Our island climate allows for very quick biological regeneration
By Nicolas Netien
“It is the last year we are planting corn,” was the first thing Michel told me immediately after our yearly salutations.
It was early July, and I was visiting my family in the southeast of France. Michel is in his 60s; his family has been farming this land for as long as genealogy remembers. He grows corn, garlic, lavender and sunflowers over hundreds of hectares. Corn is his main crop. He grows it under contract with a seed company to provide seeds for other farmers. It was morning when I ran into him, and the temperature was already in the mid-thirties.
As we talked, Michel and I were looking at a field of tiny corn plants burned by the sun. The oak forest in the background had taken on a brown colour; soon the leaves would fall off from the lack of water. The river below, where we used to catch trout and crayfish as kids, was now dry. Lifeless.
“The wall you kept talking about, that’s it. We hit it,” he tells me. “We can fix it,” I reply. “We can fix it,” I repeat as if to convince myself.
Mega-Drought, Mega-Fire, Giga-floods, mass extinction. Superlative is now the norm in weather conditions. Our news feed is daily filled with climate-related catastrophes.
In the small biome that is our planet, everything is connected. Global crop failures, inflation, energy crisis, everything. The perfect storm is coming, and it is coming for all of us.
So, how do we fix this? Cutting down our emissions will not suffice (and we are not even doing it). We need an unprecedented global effort to regenerate the planet’s biological cycles on all fronts. All at once. Fortunately, solutions and working examples are here. Environmental pioneers have been working tirelessly in the shadows, demonstrating that eco-systemic design can provide climate resilience, regenerate environments and reverse desertification, while ensuring food security and propelling prosperity.
But how do we do it here in Cyprus? How do we create resilience against the crisis to come?
We are lucky. Our island climate allows for very quick biological regeneration. Yes, it is getting hotter and twice faster than the rest of the world, but with clever design and the right systemic approach, we can mitigate climate impact and even thrive against the odds.
More than half of our island is in critical danger of desertification: centuries of poor land management led us to be living in a man-made desert. But this vicious cycle of desertification can be reversed into a virtuous cycle of regeneration and local water cycles can be restored in simple ways. Agriculture uses most of our water and our land. It is now more evident than ever that the sector needs a new green revolution; one that works with nature rather than against it. Agro-ecology and regenerative practices create naturally fertile living soils that act as sponges and can store tremendous quantities of water, reducing the need for irrigation, agroforestry and silvopasture can bring back trees into agro-systems, creating shade and supporting biodiversity. Combined with natural infrastructures for water harvesting, agro-ecology and regenerative practices can store huge amounts of carbon in our soil, while bringing food sovereignty, removing dependency on imports of fertilisers, pesticides and animal feed.
To fuel this new green revolution, we need unprecedented and coordinated efforts to create a local circular agriculture industry: from seed banks to nurseries, from waste management to biological fertilisers, from research and development to education of new and existing farmers, from producers to consumers.
We can turn our island into a bountiful, green, fertile oasis, teaming with life, while creating meaningful jobs, improving public health and eating delicious, healthy food.
Nature is the perfect teacher; it provides the blueprint for a circular economy that applies not only to our food system but to all human activities.
Nicolas Netien is an environmental engineer, specialising in agroecology and permaculture design, based in Cyprus