Friday, February 8, 2019

LeDomduVin: My take on Biodynamic

"The Last Supper" (a Wine Discussion) revisited by ©LeDomduVin 2019
Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" (Wine Discussion) revisited by ©LeDomduVin 2019
Original Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

My take on Biodynamic

Revisiting Leonardo Da Vinci's famous painting "The Last Supper" by adding "speech bubbles" and texts to it to depict Jesus and his Apostles discussing wine was the best way for me to visually introduce this vast and controversial subject of "Biodynamic Farming and Viticulture." (*)

So, let's talk about Biodynamic, shall we?

1. Are "Humans coming to their senses"? 

Since its creation back in 1924, Biodynamic has been the subject of endless discussions, mingling criticism and skepticism, dividing people and forcing them to either stand between the lines or firmly camp on their position and stand with their opinions; hence my illustration above, as Biodynamic is like an endless and recurring subject of conversation.... (sigh) 

I can already hear you say: "Here we go again, another article about Biodynamic..." putting back on the table (once again) this controversial subject (and its practices) that has been debated for more than 90 years... And I will say: Yes! You are right, it is another article on "Biodynamic", but with a slightly different approach somehow...

And why not, after all?  Dormant for more than 60 years, the so-called "biodynamic method" has experienced a resurgence over the last 20-25 years, during which its recognition increasingly expanded. More especially, it became "fashionable" and gained countless adepts over the last 10-15 years (roughly....). Prior to that, only a minority had ever heard about it, among which few were willing to apply it to their vineyards, and an even smaller number of people believed in it, and even fewer practiced it.... Nowadays it is on everyone's lips. It almost became a trend somehow...

Biodynamic is now nearly unavoidable (and it is a good thing) as humans have finally come to their senses (have they, really?), realizing that "Earth" needs to be saved (Earth no need saving, it will still be there long after us, yet humanity does). 

After decades of being told about pollution and climate change due to human activities, they realized they needed to be more disciplined, stop overproduction and overconsumption, and, more particularly, stop destroying the planet by polluting the ground, the water, and the air with chemicals, plastics, and other fossil fuel-derived products, to go back to more natural and environmentally friendly methods and cultures. Did they, really? 

"Humans are finally coming to their senses..." Well, let's not be too hasty on this one... only some humans, not all humans... and only a very small minority of them in fact! It is a little hope... like a silver lining in the gloomy future awaiting us tomorrow... 

Scientists used to say "If we do not change, things will get worse within 100 years"! Then, as computer technology and test simulators improved, they said "Actually, maybe within 50 years..." Nowadays, realizing changes have been occurring much faster than what their computers and algorithms predicted, scientists revised their prediction to 15-20 years. Talking about 2030 at the earliest. They are even now saying that even making drastic changes might not be enough to save us. 

So unless we all decide to make the necessary drastic changes within the next few years to hopefully still be able to return the situation, we are surely doomed! Frankly, I fear for my kid's future.  

So, "Are humans really coming to their senses?" Maybe (or not), but it is a bit late, in my opinion. Too late, maybe? ...probably, and unfortunately, nothing has been done to this day to radically change our bad habits and ways of living. We have the know-how, the manpower, and the technologies to do it, but we aren't doing anything about it. 

It feels like humans have been looking at the wall they are going to crash into for more than half a century now, but they haven't pressed on the break yet or even changed course.  They are still driving right ahead, straight into it...  

Worse, they are building this wall they will crash into. So not only have they seen it and have been looking at it, but, furthermore, they have been elaborating on its construction for decades, knowing that they will crash into it.  Yet, that did not stop them.... (sigh)

Let's take "Plastic" for example. I mean "Plastic" and all derivated products made from hydrocarbons found in fossil energies like natural gas, oil (petroleum), and coal. Plastic is a scourge, a curse, a plague, a flail for humanity... yet it simplified and tremendously helped certain things and aspects of our daily lives since its creation in the 1800s... Yet, it became our nemesis, invading and polluting air, water and soil, as we still don't know how to recycle it properly.  In fact, it is cheaper to produce than to recycle...

As per the statistics, only 10-15% of all the plastics produced in the world are recycled, and this recycling is incredibly onerous, expensive, and consumes a lot of energy. As per certain websites, like "We are now producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic every year, half of which is for single use. More than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans yearly." Therefore, the rest is either incinerated (which pollute the air) or buried in landfills (which pollute the soil and subterranean water bodies and rivers).

The problem with producing plastics and other pollutants that are not recyclable is that we have no other solution but to burn, bury, or sink them. In short, we are basically doomed! Even more so, money, power, and politics are more prevalent in this world than common sense and saving the planet (humanity).  

Frankly, I don't think humans will ever come to their senses! It will be a miracle if it happens.... (sigh)

However, using Biodynamic and Organic methods in agriculture and viticulture, which are more natural and sustainable, might help prevent the situation from worsening and buy us some time.      

2. So why write, yet again, another article on Biodynamic? 

It occurred to me that I wanted (or needed) to voice out my opinion and write an article about Biodynamic when, some time ago, I read an interesting little article on Biodynamic (here) where the person was roughly saying that (in his opinion (**)):
  • Biodynamic is better than Organic, Natural, Lutte Raisonnée, Integrated Farming, Sustainable agriculture, or conventional agricultural methods (in short, better than any other producing methods)
  • He has never been disappointed by a Biodynamic wine compared to other wines produced with the other methods (cited above)    
In his article, he explains why he prefers "Biodynamic" wines over any other wines, and I must say that, for the most part, I cannot necessarily disagree with him. Yet, (and like with many other articles written on the subject over the past 2 decades) some parts in his article made me wonder and asked myself a few questions. 

The reason why such articles about biodynamic viticulture (biodynamic farming in general) and biodynamic wines always make me wonder is because every time I just finished reading an article on the subject, it annoyingly makes me feel that the person who wrote it would rather have all vineyards converted and all wines produced under biodynamic methods, disregarding, or even worst, discarding all the other methods, region, climate, terroir, etc...

And, every time I feel that way, it irritates me somewhat... ( know that feeling that if the guy (or gal) was right in front of you, you would probably tell him/her a few words...... 

Why don't they (or can't) understand that biodynamic methods and processes cannot necessarily be applied everywhere? (meaning not in specific regions and/or under certain climates/micro-climates). Thus, not every vineyard can be converted to biodynamics, and not every wine can be Biodynamic. 

Of course, it would be great and so much better if all the world's vineyards and wines could be converted to and produced via biodynamic or organic methods (more natural and sustainable). It would be better for the environment, the soil and subsoil, the plants, the life surrounding the vines and the vineyards (fauna and flora), etc..etc..

However, and I'm sorry to say, it might prove impossible (for now) depending on the region of production and location (geography, topography, geology, climate, sub-climate, terroir, soil, subsoil, etc.). 

With this post, I will try to explain why.

You might agree or strongly disagree... however, here is my take on "biodynamic" and what I have to say about it (which comes as a complement to an old post I wrote back in 2009 - read it here)

Simplified Rudolf Steiner's Biodynamic Farming Theory for Newbies by ©LeDomduVin 2019

1. First, let's go back to basics... What is biodynamic?

So, first of all, do you know what "Biodynamic" is? 

My illustration above somewhat illustrates Mr. Rudolf Steiner's "Biodynamic Farming Theory" (in a simplified way).  Yet, it is so much more complex than that...  

However, it is a start, especially for all of you millennial newbies who have grown up hearing that word everywhere and for everything but don't know what it is or what it refers to. (Am I wrong?)    

So let's google it, shall we? Like everybody else, when searching for a word online (on the internet), one of the first links that come up is "Wikipedia," and Wikipedia says the following:

"Biodynamic agriculture is a form of alternative agriculture very similar to organic farming, but it includes various esoteric concepts drawn from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925). Initially developed in 1924, it was the first of the organic agriculture movements. It treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks, emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives.Wikipedia

So, there you are! Now, you know what is biodynamic agriculture (viticulture and farming)! Or do you really know it?

Of course, you do not know, as no one can fully understand biodynamic farming without having read and experienced plenty on the subject and, more significantly, studied and applied Rudolf Steiner's work to agriculture and/or viticulture. It is also difficult to understand it without having lived as a farmer in the countryside before the 1850s or practicing the methods for a few years in a vineyard converted to biodynamic.

So, to learn about the subject, you can always start by reading the Wikipedia article and other articles on the subject (like some of my previous posts on my blog here and/or here, too). After that, you might start to feel that you understand it somewhat (or at least more than before), which is a good thing.  

Yet, even if some of you may already consider yourself experts on the subject and surely do not need any lecture or guidance from a Sommelier like me (which I could definitely understand), please allow me to try to resume the big lines quickly for you.

Rudolf (Joseph Lorenz) Steiner (1861-1925)
Austrian philosopher, scientist, social reformer, architect, scholar, lecturer, esotericist, etc...

2. Rudolf Steiner and the concept of Biodynamic Farming (Agriculture and Viticulture)

The Biodynamic Farming Theory (or concept, if you prefer) was elaborated/created (or founded if you prefer) by Rudolf Steiner back in 1924. This theory (or concept) was based on the lectures of ideas, concepts, research, and studies on agriculture he started at an earlier stage, back in 1910, in response to questions asked by farmers and growers facing the depletion of soils and a general deterioration of crops and livestock (in Austria and Germany). 

Between 1910-1918, at the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918), and also right after WWI, between 1918-1924, the market value of Austrian agricultural products and services decreased by nearly 48% (***), which did not help to reassure the worried farmers and growers.  

The depletion of the soils and deterioration of the crops and livestock were (directly and/or indirectly) the consequences of the "Second Industrial Revolution" (1870-1914), World War I (1914-1918), and the end of the Austria-Hungary Dual Monarchy (1867-1918), leaving Austria and Germany in bad shape. A solution needed to be found.  

A man of many hats and a controversial public figure, Rudolf (Joseph Lorenz) Steiner (1861-1925) was an Austrian philosopher, skilled scientist, social reformer, architect, scholar, lecturer, and esotericist who initially gained some recognition at the end of the 19th century as a literary critic and published philosophical work. 

At the beginning of the 20th century, he founded the esoteric spiritual movement Anthroposophy (a blend of philosophy and theosophy) and published books on philosophy, theosophy, life, and education, as well as on esoteric and occult sciences, while attempting to synthesize science and spirituality.  

Around 1910, Steiner, who was everything but a farmer (actively involved in art and architecture at the time), embarked on personal study and research on farming and agriculture, including the science of soils and plants and their environments. 

In fact, he mostly gathered and applied the old know-how (savoir-faire) and practices of the old days of farming and agriculture (the way things were done by our great-great-great-parents before 1850 and the Industrial Revolution 1760-1840), to which he applied esoteric concepts and processes with a cosmological, spiritual, ethical, and ecological approach.   

Once he finalized his methods, Rudolf Steiner gave eight lectures on “the spiritual foundations for a renewal of agriculture.” 

Based on his suggestions and spiritual science, generations of farmers, gardeners, viticulturists, and researchers developed his biodynamic methods as a healing, nurturing, holistic, ecological, organic, and spiritual approach to sustainable care of the Earth. 

Basically, "Biodynamic methods" consider the farm or garden to be a "self-contained organism" embedded in the living landscape of the Earth, which is, in turn, part of a living, dynamic cosmos of vital, spiritual energies. 

The aim is to increase the health and vitality of the whole, including the farm, the land, the crops, and the culture, including the farmer or gardener. The biodynamic practitioner follows an alchemical, transformative path of "working with the Earth" through the nine “homeopathic” preparations created by Steiner.

💥 Work in progress 💥

Bio (Organic), Biodynamic, Natural, Lutte Raisonnée, etc... by ©LeDomduVin 2019

3. How we had to invent new words to redefine what used to be simply know as "farming".... and the use of chemicals....

As I said in my illustration above, people often confuse organic, biodynamic and natural wines... But in fact, it is essential to make the difference between Bio (Organic), Biodynamic, Natural, Lutte Raisonnée, sustainable viticulture, conventional viticulture, etc... 

Anciently simply known as "Farming", "Organic" and "Biodynamic" culture and agriculture have in fact both always existed under the sole and unique name of "Farming"until let's say the apparition and use of the chemicals.

Farming was the way of the past, and when I say "past", I mean the good old days of our great-great-great-grandparents. More precisely, the old days prior chemicals first appearance during the "Industrial Revolution" within the second half of the 18th century.

Rooted in the alchemy of the medieval times, chemistry led to the creation of chemicals roughly around 1750s, then first classified around the late 1780s by Lavaoisier in his "Methods of Chemical Nomenclature" (1787), where he invented a system of naming and classification still largely in use today, including names such as sulfuric acid, sulfates, and sulfites (****).

, Chemicals were further developed around the end of the 19th century, and their use gradually intensified up to the point when they were heavily manufactured and commercialized in the early 20th century, first around "World War I" and then more especially after and since "World War II".

In fact, Farming was the way our great-great-great grandfather use to do it. At the time, treatment of the vines was more natural and respectful of the soils, subsoil and overall environment (obviously as chemicals did not exist and therefore were not around to be used, duh....). Therefore, the knowledge, skills, experiences, and wisdom of the old and wise were passed on from father to son, mother to daughter (and/or vice versa), and work in the field and vineyards was done according to the seasons and the lunar calendar.

The old and wise were men and women of earth. Peasants, or farmers if you prefer, who knew what to do by experiences, experiments, as well as from what they learned from their elders and by observing and following the life circles of nature. All these allowed them to know that certain things needed to be done at a certain time of the year or at a certain period of the vegetative life cycle stages. They knew how to recognize the signs of Mother Nature by living in perfect symbiosis and respect with their environment and the land they were working on and feeding on a daily basis.


(*****) Permaculture: "Permaculture is a set of design principles centred on whole systems thinking, simulating, or directly utilizing the patterns and resilient features observed in natural ecosystems. It uses these principles in a growing number of fields from regenerative agriculture, rewilding, and community resilience." - Wikipedia

Talking about permaculture brings me the idea that one day I will dedicate a post to that eco-friendly type of culture that I love and will extend the post to talk about regenerative culture, which, in my opinion, is the only way to respect and save the environment and preserve the earth for a better future.    
Here is a quick visual (courtesy of General Mills) for you to better understand at one glance the benefits of permaculture and regenerative culture.  

But that is the subject of another post...... 

...til next time, be well and be safe, and take good care of yourself and your loved ones. 


💥 Work in progress 💥

(*) Leonardo Da Vinci's famous painting "The Last Supper" revisited by and for @ledomduvin 

(**) Funny enough, when I started to write this post I wrote at first "she said this" (e.g. in her opinion) and refer to that person as a "she" (not a "He") not having realized that it was a man (not a woman) who wrote the article I just read.... even if his picture and a short bio end the article..... Oooops...  I changed it after reading the article a second time... feminine style of writing maybe, eh? ... 😉 I then later on corrected my post by replacing the "She" by "He", but I swear, at first, I really thought "he" (i.e. the writer) was actually a "she".... go figure... 

(***) Info sourced from Encyclopedia.1914-1918 (read the full article here)

(****) Info courtesy of Wikipedia, read the full article here

Unless specified or indicated otherwise, all writings, texts, photo, pictures, illustrations, collages and all other mediums used in LeDomduVin are made by and for © LeDomduVin (2019)  

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