Last September we decided to move to the country. It was an idea-dream that we had been thinking about for quite some time. We dreamt of leaving city life to get closer to nature, living in a way that was consistent with our values and establishing new ways to relate to each other and our environment. This romantic idea became a reality overnight on September 13, 2020, and for that I am extremely grateful.
We are living in l’Empordà, the countryside of Girona, Catalonia. A truly beautiful place, with a light that gives everything a special glow and green fields that turn yellow in the spring, stretching as far as the eye can see. Small villages like few others are left, the blue of the Mediterranean just a few kilometers away and pig farms. Many large pig farms that have become a part of this bucolic scene.
This post is a brief reflection on our almost seven months living here, as well as my own preconceptions and ignorance about the “countryside,” the irony and contradictions of this beautiful region, the blindness of humanity, our lack of connection, and the capitalist system that is destroying our planet.
I don’t know about you, but I had the romanticized notion that country life meant more sensitivity to and respect for nature, natural resources, animals, and the environment in general. I thought that waking up every day surrounded by nature would foster an awareness of and connection to the environment and its cycles and seasons. I thought that working on the land, a source of income and food for many, would make people more aware, sensitive, and respectful toward what feeds them. I assumed that life in the country was more ethical and sustainable than life in the city.
In a way, my assumptions were not so far off. Last week, Greenpeace Spain published a study on rural areas and climate change which explains that “rural municipalities contribute 34% less to climate change and 40% more to biodiversity conservation than urban municipalities.”
The study points out that “how we use our land can either speed up or resolve the climate emergency” and calls for the protection of rural areas’ natural ecosystems, given that “they can become great allies as carbon sinks or, on the other hand, if we neglect them they can drastically worsen the scenario due to drought and large forest fires.”
To some extent, the study’s analysis of the environmental problems faced by rural areas provides a scientific explanation for my feelings and experiences over the last seven months, confirming that country life today is not necessarily more respectful or sustainable.
- 95% of GM crops in the EU are grown in Spain.
- Catalonia is the second community in Spain with the largest cultivation of GM crops. Aragón is the first.
- L’Empordà is the third European area with the most GM maize.
- Spain is the first country in Europe with the highest number of pigs in the census. 31 million. In 99% of the cases, the animals are overcrowded and overcrowded, mistreated, artificially fed, and saturated with antibiotics to combat the appearance of numerous diseases derived from the detestable living conditions to which they are forced.
- The environmental implications of excess manure and slurry are devastating: Spain is the country with the highest emissions from poor manure management.
- Today, in Catalonia, half of the sources and groundwater courses in rural areas are contaminated by nitrates, with a level above the limit established as the maximum acceptable for human consumption. Our water in l’Empordà is contaminated.
The list is long and does not include the production of poultry or beef, the mistreatment of hunting dogs or wild boar hunting. But I prefer to stop here.
These seven months have also given Jorge and me the opportunity to meet people who are fighting against a system that urges as to believe that this devastating way of production and consumption is the only option that exists. From initiatives to decrease pork production to small-scale fishing and organic agriculture co-ops, there are real examples that offer sustainable and fair alternatives. These people and their projects will be subject for other posts. Today, I just wanted to share a few reflections, because despite the beauty and superficial tranquility that we are afforded by living here, the exploitation of natural resources and animal abuse do not truly allow me to live in peace.
I cannot close without asking for your involvement. Below are some ideas and suggestions for individual actions:
- Care for and protect the rural world. If you go to the country, don’t leave your trash behind. Try to get to know and support local produce. Don’t abandon your civic responsibility when you leave the city.
- Support the consumption of local, organic, and seasonal products.
- Activeyour power as a consumer by buyingorganic, fair-trade, and small-scale agriculture and livestock. In the end, it is your heath that is at stake.
- Activate your civic power and demand the closure of macro-farms, which are giant factories that fuel climate change, unsustainability, and cruelty. It is shameful that in 2021 there are thousands and thousands of abused and slaughtered animals throughout Greenpeace is leading a campaign on this issue. The Asociación Defensa de Derechos Animal also has a signature drive for a state moratorium on factory farming.
- Make the decision TODAY to reduce your consumption of food of animal origin.
- Write your city government to request that it be declared a GM-free zone. Encourage them to commit to organic agriculture by, for example, purchasing organic products and taking measures to support organic producers. The broader the area dedicated to organic farming, the less potential for expansion of genetically modified crops.
Maybe the countryside is not as green as it seems, but together we can make it so. If you are interested in knowing more, the sources I have used to write this post are Greenpeace.es, NIU, Asociación Defensa Derechos Animal – ADDA (Catalonia), IAEDEN – Salvem L’Empordà.