Dylan Ratigan fell in my radar May 18 at Green Fest in Chicago. Ratigan was on the main stage talking about Arches Acres, the group that works with returning veterans and turns them into farmers. While he was speaking, I thought back to his days on MSNBC. I knew he gave up the show, but hadn't made the connection between him and Arches Acres.
Ratigan spent most of the talk on hydroponics. I have some idea what hydroponics were, but Ratigan's talking points grabbed me. 3x as fast, 3x as much food, and using 90% less water.
Ratigan showed up Tuesday night on my TV set as Al Madrigal interviewed Ratigan on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Madrigal wasn't there to talk to Ratigan for the Daily Show about hydroponics or veterans or the quality of the food we are growing and eating. Madrigal was there as a way to mock the extremes of cable news.
Still, Ratigan sneaked in some talking points about hydroponics: 3x as fast, 3x as much food, and using 90% less water.
I first heard about Arches Acres about a year ago and was impressed with the basic concept. Veterans serve our country but often have trouble adjusting back to society. Teaching them farming gives them a skill, something where they can be their own boss. And for those veterans that are having troubles due to PTSD or other trauma, farming's simplicity might be even more helpful to them.
Ratigan noted at Green Fest that the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan war vets is 20% and that taxpayers spend #1 million each on service members for training to work on complex equipment. Getting service members to be more active helps reduce the taxpayer burden to take care of them. The bonus is helping to improve the food supply.
The water issue is crucial as many parts of the world suffer from water shortages, including the American Southwest. Ratigan pointed out, and I heartily agree, that the wars for water will dwarf the battles over oil.
Ratigan also said since hydroponics don't use soil, you get rid of 70% of the pests since the pests are soil-based. The way corporate American farming is treating the soil, good soil will become a more rare commodity.
The Daily Show segment played up the saga of someone who had some success in cable news leaving to try and improve people's lives. But Ratigan's experience in that world lends itself to the cause of better farming and hydroponics. Ratigan can explain the benefits in ways that people who absorb a lot of media can easily comprehend.
Hydroponics can seemingly be advantageous to liberals and progressives because of fewer pesticides and improved environment, while conservatives would like the time saved and amount of food that lend them to like the status quo for those reasons.
And Americans don't have to experiment on their own to see if hydroponics works since Israel, Holland, and Canada are all leading the way on hydroponics.
I need to do a lot more research on hydroponics to see the benefits and disadvantages about the method. But Dylan Ratigan is shining the light on hydroponics and leading people such as me to want to learn more.