Monday, September 05, 2011

Agroecology, Fragment 1

Agroecology, Fragment 1

A philosophical critique of Gliessman's "Agroecology" text, chapter 1.

Chapter 1 Food For Thought:

I will answer all four questions with a single essay answer, as they all intertwine in my mind.

I preface my response with this anecdote from personal experience. In manufacturing seminars I attended there was always one point driven home: every business has to grapple with three things and only three things: quality, quantity and profit. We were taught that only two of those things were possible at the same time, never three. They taught us some statistical analysis to demonstrate how quantity and quality correlated with profit (for profit is seen as an immutable principle), and how increasing quantity decreases quality, and increasing quality decreases quantity – assuming a stable net profit sufficiently large to enable the sustained increase in the scope of the business, and in the enrichment of the owners. If any business was foolish enough to attempt quantity and quality at the expense of profit, we were told that business would surely fail.

Of course, all of their assumptions are based on the irrevocability of American capitalist theory.

Quality=ecological soundness, profit=economic viability, quantity=social equity. We have the same problem, and since we know fractal theory we can deduce instantly that we have the same situational relationships worded in different perspectives – mathematically we have the same pattern in a different fractal dimension. Among other things, that means we don't have to reinvent the wheel – we can learn from the results of what the best manufacturing minds have pondered long and hard upon. We can learn that we cannot have a holistic approach to anything under American capitalism as it is antithetical to such theories – it is a different fractal relationship. The 7 basic practices of “conventional” agriculture are held together by one thread – maximization of profit. Capitalism is hierarchal-based and profit-driven at its core. Any type of holistic approach is communally-founded and health-motivated. Two different fractals, two different philosophies, two mutually exclusive choices. We can't have both.

And so, that is why decentralization of power, local sovereignty of resources and community health (that is, sustainability) are so necessary to agroecology, and so foreign to our economic sense of reality. Capitalism is the reason why Americans cannot comprehend the destructive, even suicidal, nature of our entire system – a large component of which is the business of agriculture. After all, we made money, and money is the mind, spirit and body of capitalism. Conventional thought, agriculture and otherwise, says therefore that we won – the objective was to make money. Ecological thought says we lost, we killed the planet and the objective was to keep it healthy. It is hard to admit we've been so stupid as to value fiat money over the bounty of the planet, that we valued playing a number game over the business of reality, that we knew what we were doing all the time but were having such a good time we just wanted it to last a little longer.

We can also deduce instantly that the theoretical approach used by the writers of the text is the same as that used by the lecturers at the manufacturing seminars – because they are framing the problem in the same capitalist viewpoint: quality=ecological soundness, profit=economic viability, quantity=social equity. What they are asking, having all three at the same time, has been taught by the best business and manufacturing minds in American history to be impossible.

In other words, the System is broke, was always broke, and cannot ever be fixed in regards to sustainability because it never worked in the first place. Specifically to agroecology it means that agronomy (quantity) will always trump ecology (quality) because of the staggering number of mouths to feed (social equity). We do need a holistic approach, but by its very nature of being holistic that means we also have to heal the economic system we labor so fearfully under – remove the cancer (capitalism), nurture the patient (bioregional/biocultural), and learn a new lifestyle (decentralized local sufficiency) so as not to fall sick again. Money, profit, must be relegated to a secondary status.

Agroecology seeks to bring quality in the form of ecological soundness back into our lives. It seeks to do this by maintaining the health of the soil and preserving the range of biodiversity in the bioregion. It is a noble goal. It is an essential goal necessary to sustain the continuing evolution of the human race. Agroecology seeks to bring quantity in the form of social equality back into our lives. That is also a noble and essential goal necessary to sustain the continuing evolution of the human race in the direction that the greatest minds of human history have determined is best – toward the Good (no lesser of two evils here or billions will suffer for generations – that's just plain evil). Agroecology seeks to achieve both of those goals and maintain a profit (economic viability). Economic viability is a vague and misty term, but even if defined as only enough profit to sustain a business it is still not in any way a necessary thing for the continued evolution of the human race toward the Good. If we have ecological soundness we have the ability to live well. Agronomy also depends, long-term, upon the ecological health of the land. Non-local, non-renewable inputs to maximize production are a short-term gain that has a long and costly downside. Therefore, a healthy ecology is the primary factor (outside humans, of course) in a sustainable agronomic situation. The agronomic and ecologic health of an area is the common ground upon which sustainability is gathered.

Wherever our villages were, wherever we picked our food, those places are blessed places. . . . That patch over there — Artesa land in Annapolis — that is a blessed place for us. We went there as kids. We picked berries there with our mother. We picked berries for necklaces. There is another place over there where there is a lot of Manzanita, and that was really important to us. We made spoons from that and also awls to make baskets. These are the things we grew up with. We dedicated our trees not to be cut. The trees in the forest are blessed. The Redwoods give us good medicine from the sap that hardens. It was used for anemia. The young shoots are used for colds. Bark dolls are made from Redwood.

Everything out there is used for something.

The reason we are against the disturbance in Annapolis is that place is alive. It is a dedicated area. It is a special area. If they do something wrong there, things are not going to go right. Who will believe us? We are speaking from the viewpoint of Kashia. We have to talk from the viewpoint of our spiritual leader, what we were taught. The non-Indian may not understand — there are things that we Indians can’t touch but can see. Good teachings are spiritual.

We are disturbed by all the things that are happening around us. We can’t go to some beaches to harvest food, we can’t pick huckleberries any place we want. We can’t find good sedge to make baskets because the best place was ruined by Lake Sonoma. We know that there is sedge on that place over there. Baskets were our cooking pans and used to store things like acorns. That is important for kids to learn. It would be a good place to teach the kids how to make baskets.

Religion was all our life. We’ll tell you why. There were no man made conveniences here. Everything was from the creation. That is why we take care of it. That is what the leader did, she taught us to take care of the food, the water. We took care of the trees. . . .

It is a blessing to pick food. It is a blessing to roam around. The creator wants us to take care of this place.

- Violet Parrish Chappell and Vivian Parrish Wilder, elders and scholars of the Pomo Kashia band1

In other words, if you don't have your health you don't have anything. Ecological health translates into agronomic health which translates into human health. Economic viability is not necessary. A truly holistic approach to agroecology would have as its primary goals: ecological soundness, social health and social equity. This means an entirely different lifestyle than what we are used to . . . but then, we knew that anyway. It is time to stop clinging to bad ideas.

All of this may seem lofty and out of reach of the common person in a small village in a northern wetlands . . . but it is ground-level local. Sustainability is ground-level local. Sustainability depends upon each and every individual within a community being aware of their impact upon the ecologic health of the bioregion, as well as all their neighbors' impacts. Local resources drive sustainability. Local control of resources ensures sustainable lifestyles. If agroecology cannot break away from a profit-driven system at ground-level local then it cannot be what it needs to be – holistic.

Chapter 1 did a good job of exposing a lot of falsehoods we often hear recited as truths about conventional agriculture. But it stopped short of where it needed to go to identify the source of the problem, and possible solution. As long as profit is a driving force agroecology will remain agroeconomy.

1Ahni, Intercontinental Cry, World’s Largest Wine Corporation Threatens Sacred Pomo Redwood Forest ,, 30 August 2011

1 comment:

health ecology said...

Interesting and important information. It is really beneficial for us. Thanks