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Sleepwalking into Certain Catastrophe, or Awakening via Agroecology

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/07/12/sleepwalking-certain-catastrophe-or-awakening-agroecology

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As an “ex-row crop farmer” from the late 1940’s into the early 1960’s I’ve been advocating a return to more “local” growing. The problem is that our infrastructure is now “tuned” to the destructive long distance grow/supply average for our daily consumed crops (Excludes the large “agra-business” oriented businesses). And, the worse: the outrageous immoral destruction of so much of our precious best soils in too much of the US; overlaid with asphalt/cement/construction/environmental contamination. You can’t bring back those soils in short periods of time. I’m always delighted when I run across community gardens; I truly believe every public school should have some acreage devoted to growing row crops for school, local consumption. I can dream.


The extraordinary challenges faced by any kind of farmer trying to play the odds as the odds get odder and odder (the past 12 months were the wettest of the continental US in history) – that’s the subject of Tamino’s latest, Bet the Farm on Climate:

By June 2, 2019, both corn and soybean planting were proceeding at a record slow pace, with just 67 percent of the corn and 39 percent of the soybeans sown by that date. Previous June 2 planting records of 77 and 40 percent, respectively, had been set in 1995.


I live in Illinois farm country. My neighbor and good friend has a cow-calf operation and the rain has bogged him down. He had to buy hay in May at a premium price because many of his pastures were too wet to graze. He said the other day that his cows have been “muddy” since October. He finally planted his crops in late June but they are also “muddy” and will not yield what they normally do. He’s worried.

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Agroecology is not new. It is not something that has to be developed from scratch. Forms of it existed in all societies for much of human history. The resistance to it is not because it new or innovative and untried or unproven. The resistance to it comes from peoples that seek to continue to control the food supply as a function of big industry so that they can continue to control the population and the revenue stream this brings them.

Way back in the 1920s a cabal of industrialists determined that small family farms had to be destroyed, this to provide a ready supply of workers for the factories and to remove the independence that these farmers had from the system of Oligarchy they wanted to entrench. Agroecology threatens their power and control as it distributes the growing of food among too many players.


And then there’s Cuba…


Great example of how it should be done and how it has been done.

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I was growing up on a farm in the 60s and one thing i noticed then was every small town had grain elevators. The local farmers would bring in their crops to those elevators, the grain stored and then a train would stop in that town to load the grain. Local bakers and the like bought some of the grain first to mill flour or the produce raised was bought by local grocers…

That all changed. They shut down all those elevators in those little towns in favor of mega structures many miles away. The farmer now had to take his grain on an hour or two hour trip to sell. No local grain and produce no local grocers/bakers in business. This also mean the trains now only had to stop at those mega-centers and they stopped running to the smaller towns. No trains , no alternate mean of transportation other then buying a car if one wanted to get to a city. The smaller towns started dying as the work was all centralized far away.

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" …no alternate mean of transportation other then buying a car if one wanted to get to a city. The smaller towns started dying as the work was all centralized far away."
Another part of where corporate America destroyed a great transportation business, Greyhound. Almost no part of the country was “too isolated, or to far” to be not connected somehow with that system. “What Fools These Mortals Be!”

Paul Beckwith’s latest 15 minute video is “How 2030 is the new 2100: Global Food Yields Already Dropping from Abrupt Climate Change”

Epic crop failures this year in North central Florida. Dicamba drift is making things worse. Wish I could be more helpful. Gonna’ be eating lots of cow peas this winter.

Too often there has been a trend to emphasis the rights of private property, placing many farmers in the pro-capitalist camp

The real issue is not just the farming methods employed (albeit I do not disregard the importance) but the problem is one of social system and always will be.

This is an article from as far back as 1914 about the status of the small farmer and little has changed except that it has grown worse.


I’m looking at Lester R. Brown’s 2009 book "Plan B 4.0.

An Earth Policy Institute publication.

It is one of the only books I have read which addressed directly the carrying capacity of the planet.

Under varying scenarios - if we all ate like those in India, if like Americans, etc…

It seems to me knowing the carrying capacity under a much greater range of scenarios is mandatory - a task the United Nations would seem best to undertake.

  • Carrying capacity under the current fossil fuel model
  • Under a combined solar/wind power fossil fuel mix
  • Under a predominantly alternate energy system
  • Under a partial Dyson Sphere model, i.e., satellite transmission from orbit
  • Under a business as usual mineral and fertilizer regime
  • Under an asteroid mining scenario
  • Etc…

Nowhere on ‘progressive’ site do I see the ideas entertained, much less discussed.

Yet having some reasonably accurate knowledge of the points above and many more I haven’t listed would seem entirely necessary to future planning.

Personally, I am all for this new deep ecology agro business - it stands to reason, and as exemplified by some of the remarks of farmers on this thread -

We are washing our irreplaceable topsoils into the sea - estimates I’ve seen indicate sixty years until catastrophic depletion.

A comprehensive Earth System response to The Anthropocene is essential, unless we prefer to blunder along, with hope in our hearts.

But - Fortune favors the prepared.

Read Jay Barbree’s bio of his friend Neil Armstrong and see that this is indeed true (“A Life of Flight”).

We are hesitatingly venturing back into space - yet this topic is given short shrift by ‘progressives’.

I am reminded of a quote from Marshall McLuhan in Robert Bateman’s year 2000 book “Think Like a Mountain”:

‘When you hear someone using the word Progress, you know you are dealing with a nineteenth-century brain’.

Let’s drop the ‘progressive’ label here and just talk ideas.

““It’s like we evolved to stupid.”” - Lt Gen Russel Honoré, ret, now an activist combating corporate industrial pollution in Louisiana. What we did was allow big-money to control “elections” and thus dictate policy. A de facto poison chemical genocide is happening before our eyes in Big Ag and Monsatan, as well as industrial - epidemics of health disasters that must be seen as crimes of vast proportions with the active collusion and empowerment of government!

"“I went from being a hero in Katrina, to being referred to as an environmental terrorist because we wanted to put air monitors in. So you go from shine to shit here real quick, depending on what team you get on,” Honoré said.

He blames most of the state’s issues on this incestuous relationship between industry and government, including lawmakers and regulators alike. “Regulatory capture,” he calls it – another nod to military parlance. “It’s when the industry tells the regulators what to do and how to do it. It’s like the prisoners telling the guards.”

We sorely need some common sense and muscle to counter the corruption of this and previous regimes that cater to corporate campaign contribution bribery. That ability to pollute almost at will threatens the health and lives of millions across America; cancers are epidemic, non-poisonous water turned into a goddamn commodity, air and food tainted, The Wild despoiled for profits by trump regime cronies and other connected scum!

Those policies, politicians, official corruption, “rolling-back” regulations, and especially oil & gas, and chemical conglomerate poisoning the entire fuckin Earth must be stopped by any means, including tough environmentalists who can fight the bastards!