First let me state that the victims and their families of this explosion and of the recent explosions in Boston have my deepest sympathy and condolences.
Wednesday’s fire came one day after the 66th anniversary of the worst industrial accident in American history—the Texas City disaster, another fertilizer explosion that left 581 people dead when a French vessel hauling ammonium nitrate caught fire.
I had never even heard of that disaster before. Perhaps that’s because I’m less than 66 years old. Or, perhaps it just doesn’t get much mention these days, being an accident rather than an attack.
The clearest footage we have of the blast itself comes from a man who appears to have been watching the fire from his car with his young daughter. The explosion comes about 30 seconds in (warning: not for the faint of heart):
I hope that girl gets her hearing back.
Let’s also not forget the Oklahoma City bombing, another fertilizer explosion, albeit a deliberate one that time.
The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was also done with a bomb made of fertilizer.
Here’s a list of United States fertilizer explosions, deliberate bombings excluded.
So, the question is this, with all of the fertilizer explosions, why is moving to organic farming not considered a matter of national security? Fertilizer seems to be a highly explosive compound that should be tightly regulated. In fact, I’d say we should dramatically reduce our use of chemical fertilizer and replace it with nice, safe, good old fashioned shit.
I know the current dogma is that the green revolution was created by this type of fertilizer and hence 40% of all humans on the planet are made of this dangerous fossil fuel product. However, I would say a few things to that.
1. Our current big agriculture is not sustainable. We are depleting both top soil and ground water at alarming rates that cannot continue regardless of what else happens.
2. How much better off would our species be if 40% of us had never been born? I know this is not a politically correct or popular thought. But, human overpopulation is the biggest risk to our species survival today. Climate change, ocean acidification, pollution of all types, warfare, drought, famine, and almost any other major problem we face today, especially the ones that threaten our very survival as a species, are all caused by human overpopulation.
3. We are also making advances in organic and non-industrial farming techniques. These advances are far more sustainable than our current big agriculture practices and produce nearly the same yields. See Pollyface Farms for an example.
What about other fertilizer? Last I heard manure does not tend to explode. I am not aware of a significant number of cows dying when their cowpie hits the ground or when they step on the cowpie of another. Though the thought of cows lighting their farts might make me a bit nervous.
Further, in India, cowpies are dried out and used as fuel. So, they do burn. There are health issues associated with cooking and heating homes by burning dung. However, I am not aware of anyone’s home exploding when they light the cowpie. I don’t even feel any need to look for statistics on this. Still, I do not advocate use of dung as a fuel. As a fertilizer though, it’s great.
And, of course, there are the issues of both human health and the health of the planet to consider as reasons to buy organics or at least, more traditionally farmed foods. With unlabeled Roundup Ready crops coming soon to a stupormarket near you, you will need some way to ensure that you are not eating Agent Orange in your corn and soy products. Certified organics may be your only way to be sure about what you’re eating, unless you live in driving distance to Pollyface or a similarly sustainable local farm.
So, to sum this long post up, please buy food that doesn’t go boom! (More accurately, please buy food that doesn’t require spreading explosives around the yard.)