Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Path to The Modern World: Go back to the farms!

So skimming those few, those blessed few, who have logged on to read the Continuum ("The J Continuum: Now with Reader(s)!"), I saw one of the hits was someone looking for podcasts from Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Wondering myself what other bits pop up in a websearch for the distinguished fellow, I ended up finding this, the Capital Press Agriculture News page. This is significant because from there I saw the article "Bill Pan asked growers to get the word out that there's going to be 'an unfathomable number of new jobs' in agriculture in the next 10 years'". I only skimmed the article, but what's interesting is (among other things) it harkens to something said by J-Mentor JV, that I heartily agree with: "No serious futurist can deny that a major re-ruralization of society is going to be necessary in the coming years." That is, although the number of people in agriculture and the number of farms has been dwindling for decades, that's not any kind of path to sustainability. We must go back to agriculture, from urban gardens to periurban agriculture to actual agriculture -- the methods we've used to provide the plenty (that those of us with money get to enjoy) are unsustainably subsidized by fossil fuels. We'll have to replace a lot of that with organic agriculture and people power -- but don't mistake this for a backwards step. With the necessary amount of vision, mass transportation (i.e. fast rail), increased number and subsidizing of widespread institutions of higher learning, and the Internet and modern telecommunications, there's no reason that a future of this type will be a step backwards to a backwater past, real or imagined. And anecdotal evidence implies that those who have willingly gone back to farming in recent years, especially organic farming, report increased happiness and sense of well-being from it (and of course, properly supported family farmers who don't have to use poisonous or degrading agricultural technology also often report high satisfaction, or so I think I've read). There's no reason this can't be a fun and exciting future -- I hope you'll join me in supporting it.

Now, if I heard Obama say something like this, then he might be talking about change I believe in. Meanwhile, this NAFTA bullshit recently does little to endear me to him -- I'm still waiting for him to mention how Free Trade has been an excuse to foster unsustainable and unjust trade policies between partner countries treated as "equals" under trade law yet existing in a very unequal world. As was said in something I read yesterday but now can't find, a system treating everyone "equal" when the groups in the system come to the table with an unequal distribution of power is not fairness, it is a recipe for continuing and worsening inequality. Whether Obama thinks NAFTA needs to tweaked, or is lying out of expediency as his economic advisor Austan Goolsbee allegedly implied, he's once again far wrong on this one to me. NAFTA has impoverished farmers in Mexico, broadened inequality, increased immigration pressure from Mexico, and directly hurt American workers as well. But it's been great for the large companies -- a la Obama, are the companies the ones they've been waiting for?