Mass Extinction Halted by Wine Industry

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It might sound far fetched, but Dr Olga Barbosa of Austral University said in a seminar that viticulture – or the cultivation of grapes – “can be a partner to solve the problem of mass extension”. This is great news to wineries and the wine industry as they are instrumental in enhancing species’ richness through driving biodiversity through their farms or wine estates.

She noted that our planet is entering what seems like the sixth mass extinction, which is caused by development and human civilization’s crass and crude way of dealing with nature. If it’s in the way, we cut it down. Even if it’s merely sharing our planet and not affecting us in our lives, we are affecting theirs by polluting the planet with toxins and plastic, effectively killing marine life by the millions every day. But the most hurtful thing we do to our planet happens in our daily life: driving a car, open burning, the cultivation of cows. They release up to 120kg of methane per year which is a “potent greenhouse gas”, according to National Geographic. Researchers are trying their best to modify their gut in order to put a stopper to this problem which contributes to 14% of global warming.

The scientist says that wineries could help mitigate climate change, as wine estates are both environmentally-sensitive and a wonder to the ecosystem. Since nature functions on some form of pollination – meaning that the world is inextricably linked with one another – the wine industry is able to provide natural pest control while at the same time, completing nutrient cycles to benefit their vine growth. In layman terms, what they need to do to improve their growth and produce will in turn, fertilize the earth in a biodiversifying manner. She calls this “ecosystem services” and noted how rich the soil of vineyards are.

She stresses that it is important that wineries should be promoted for the sake of their biodiversity in viticulture and she goes on to say that viticulture “should be a goal for the wine industry”. Her organization is looking into how they can enhance biodiversity which not only will help keep the world running, but also by sequestering carbon dioxide.

Agriculture has always played a large part in being both the problem and the solution to the greenhouse effect. By cutting into the environment and developing it for human use such as farms and wineries, it spoils the delicate ecosystem that supports life on earth. There are better ways that doesn’t include wrecking the planet and is regenerative instead. The problem with employing this all over is that there is no one size fits all program.

One has to consider the biological and sociological factors when transforming it into sustainable farming. Since every farm in every country is unique to its own, scientists have to create systems which are flexible and are able to support every different sort of setting. For instance, what is sustainable for a farmer rearing livestock in America is a lot different from what a farmer is doing in another part of the world, such as working in a paddy field in Asia. They will need very specific and different sets of systems to make their livelihood sustainable.

In this way, wine benefits not only human health but the health of the planet. By diversifying what is in the soil, it also enriches the taste of the wine itself. But the best part of it is that the environment will be the one to benefit from the nutrient rich land. It is also interesting to note how intrinsically linked the taste of wine is to the environment. Studies show that climate change actually plays a part in how it tastes. The heatwave of 1540 was so gruesome that grapes withered into raisins on their vines and created a pungent and extra sweet wine. Today, the wine rivals that of the one made from the harvest from that summer in 1540, telling us just how much global warming is upon us now.

Winemakers have been recording details of their harvest since the middle ages as when one harvests the grapes is the key factor in how the wines will turn out. Historians discovered that these careful records are instrumental in helping us determine the rate of change in climate. Depending on how soon the harvests are done, it tells scientists today what the climate was like during their time as grapes are sensitive to their environment. Too hot and they ripen quickly, too cold and it will take longer for it to be ready for harvest.

Scientists have been able to determine that with all the spikes throughout the ages, climate change is only seriously taking hold in recent times. During the “Medieval Warm Period” which lasted from 900 to 1300, central Europe was a lot warmer and it cooled down from 1500 to 1900, during what is called the “Little Ice Age”, however, according to these records, the weather has been consistently warm since the 1980s and in the last 16 years, the temperature has shot up. With everything the wine industry can help the planet with, it cannot control climate change and people have to adopt a more sustainable way of living if they hope to continue enjoying wine and life as it is.

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