Ocean “Dead Zones” Are Increasing

One of the uncounted “externalities” of industrial-style agriculture is an inefficient overuse of chemical fertilizers. Some 85-90 percent of the nitrogen used in fertilizers is washed away into the environment, much of it ending up in the ocean. There, the nitrogen depletes oxygen in water, killing fish, shrimp, claims and other marine life. The “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, between Louisiana and Texas, may be the largest, most famous casualty of big agribusiness practices, but there are hundreds of other dead zones in coastal waters around the world. The Economist magazine reports that growing volume of nutrient run-off is increasing the “number, size, duration and severity of the dead zones.” The Economist story, which ran in its “Science and Technology” section, might more suitably be placed in a “Society/Culture” section. Commons-based agriculture is entirely feasible.