What If The First Adopted Wine Industry Didn’t Harm Mentality?
Last Earth Day I attended the EarthDay.org Annual Climate Leadership Gala in Washington DC as a guest of French winemaker Gérard Bertrand.
In 2002, Bertrand began converting 16 Languedoc and Roussillon vineyards into biodynamic viticulture. Today, with more than 2,000 hectares of biodynamically cultivated vineyards, Bertrand is the world’s largest producer of biodynamic wines. He is now shifting his focus underground, to soil health and carbon capture.
Listening to his philosophy of farming in harmony with the cosmos and embracing the land that lives in his vineyards is truly moving. But even more rewarding is witnessing a room of more than 200 non-wine industry people who are fascinated by his personal journey, biodynamic winemaking philosophy and enjoy his wines.
This agricultural product – grapes – is uniquely positioned to illuminate and educate the important issues we face today.
Therefore, I launch the series in this column with an emphasis on first don’t hurt.
The focus is on sharing stories about those who want to raise environmental awareness and sustainability from soil to glass by taking positive steps to protect the earth, workers and wine drinkers.
The goal is to raise consumer awareness about the impact of wine on the environment and the way wine is leading agriculture in the fight against climate change in the hope that educated and conscientious wine connoisseurs will make wiser consumption choices, supporting those in the industry seeking first-time harmlessness. .
A Glimpse of Agricultural Evolution
From nomadic to hunter-gatherer lifestyles, cities and civilizations have evolved from the ability to farm and raise animals to meet demand. 19th century introduced synthetic machinery, fertilizers and pesticides. In the mid 20th century, industrial agriculture and the increased use of chemicals became the norm, ushering in the emergence of cheap food production at high environmental prices.
According to the United Nations, between 1960 and 2015, agricultural production more than tripled. In 2020, the United Nations issued ten warnings that everyone should know about industrial agriculture, including: Facilitating disease from animals to humans, linked to obesity and chronic disease epidemics, entrenched inequality, and fundamentally at odds with environmental health, to name a few.
First Don’t Harm
primum non nocrefirst do no harm, is widely believed to be part of the Hippocratic Oath.
According to Harvard Medical School, there is actually no mention of a sentence in the oath. Moreover, there is no real promise of prioritizing harm avoidance by doctors in providing assistance to patients.
What does this have to do with wine? Looking at the history of grape cultivation, in the broader context of modern agriculture, its impact on our planet, and the current and future threats posed by climate change, non-harming agricultural policies are the first path to a better future.
What does Wine have to do with him?
While wine industry professionals love to make poetic candles about wine (including current companies), it is an agricultural product and is often guilty of many sins of industrial agriculture.
Some of the world’s most coveted wine regions are largely monocultures with vines repeatedly doused with synthetic chemicals growing on dead soil.
Organic viticulture practices permit the use of heavy metal copper as a fungicide. However, studies show long-term use of copper in vineyards accumulates in the soil, negatively impacting the environment through its toxicity to aquatic and soil organisms.
Biodynamic certification continues to permit tillage, which destroys soil microorganisms, accelerates erosion, and releases emissions of carbon stored in the soil into the atmosphere.
The wine industry is constantly having these important conversations amongst themselves. Global conferences and seminars such as Tasting Climate Change, Green Wine Futures and the Porto Protocol bring together experts from various fields to discuss the future of wine and climate change. Industry publications, regional symposia, and professional conferences are buzzing with how climate change is impacting industry and ways to combat this threat.
Positive change is happening in the industry, but it’s not enough. Knowledgeable and determined consumers are the impetus needed to push the tipping point.
It’s time to broaden the conversation, take responsibility, and join forces to fight climate change. The first personal oath of not harming the earth, our bodies and each other consists of small steps, but the collective impact can be a tidal wave.