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  • Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    Reaping industrial monoculture

    Twenty-one percent of the Earth's surface is cropland, 24% is pasture, one third is unsuitable for agriculture, pasture or forests. Top soil builds at an average rate of 5 centimetres per millenium, yet modern agriculture loses 0.7 % of the Earth's top soil per year. Modern irrigation is salting out landscape at a horrific rate. In short, everything permaculture founder Bill Mollison has been saying for 25 years is happening. From the Guardian via Common Dreams:

    New maps show that the Earth is rapidly running out of fertile land and that food production will soon be unable to keep up with the world's burgeoning population. The maps reveal that more than one third of the world's land is being used to grow crops or graze cattle.

    "The maps show, very strikingly, that a large part of our planet (roughly 40%) is being used for either growing crops or grazing cattle," said Dr Navin Ramankutty, a member of the Wisconsin-Madison team. By comparison, only 7% of the world's land was being used for agriculture in 1700.

    The Amazon basin has seen some of the greatest changes in recent times, with huge swaths of the rainforest being felled to grow soya beans.

    "One of the major changes we see is the fast expansion of soybeans in Brazil and Argentina, grown for export to China and the EU," said Dr Ramankutty.

    This agricultural expansion has come at the expense of tropical forests in both countries.

    Meanwhile, intensive farming practices mean that cropland areas have decreased slightly in the US and Europe and the land is being gobbled up by urbanisation.

    The research indicates that there is now little room for further agricultural expansion.

    9 Comments:

    At 12/07/2005 12:40:00 pm, Blogger Scott A. Meister said...

    The really sad thing, is that Farmers Using "modern agricultural techiniques" have been bombarded by seed/pesticide/fertilizer companies with information telling them that this is the right thing to do...that burning out the soil, and mono-culture is actually productive for humanity...and that these techniques, along with GM seeds, if spread to the third-world, will aid in stopping starvation through increased yield...it would be too painful for many of them to see the truth, and then even harder for them to change their ways.

    To add insult to injury, we've taken a lot of that land that is being burned out and blown or washed away, and turned it into concrete, blacktop, and buildings...full of people who fear nature, abhore it, and wouldn't know how to grow a peanut if their life depended on it.

    Quite frankly, basic gardening skills should be taught in schools in tandem with earth science. Every child should know how to create soil, and thier own food as a part of the basic and fundamental knowledge of self survival. It might give them a little more respect for mother nature, and life in general in the process.

     
    At 12/07/2005 02:06:00 pm, Blogger DJEB said...

    Well, a lot of the farmers today are employees of big agribusiness corps and they do as they are told. As for the remainders, I'm not willing to let them off the hook as innocent dupes of agribusiness. Maybe they were lied to, but you'd have to be a fool not to see that now; and as such, they have some responsibility to take.

     
    At 12/08/2005 01:50:00 pm, Blogger Scott A. Meister said...

    Yes, just like LUCY, they do got some "splainin' to do," But in a Socratic way.
    It's like children of abusive parents who grow up their whole life thinking that abuse is the way you're supposed do things...after a certain age...it becomes very difficult for them to receive the mental rehabilitation to get past that. It often takes years of intense therapy to instill a change of behavior.
    As for them being fools...you are being a little too harsh I'm afraid...They are victims, not fools...just as the child who's been brought up in an abusive family is not a fool, they are a victim...they have been mis-educated into a dangerous habitual lifestyle, and are guilty of nothing less than that.
    If a child is brought up it's entire life to believe something is true...it doesn't make them a fool.
    Besides...attacking them in such a way as to call them fools, is not productive behavior. It takes patience, a LOT of facts...and logical re-education to the truth...in a Socratic way to make the change that is needed in the world. With all due respect, aggressive name-calling does nothing.
    It would be better to sit down with them, and ask them questions as to why they do what they do...and let them come to the correct conclusion on their own. It will take time, but the knowledge will be owned by them, and if they realize that what they've been doing their whole life has been wrong, they will be more passionate about correcting their mistakes...somewhat like a born-again christian, but in a beneficial way toward society.

     
    At 12/09/2005 01:17:00 am, Blogger DJEB said...

    If you are brought up to believe something that is false, believing it does not make you a fool. What makes you a fool is to deny blatant empiracle evidence that runs contrary to your belief. Let's be careful with the battered child analogy. A battered child develops serious mental imparements that run very deep and perhaps negate the possibility of health and normality. That does not fit in to the picture we are looking at.

    I'd like to run the risk of offering a different analogy. Farmers are washing away their lands at a horrific rate and salting them beyond use within a decade of two. This is obvious - it cannot be missed. Now, for them to be continuing to operate like this is to operate without thought, and operating without thought is foolish. It's like the mother who was teaching her daughter how to make roast beef. The daughter sees the mother cutting the ends off the roast before putting it in the pan and she asks her mother why she did that. Her mother replys, "I don't know. Your grandmother always did that. Let's call her and find out why." So, they call gramma and ask her why she always cut the ends of the roast before she put it in the pan. The grandmother answered, "Oh, that's because the pan was too small." The moral of the story being, if you don't use your naturally endowed brainpower, you are going to make foolish decisions.

    You are right about the fool not liking to have the fact that he or she is a fool pointed out to him or her, and I would not say "Hey fool, stop that," and expect any change. Were I dealing with such a bloody fool, I would not call that person a bloody fool. However, when I see a person lacking in judgment or prudence (ie. the definition of a fool according to Merriam-Webster) doing something that is contrary to reality, I don't look for a PC way to describe that person. I'm not here retraining someone now, I'm describing how the things people are doing are ovbiously running contrary to what they expect. My description may not be kind, but the words I have used are correct according to the dictionary.

     
    At 12/14/2005 02:48:00 am, Blogger Scott A. Meister said...

    "My description may not be kind, but the words I have used are correct according to the dictionary."

    I guess I didn’t make my point very well...but you have assisted in helping me do so. Your words are semantically correct...but the word foolish is an ad-hominem nonetheless, just as calling someone who is a communist may be semantically correct, yet it’s not a productive use of language...nor is it kind as you so admitted.

    It’s interesting to me...and this was my original point, that both of our analogies contain victims of indoctrination, one more violent and extreme than the other, yet both are victims of indoctrination ...what makes us seem justified in calling one a fool and elevate ourselves above them, while we feel sympathy for the other? All forms of indoctrination both violent and nonviolent have the same result, illogical behaviors resulting from illogical views of the world around them. I would say that ALL forms of indoctrination can lead to, as you so well put it...

    mental impairments that run very deep and perhaps negate the possibility of health and normality."

    The result of this discussion however, has been an argument on the use and semantics of foolishness...however we have been foolishly avoiding a more productive argument...

    How can we shift the current paradigm (the indoctrinated beliefs that support modern agricultural techniques)?

    Right now...it’s still a matter of wrestling the power away from the corporations who’ve been exploiting the farmers, and fixing the facts with their own “science” to convince those farmers that what they’re doing is not only right, but ethical. This is similar to the abuser who often tells the abused that the chosen form of abuse (whether it be verbal, mental or physical) is for their own good, or perhaps out of love...or that it will make them a better person.

    We can compare the two situations, the abused child and the ecologically abusive farmer...for I think they both call for serious action...both behaviors are abusive and cause serious harm to others...one to an individual...the other to society.

    When abuse is discovered in a home, the abused is removed from the home (usually by a government social worker), and then nurtured into “health” in a controlled environment. They are often cared for over months and years (usually the latter), and counselors help them to “relearn” healthy behavior based on logic. They have literally removed the abused and indoctrinated from the situation, and reeducated them.
    (By the way, just so you know where I get this information...I’ve lived with one such counselor, and worked closely with a second for many years. They often bring their work home with them.)

    nos. don’t think it’s possible for us to go around kidnapping farmers and reeducating them, unless we can convince the governments that what they are doing is abusive to society and the world at-large, nor can we start assigning “caseworkers” who’ve been trained in healthy farming behavior to every farm in the world unless the people believe it’s unhealthy and force the government to do so at their will.

    Problem number one...governments are saturated with corporate interest groups and individuals directly profiting from abusive behavior.

    Problem number two...the media which is currently indoctrinating the public...is able to do so with funds provided by corporate interest profiting from the abusive behavior. No surprise here.

    In effect, the problem we are facing is one of the two sciences. “Our science” versus “their science.” Corporate “scientists” (who care about their own individual selves and the health of the corporation they depend on for their own well-being) are being funded to give the “right” answer for the corporation...and the corporation holds the political power and financial clout to indoctrinate the farmers.

    The other scientists...ones who genuinely care about the earth and all life living on it...lack the funding or the financial power to get a bigger voice. Not only that...the corporate science currently has the trust of the farmers, and the financial ability to discredit anything that disagrees with them. They essentially “weed-out” those that disagree with them. Seed companies are firmly planted in the small social groups where farmers commune. They can also employ tactics at a local level to chastise and harass farmers who disagree with them in the small communities (a much more effective tactic).

    The only choice I see, is to go out there and start farming for ourselves using the real science that we are aware of...get results on our own...and lead by example. We need high-yield, profitable/sustainable farms to show their neighbors that modern ag-biz is simply not necessary. We also need farmers who are social, good-natured and logical people who can sway their neighbors with a good, solid and logical argument, and back that argument up with visual proof that what they’re doing is not only profitable, but ethical for society as well.

    Most of the farmers we have today, have inherited their responsibility from generations of farmers before them. We have generations of farmers who genuinely believe they are doing the right thing for the world because that’s what corporate science and corporate representatives from the seed/fertilizer/pesticide companies have been telling them since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

    It’s not likely that you will be able to change the abuser...who’s been at the butt-end of generations of abusive behavior...brought up for a whole generation believing that abuse is correct, but it is possible to change the next generation...and wen them off of abuse. You just have to do it in the right way. This also entails responsible use of language...to unite, not divide society. We should all focus more on solving problems than pointing out fault. Fault finding is easy...problem solving is more challenging.

     
    At 12/14/2005 03:53:00 pm, Blogger DJEB said...

    I didn't make an ad hominem, I made an accurate description. An ad hominem is a fallacy of relevance in which a label of against the person making an argument is used in place of a counter argument. This I have not done here.

    "what makes us seem justified in calling one a fool and elevate ourselves above them, while we feel sympathy for the other?"

    The person being labelled fool in both of my instances are people who are guilty of harming others - in the latter case through waste.

    "How can we shift the current paradigm (the indoctrinated beliefs that support modern agricultural techniques)?"

    The change will only come out of necessity. Judging by the history of the over-developed world, this will mean a lot of death before action is taken.

    "it’s still a matter of wrestling the power away from the corporations who’ve been exploiting the farmers"

    And a very harmful institution known as the U.S.D.A...

    Counter-examples through success are very compelling, I think. Any farmer with any business savy at all today would be switching to organic (more $$$), but they could be doing even better than just organic, of course.

    "Problem number one...governments are saturated with corporate interest groups and individuals directly profiting from abusive behavior."

    I agree with what Chomsky says: governments are unjust, amoral entities. I don't expect much from them. If you can just get them from doing harm, like the Hippocratic oath for doctors, then you are really off to a great start.

    People (you, I, our friends) need to work on these problems ourselves. In the world we live in, it is almost meaningless to separate governments and corporations; they are so intertwined.

    "The only choice I see, is to go out there and start farming for ourselves using the real science that we are aware of...get results on our own...and lead by example."

    Ahmen.

    "We also need farmers who are social, good-natured and logical people who can sway their neighbors with a good, solid and logical argument, and back that argument up with visual proof that what they’re doing is not only profitable, but ethical for society as well."

    I still don't know what to do with the terminally stupid - those with what psychologists Jack Glaser and Arie Kruglanski would call mental illness. I'm refering to those for whom logic holds zero sway. Evidence and facts are elitist and the only truth comes from the mouths of angry, ill-informed white men (or in Ann Coulter's case women) like Bill O'Reilly for these people. For such people, not even putting a non sequitur in standard form will reveal its irrationality. I am sad to say that there are many such people around, particularly in the bastions of conservativism (ie. farming country).

    " This also entails responsible use of language...to unite, not divide society."

    Yeah, but they're still fools by definition.

     
    At 12/15/2005 01:47:00 am, Blogger Scott A. Meister said...

    “Yeah, but they're still fools by definition.”

    -That’s the spirit! You’re off to a good start!

    “I didn't make an ad hominem, I made an accurate description. An ad hominem is a fallacy of relevance in which a label of against the person making an argument is used in place of a counter argument. This I have not done here.”

    -Okay...thanks for pointing this out...I had always thought that an ad hominem was simply any pointless name calling in place of a productive argument, even if the name or label is, by definition, correct...and even if an opponent is not present...which is what it seemed like to me.

    “’it’s still a matter of wrestling the power away from the corporations who’ve been exploiting the farmers’

    And a very harmful institution known as the U.S.D.A...”

    ...to be fair we have to include all the other similar institutions around the world...we can’t lay all the blame on the U.S...although I will say that they bear the brunt of it.

    “Counter-examples through success are very compelling, I think. Any farmer with any business savy at all today would be switching to organic (more $$$), but they could be doing even better than just organic, of course.”

    Counter-examples are indeed compelling...I just read in “Global Citizen” (by Donella H. Meadows) about one of my neighbors back home in Nebraska...

    “Del Ackerlund farms 760 acres of corn, oats, alfalfa, and soybeans near Valley, Nebraska. He hasn’t used commercial fertilizers of pesticides in nineteen years.

    The Pavich brothers grow 640 acres of table grapes in Delano California, and 900 acres of grapes, cotton, and melons near Phoenix Arizona-all without chemicals.

    Ben Brubaker’s 300-acre corn, hay, small-grain, and cattle operation in Kutztown, PA, has been organically farmed for sixteen years.

    All these farmers get high yields. All of them are prospering.”

    Why don’t we hear about these?

    Do you think that local, rural newspapers would carry a story glorifying a farming system that doesn’t praise the use of the GM/hybrid seed, fertilizer and pesticide companies’ products that pay their bills? Would local television do so? No...there’s no point for them, because they’re only looking at their personal financial survival.

    Del Ackerlund lives just SPITTING distance from my home in Nebraska, and I’ve never heard about what he was doing. There’s probably a whole community of people like Del that we’ve never heard of quietly having success.

    I think you’re right about change coming out of necessity. There will probably be a big die-off, unfortunately, but perhaps there will be a movement back to the land. I hope (again this is a big hope and a wish) that good-natured, liberal thinkers will get off their ass and infiltrate “the bastions of conservativism (ie. farming country)”, and get their hands dirty with the land, and talk some sense into those around them.

    “I still don't know what to do with the terminally stupid - those with what psychologists Jack Glaser and Arie Kruglanski would call mental illness. I'm refering to those for whom logic holds zero sway. Evidence and facts are elitist and the only truth comes from the mouths of angry, ill-informed white men (or in Ann Coulter's case women) like Bill O'Reilly for these people. For such people, not even putting a non sequitur in standard form will reveal its irrationality. I am sad to say that there are many such people around, particularly in the bastions of conservativism (ie. farming country).”

    True, there are a great many conservatives in farming country, but they seem to suffer from hypocritical ideals. Come to think of it...a case could be made that all conservatives suffer from hypocritical ideals...but to move on to my point. Most of the farmers using modern agricultural practices such as fertilizers and pesticides do so, not from any idealogical perspective, but from lack of knowing any other way.

    Again...from “Global Citizen”

    “Lack of knowledge is the main reason why organic agriculture is practiced on only about 1 percent of the farms of North America and Europe. Most of the sources of farmers’ information-journals, agriculture schools, extension services, advertisements-push chemicals. Monsanto can sell an herbicide and then a genetically engineered soybean resistant to that herbicide. It can’t sell the idea of relay cropping.

    Only recently has the knowledge situation changed. Several land grant universities, such as Nebraska, Michigan , and Pennsylvania, are doing serious research on organic methods. The California Legislature has appropriated special funds to the University of California for that purpose. Rodale Press puts out a journal on low-input agriculture called ‘New Farm’...”

    So there is some good news afterall. Let’s hope there’s more to come. But better than hope...is action. Let’s all get the hell out of the city, and grab some crappy cheap land somewhere, rehabilitate it, and live off our own food and products...trade with other like-minded, mentally stable, logical thinkers, and peaceful people who have done the same, create little eco-communities...real social communities, and show those terminally stupid bastards full of conservative angst and fury how to live a healthy life. And when I say healthy, I mean in every way...physically, mentally, socially, and environmentally.

    Having said that...it’s time to go back to looking for my own piece of land.

     
    At 12/15/2005 02:29:00 am, Blogger DJEB said...

    "Let’s all get the hell out of the city, and grab some crappy cheap land somewhere, rehabilitate it, and live off our own food and products..."

    I've got my eye open for an abandoned gravel pit somewhere...

     
    At 12/15/2005 12:47:00 pm, Blogger Scott A. Meister said...

    ...and I have my eye on some bush!

    ...uh...for some reason, I feel that some people might take that the wrong way...let me clarify that by "bush" I mean "wilderness" GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER PEOPLE! I'm not talking about shrubbery that grows in the ditch....or a president for that matter. Sheez!

     

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