Monday, May 24, 2010

an agricultural apologia.

I have read a lot of very good arguments for the total abolition of agriculture. The salient points are basically the same: our culture and diet have devolved since adopting an agricultural lifestyle; the surpluses it engenders began a Pandora's box of evils from warfare to class divisions; every known center of prehistoric agriculture is now a degraded dustbowl.

Yeah, okay, but...

This morning I rose early, when the dew was still on the ground, and slipped out without waking the boys. The last star was in the sky, but clouds were emerging from the general blue and there was that morning sweetness that accompanies first light. I had my colander and scissors; I began the rounds. First jasmine petals and mint for my morning tea. Some large, pearly collard leaves to cook up with garlic later. Tender new starts of lettuce, spinach, chive and borage with just a few radishes. I don't like radishes but I always seem to plant them. Ripe yellow figs. Two lemons for lunchtime guacamole.

Sipping my jasmine mint tea indoors, the steam rising and mingling with the gold of the candle, feet still grassy with dew, I was as close as I can get these days to being right. Or, as Darwin would have it, fit.

There is no denying that agriculture has been seeping into our bones for generation upon generation. What would the turning of the year be without the celebration of harvest/halloween? Solstice/Christmas? Imbolc/Easter? The rhythm of the sowing, sprouting, harvesting and fallow time is written into some of our oldest myths and rests deep in our psyche.

Not to mention all the evidence showing many celebrated "wildernesses", from the American grasslands to the Amazon rainforest, as being, in truth, carefully managed--farmed--by their first human residents.

We will modify our habitat. That is the nature of an organism, that is what beavers do, what ants do, what fungi do. We "farm" our environs to make them more suitable for us. So perhaps the question is not how we will return to the hunter/gatherer lifestyle, but how we will develop agricultural methods that do not deplete the soil. That do not decrease diversity. That do not lead to warfare and the creation of class divisions. Sure, it's an immensely complicated web to try and replicate, but we do still have living models of agricultural systems that work, ecological examples all around us. It seems that if we just endeavor to ramp up the complexity at every turn, we'll be moving in the right direction.

Obviously I need to re-read my self-control post of a few days back. Here I am, ready to try and fix the Earth with the almighty human brain, yet again. But the truth is, there's nothing wrong with the Earth. It's just getting unsuitable for continued human habitation.

And the truth is, we have these huge brains in a setting that does not require much of them. I need a toothy struggle or two to sink mine into or it gets bored. Needlepointing alone is not going to do it for me, sorry to say.

Wandering around the internet today, looking for information on how to prepare and eat the snails that are so prolific around here, I got a bit overwhelmed. There are so many sources for good information. Earnest people, carefully constructed thoughts, examined lives. But it begins to feel like a glut. Whose blog are you going to read for that chemise pattern, or are you going to go to a website specializing in sewing? It's all the same, but so many are greedy to present it to you, to make it theirs. I don't really want to be contributing to that information free-for-all, as though we are shouldering each other aside for the scraps, for the chance to teach somebody something. A drawback of the information age, I guess; it has to be commodified somehow. But I find it...distasteful.

I'll go back to my whining about parental woes soon, I promise. But it was only a matter of time before I remembered how much I CARE. I did a good job of holding back, there, for a while. But it was never going to last. comes the deluge!

Favorite thing about my house today: hours spent playing guitar in the sunny garden, a laughing baby "planting" all of his brother's little Lego pieces in neat rows.

Least favorite: the rug seems to have acquired an inanimate object's version of a virulent skin disease.


  1. You know, you could be getting paid to write this stuff... wait, did you say "commodified somehow"?

  2. I agree with Lauris! Here, here!