. It looks at the ecosystem as an interconnected whole, rather than at its parts. 

As humans, we are just one species in an astonishingly complex ecosystem that has developed over billions of years. And yet, we have gotten so far removed from our health that we are allowing the destruction of our planet for profits. 

We must get back in touch with nature to save our planet from the effects of the climate crisis.

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