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Not Monsieur Hulot

by afew Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 11:39:36 AM EST


Even if you're not conversant with France, its life and customs, you'll know who Zinedine Zidane is. You might even have heard of Yannick Noah. (No? Black tennis player, now a singer?) But you're not all that sure to have heard of Nicolas Hulot. Yet he came third, after Zidane and Noah, in the French Top 50 Favourite People poll at Christmas.

Hulot is a conservation advocate who has produced and presented, for the last twenty years, the nature/travel documentary show Ushuaïa on France's N° 1 TV channel, TF1. Everyone in France (almost) has heard him huff and puff into the microphone as he dives to show endangered coral reefs or climbs melting glaciers. He's always been a popular figure, but for some months now he's been running a presidential campaign, and that probably explains his high showing in the Top dear-to-French-hearts 50.

He's running (or maybe he won't) to force an issue: the environment has to take its rightful place at the centre of any political platform, right or left.

Sounds good? Well, perhaps it is.

More below the fold.


Hulot has not yet decided to run for sure. He has given himself till mid-January to make his choice. Mostly, what he's doing is using his popularity (cynics would say, increasing it by doing so...) to hammer home the message that governments, right or left, don't take environmental problems seriously. He's asking candidates to be clear about their intentions by signing his Ecological Pact, (which apparently just says they think the environment is very important, so several candidates, including Sarkozy but not yet Royal, have dutifully signed up), and, further, to take up a position concerning his Ten Objectives and Five Propositions. (These are much more constraining, and there is no rush of candidates to do this bit...)

What leverage does he have to force the "major" candidates to take notice of his demands? Well, he's been polling at from 8%-10% of voting intentions (first round, supposing he runs) through November and December. His threat is: if you don't listen to me, I'll run. And I'll come third or fourth, taking votes from all of you.

Does it go as far as saying: I'll adjudicate the second round, in favour of the Most Ecological Candidate?

Hulot says not. His Ecological Pact states that he does not wish "to influence the vote in any way in favour of any political family". However... His TV career has always been associated with the very conservative TF1. He is generally considered more sympathetic to the right than the left. He has been an advisor to Jacques Chirac. But then again, also to Laurent Fabius... And he is working with the excellent Pierre Rabhi, a genuine grassroots ecologist and agriculturalist. So he seems to be successfully walking the neutrality tightrope.

The main importance of this is for Les Verts. Their candidate, former Environment Minister Dominique Voynet, is stuck at 2% in the polls with only 10% of those 2% sure to vote for her. Why? Voynet is probably not a good candidate. Her image is worn (several years in the Jospin government, not much visibly accomplished). But also Les Verts, as a party, are looking pretty worn. Constantly gridlocked by endless internal dissension, (it took I don't remember how many votes to finally name Voynet candidate, for example), lacking leadership, the French Greens don't appear to have delivered much for their years of cooperation with the PS. So it's tempting for a lot of people to go off on the old "apolitical ecology" warpath, even though that question was settled years ago when it became clear that an "apolitical" environmental movement was little more than a wedge for the right to split and demolish any environmental movement at all.

If Hulot runs and polls 8%-10% (or even less but in excess of 5%), Voynet will take such a hiding it will probably threaten the very existence of Les Verts. Libération says Hulot may not want that to happen:

En écrasant Voynet, il a conscience qu'il risque de plonger les Verts dans une crise dont ils ne se remettraient pas. Or Hulot ne veut surtout pas que son engagement empêche l'élection de militants écologistes dans la future Assemblée nationale.By crushing Voynet, he's aware of the risk of plunging les Verts into a crisis they would be unable to pull out of. And Hulot really doesn't want his candidature to prevent the election of environmental militants in the future National Assembly.

Dany Cohn-Bendit, Green MEP and member of les Verts, makes some astute points:

"A partir du moment où vous êtes candidat, vous devez dire au deuxième tour ce que vous allez faire. Et vous allez dire 'moi je suis pour celui qui signe mon pacte', et si les deux (candidats présents au deuxième tour) signent le pacte, 'je suis pour les deux' ?".

"Ca ne peut pas marcher, à un moment il faudra choisir", a encore estimé le député européen. Pour lui, "la normalisation de Hulot va poser la question aussi de quel groupe parlementaire écologiste existera". "Les groupes se font par négociation, les Verts doivent négocier avec le PS. Ce n'est pas Hulot qui va donner des circonscriptions: même s'il fait 8%, il n'en a aucune avec 8%".

"Once you're a candidate, you've got to say, come the second round, what you are going to do. And you're going to say: I'm for the one who signed my pact, and if both candidates have signed the pact, I'm for both of them?"

"It won't work, at some point you have to choose," continued the MEP. According to him, "Hulot's [political] standardisation will also pose the problem of which ecological parliamentary group will come into being." "Groups are made by negotiation, les Verts must negotiate with the PS. Hulot can't hand out [parliamentary] constituencies: even if he gets 8%, he won't win one with 8%."

There's no question of Hulot replacing Voynet as candidate of les Verts. There would appear to be a fair chance Hulot will announce he is desisting, in a week or so's time. If he persists, there's a fair chance les Verts will be in trouble.

But what is Hulot asking presidential candidates to take up a position on? Here are his Ten Objectives (pdf) (translation and errors mine):

Objectif 1 Économie : vers une logique de durabilité
En bref : concevoir les produits industriels pour qu’ils durent, soient réparés ou recyclés afin de réduire les flux de matières, de déchets et d’énergie.
Objective 1 Economy: towards a logic of sustainability
Briefly: design industrial products to last, be repaired or recycled so as to reduce the flow of materials, waste, and energy.
Objectif 2 Énergie : organiser la baisse de la consommation
En bref : lutter contre le réchauffement climatique en réduisant massivement le recours au pétrole, au gaz et au charbon pour diviser par quatre nos émissions de gaz à effet de serre d’ici 2050.
Objective 2 Energy: organize reduced consumption
Briefly: combat global warming by massively reducing the use of oil, gas, and coal, to divide by four our greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Objectif 3 Agriculture : produire autrement
En bref : concilier la production agricole avec le respect de l’environnement, le travail paysan, la qualité des produits et la santé.
Objective 3 Agriculture: produce differently
Briefly: bring agricultural production into line with respect of the environment, human work on the land, product quality, and health.
Objectif 4 Territoire : contenir l’extension périurbaine et relocaliser les activités humaines
En bref : préserver l’espace rural et naturel, cesser de multiplier les infrastructures et « d’artificialiser » les surfaces, lutter contre l’étalement urbain par le rapprochement des lieux de travail et d’habitation.
Objective 4 Land use: limit ex-urban expansion and relocate human activities
Briefly: preserve rural and natural areas, put a stop to the increase of infrastructure building and "artificialising" of land, fight urban spread by bringing workplaces and homes closer together.
Objectif 5 Transports : sortir du tout routier
En bref : réduire la demande en transports fortement consommateurs de pétrole et grands émetteurs de gaz à effet de serre (camions, automobiles et avions), augmenter l’offre en moyens de déplacement moins gourmands et plus propres (trains, transports en commun, transport fluvial, vélo).
Objective 5 Transport: get out of everything-by-road
Briefly: reduce demand for high oil-use and GHG-emission transport means (lorries, cars, planes), increase supply of cleaner and more economical means (trains, public transport, waterways, bike).
Objectif 6 Fiscalité : établir le véritable prix des services rendus par la nature
En bref : faire apparaître le coût économique réel des activités humaines, supprimer les subventions publiques entraînant la dégradation de l’environnement, réorienter le budget en faveur du développement durable.
Objective 6 Taxation: fix the real price of nature's contributions
Briefly: take into account the real economic cost of human activities, end public subsidies to activities that degrade the environment, steer the budget towards support for sustainable development.
Objectif 7 Biodiversité : faire entrer la nature dans l’aménagement du territoire
En bref : intégrer la préservation du patrimoine naturel dans la stratégie globale de développement durable, avec la création d’un réseau écologique national qui relierait entre eux tous les espaces protégés et garantirait leurs fonctions écologiques.
Objective 7 Biodiversity: bring nature into land use management
Briefly: integrate conservation into the overall sustainable development strategy, with the creation of a national ecology network to link up protected areas and guarantee their ecological functions;
Objectif 8 Santé : prévenir avant de guérir
En bref : évaluer le poids des dégradations environnementales dans le coût global des maladies, engager une politique de prévention, en particulier en ce qui concerne l’alimentation, l’emploi des pesticides et la dissémination des OGM.
Objective 8 Health: prevention before treatment
Briefly: evaluate the importance of environmental damage in the overall cost of sickness, get prevention policy moving, particularly re food, pesticide use, the spread of GM crops.
Objectif 9 Recherche : faire de l’environnement un moteur pour l’innovation
En bref : mettre la recherche en cohérence avec le projet d’une société durable ; favoriser les liens entre les disciplines.
Objective 9 Research: turn the environment into an innovation engine
Briefly: bring research into coherent line with the project of a sustainable society; favour inter-disciplinary links.
Objectif 10 Politique internationale : prendre l’initiative
En bref : ériger en priorité diplomatique le défi écologique et les menaces qui pèsent sur la sécurité mondiale.
Objective 10 International policy: take the initiative
Briefly: make the ecological challenge and the threat to world security into a diplomatic priority.

The Five Proposals are too long to translate completely, but here's a summary:

  • A Vice-Prime Minister (Government Number Two) would be in charge of Sustainable Development.
  • A regularly-incremented Carbon Tax.
  • Redirect agricultural subsidies towards high-quality agriculture.
  • Make participative democracy procedures systematic.
  • A major policy of environmental education and information for all.

Nice, if we can get it...

Also see Jérôme's diary, Green Is Rouge

Display:
Good diary, afew.  I am in agreement with all of Hulot's proposals--from what I read here.  They sound like standard "Green" proposals.  So the Green...people?...need a figurehead?

I remember Dany Cohn-Bendit from a TV series a while back.  Something like "What happened to 68?", where he went around talking to the various european characters who'd been involved in "68".

"I hate the countryside.  I am a city boy.  I love roads and tarmac.  So...why am I a Green?"

I think the beginning of the programme was sommat like that.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 12:48:49 PM EST
I think I saw that programme too.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 01:03:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember him as being very intelligent, and very humorous--a dry wit.  He interviewed the french guy who'd been involved in the--was it the steel?--strikes in the seventies.  Here's one of my (probably wildly innacurate) paraphrases;

"The trouble was when we asked for 400 francs a week.  Before that we'd been asking for things like "team work", "parental leave", even "saunas in the workplace".  They all added to the quality of life.  But 400 francs turned it into money."

Or sommat!

Any reason why Dany isn't up there slugging it out ideology-wise with the likes of Blair etc.?  He's much more intelligent, funnier, has a cutting edge...

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 01:28:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wish I knew. In one way, it has been a strength for him to be Franco-German, in another, he seems to have fallen between two stools. He would typically be a European political player -- if we had real European politics. He has spent most of his political career at a time when, unfortunately for him, the only platforms for a political career have been national.

There's another side, though, where I find he's one of the '60s generation leaders who bounced off Marxism into pro-capitalism. Meaning, finding excessive (imo) vices in the State, and excessive (imo) virtues in enterprise and markets.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 02:37:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What does high-quality agriculture mean in this context?

BTW Monsieur Hulot is one of my all time favourites: all of his films are not only superb, but have coloured ny view of the French forever ;-) (in a good way of course)

His 10 objectives, I would guess, are mainstream ET. I for one would say they are very clear and 100% supportable priorities.

As for the Greens, I think that tactical voting never has the consequences that are envisaged. What I want to see in ANY political contest are candidates with clear visions about which they are passionate and uncompromising. M. Hulot sounds like one of these - and he has an apparently spotless track record of devotion to these vital issues.

He also has the looks - never a small issue in these days of celebrities with nothing to celebrate.

I will draw the attention of my friends at the Swedish Folk Party to the 10 objectives.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 12:52:45 PM EST
In more detailed stuff in the Five Proposals, he talks of "organic, label-bearing (a reference principally to the Red Label, granted to non-organic foodstuffs that measure up to a strict bill of standards), and AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée, traditional products of a particular region, well-known for wines, less-known for cheeses and some other products)". Also, food produced as close to hand as possible.

An idea he puts up is that the government should use redirected CAP money to subsidise the organisation of direct supply of foodstuffs (local as possible, organic or other high-quality) for school and university meals, works canteens, retirement and nursing homes, hospitals -- the whole gamut of institutional meals -- so as to provide a large market and kickstart a much bigger chain of quality food production. I think this is a very interesting idea. One of the difficulties (and one of the reasons for the higher cost of) quality food production is the lack of large, well-organised distribution networks, beyond the all-too-well organised big supermarket chains, which boa-constrict the small producer.

I should stress that these are not so much his own ideas as those of environmentalists and agriculturalists he works with, like Pierre Rabhi and the environmental org Comité de Veille Ecologique. He's not working with the wrong people.

As for tactical voting, well... There's a parliamentary election to follow the presidential. By concluding an alliance, the Greens can have a group in the Assemblée Nationale. That does all the same guarantee a certain degree of influence. Secondly, Dany Cohn-Bendit does underline a real weakness in Hulot's strategy: what call can he make for the second round if (as is likely) both final candidates have signed his pact?

This is why I tend to think (like many others) that he doesn't really intend to go all the way, just put the pressure on the candidates and ensure that environmental issues are part of the campaign.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 03:11:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An idea he puts up is that the government should use redirected CAP money to subsidise the organisation of direct supply of foodstuffs (local as possible, organic or other high-quality) for school and university meals, works canteens, retirement and nursing homes, hospitals -- the whole gamut of institutional meals -- so as to provide a large market and kickstart a much bigger chain of quality food production.

Yes!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 03:37:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
double yes!

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 03:56:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, afew, for this diary.
But browsing the website of the "Fondation Nicolas Hulot" gave me some shivers.
I was wondering where he gets the money for his campaign, must be huge...
And then seeing some of his sponsers are institutions and large business of the establishment....I donno....

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 01:23:59 PM EST
I dunno either. I tried not to give the impression in this diary I was a convinced Hulotist (?). He's a businessman as well as an activist. He runs a foundation that sells (or a subsidiary does, I'm not sure), "Ushuaïa" products (shampoo and stuff) that are supposed to be environmentally sound. And there's the question I barely touched on, that, in running this campaign, he's greatly raising his personal profile and increasing his popularity as a media figure. So right... I dunno!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 02:45:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He does not own the Ushuaïa brand, his TV channel TF1 does. And the products aren't that environmentally sound anyway.

Worse is that his show used to be sponsorised by Rhône Poulenc, one of France's worst polluters...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 02:57:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't know the brand belonged to TF1, thanks for the info. Yes, I do remember Rhöne-Poulenc sponsorship screens before the show at one time...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 03:15:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Briefly: combat global warming by massively reducing the use of oil, gas, and coal, to divide by four our greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Nice aim but the devil's in the details.

Objective 3 Agriculture: produce differently
Briefly: bring agricultural production into line with respect of the environment, human work on the land, product quality, and health.

I have no idea what this means in practice. Is it an endorsement of small scale organic farming? If so that means much higher prices and much more land taken away from nature.

Briefly: preserve rural and natural areas, put a stop to the increase of infrastructure building and "artificialising" of land, fight urban spread by bringing workplaces and homes closer together.

I agree with this if it means encouraging high density over low density development. But I don't see how the bringing workplaces and homes closer together is supposed to function - people change jobs, people live in two income families where members of the same household work in different places. What you want is to encourage employment hubs that can then be easily accessible by mass transit, with only the basic service jobs spread out among the residential areas. It also means that rather than just opposing sprawl style development, you have to also support the high density kind in the core urban areas.

Objective 8 Health: prevention before treatment
Briefly: evaluate the importance of environmental damage in the overall cost of sickness, get prevention policy moving, particularly re food, pesticide use, the spread of GM crops.

What's with the blanket opposition to GM? I know this is a core belief of the environmentalist movement but I just don't get it. Sure, be careful. Yes the IP aspects are very worrying. But it also holds out promises of environmentally positive effects (e.g. reducing pesticides and increasing yields). The way I see it Greens and progressives should be fighting for proper regulation of GM crops and of the IP regime, not opposing GM altogether.  

by MarekNYC on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 01:57:54 PM EST
This was debated to death on ET before, but briefly: the main issue with GM crops is not health risk (though that exists, and so does the danger of monoculture), but corporate control.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 02:29:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly - the GM debate is as much about copyright protection as anything else

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 03:58:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But I don't see how the bringing workplaces and homes closer together is supposed to function - people change jobs, people live in two income families where members of the same household work in different places.

What if all of those jobs are near the family home? Employment and habitation hubs?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 02:31:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What if all of those jobs are near the family home? Employment and habitation hubs?

How? Let's take the Paris metropolis - what sort of scheme will manage to combine millions of jobs and homes in the same neighbourhood?

by MarekNYC on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 02:44:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is it an endorsement of small scale organic farming? If so that means much higher prices and much more land taken away from nature.

I have read that the yields of organic farming can be at or close to the level of industrial farming minus the latters' losses, but would have to dig up a reference.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 02:33:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, if "organic" and "permaculture" are fused, there is no division between "nature" and "farming".  The operative terms would be "capable of producing vegetables" and "not capable of producing vegetables."

(Wild dream time...lose the air pollution and plant food in gardens, beside paths, plant vegetables..all different kinds, using permaculture principles...fill towns with apple trees, walnut trees...following permaculture principles...there would be no division between us and nature...we would live "in" nature again, with our food available...if we stretch out an arm.  The only imports would be food that couldn't wouldn't grow under local climactic conditions...but then you could pick...say...pine nuts...pack 'em up (small scale!), ship them--via wind-powered rail networks!--to those who need pine nuts...(pinoli)...and get fresh basil in return...</wild dream>)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 03:42:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm putting some Finnish mushrooms in a bottle for you and will throw it out into the Finnish Gulf tomorrow - I just have to check the tides....

..Oh no! We don't have any tides. Dammit.

OK I'll find a Nordic student coming to so-called Language School in an area near you. As I understand from my daughters, there is a Department of Advanced Psychosexual Hydraulics at a College somewhere in your neck of the woods?

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 04:04:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We do have that dept., and some faculties are in the neck...stress managment I think.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Jan 4th, 2007 at 04:36:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I quite agree these are very general points. There is more detail (though perhaps not enough) in the pdf I link to in the diary. It was just too much to translate...

I'll take exception to one of your comments, though:

small scale organic farming? If so that means much higher prices and much more land taken away from nature.

This is a talking-point regularly circulated by the pro-industrial/productivist lobby. Don't you wonder why it is you don't hear it when the corn (maize) ethanol lobby proposes increasing acreage of corn? Then we hear that in fact there's heaps of land lying fallow that could be used... Organic farming is capable of higher yields and of lower unit costs the wider-spread and better-organised it is (I suggest to Sven above that the lack of a well-organised commercial network in a sizeable market is one of the reasons that hamstrings organic farming and keeps costs higher; secondly, as we have seen with petro-farming over the decades, the more the production chain is organized and given technical support, the greater the technical capacity of the farmers and the yields they obtain. That can be just as true of organic farming). Finally, no, as I explain to Sven, Hulot is not only speaking of organic farming. Just a switch from subsidising industrial farming to subsidising higher-quality, local, labour-intensive farming.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 03:36:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes!  And see my comment above (maybe not the wild dream part ;)

Give that man an organic cow!



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 03:44:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(but not too many...methane and all that...;)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 03:45:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fair enough then on the yield and cost issue. I'm still not too thrilled with 'labour intensive farming'. I see family farming as a pretty miserable job - hard physical labour, zero flexibility - those cows need to be milked, so forget about sick leave or vacations. Call it a bias from observing a small family farm in action. If you can use technology to reduce the number of people doing it who can then do forty hour desk jobs in some cubicle, go home, enjoy their regular schedule and vacations and in general have a life apart from their job, I'm all for it.
by MarekNYC on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 03:57:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A great many people (me included) would rather milk cows than sit all day in a cubicle. Ya pays ya money and ya takes ya choice...

Farming can also provide jobs for lower-skilled workers who are now no longer needed in such great numbers by industry. And rather a countryside inhabited by people and their families than a monoculture desert run by agri-managers...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 04:08:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Aah, the countryside - nice place to visit, but as the saying goes...  Still, I guess the small farmers do provide esthetically pleasing local color for relaxing urban dwellers
by MarekNYC on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 04:40:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Green" tourism is an economic asset of some importance...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jan 4th, 2007 at 02:45:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How about small scale but larger than family size collective farming, with appropriate technological aids? The kind of setup where sick leave and vacations would be available? In an LLP wrapper, of course!
Family farms and industrial agri-business are not the only possiblities in agriculture, I think. I hear some people actually like living in the countryside. And how some of them are a bit annoyed sometimes when 'them city types' view them as somehow less privileged for having to endure the burden of rural life. I don't particularly want to think that were we all to achieve some kind of 'enlightenment', everyone would like to: "do forty hour desk jobs in some cubicle, go home, enjoy their regular schedule and vacations and in general have a life apart from their job".
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 06:54:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How about small scale but larger than family size collective farming, with appropriate technological aids? The kind of setup where sick leave and vacations would be available?

Fine if done voluntarily. Encourage it through laws and regulations making it easier. But that's easier said than done since farmers tend to have a rather strong attachment to owning their own land, if possible.

btw, I think you misunderstood me. I didn't say people should like their cubicle jobs, just that a regular, limited work schedule which allows time for a proper life outside of work beats the alternative. There's more to life than work, and I don't think that it's good to encourage greater numbers of people to have jobs that completely dominate their lives.  Sure some people like heavy physical labour - whether on a farm or on some construction project or wherever, but most don't and family farming is especially problematic because of its all consuming nature.

As for city bias - I plead guilty. I like crowds and having everything I could possibly want right near me. No car needed or desired.  Trees on the streets and parks are also good, but I feel better surrounded by concrete, asphalt, and brick than I do surrounded by nature.

by MarekNYC on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 08:05:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, I didn't respond to Marek's point about sick leave and vacations. I don't know about the US (where family farms all but don't exist any more), but in Europe farmers can get both. It's not as good a cover as for salaried workers, but the same can be said of all self-employed people in other trades and professions. One of the things a redirection of CAP subsidies would have to address would be how to improve this aspect of farming.

But I quite agree, someone, that it's not just a question of "family farms" that conjure up the image of grinding hard work and lack of freedom Marek brings up. There could certainly be other forms of organisation.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jan 4th, 2007 at 02:44:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
in Europe farmers can get both

<cough> In Western Europe, afaik. <re-cough> ;)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jan 4th, 2007 at 12:29:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In an LLP wrapper, of course!

;)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Jan 4th, 2007 at 04:38:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some numbers on this, first thing I found off Google.

A 22-year study by Cornell that points to various benefits to organic cultivation of corn over the long term, and demonstrates equivalent yields in normal years and superior yields in drought years.

As far as the intensive/extensive farming debate goes, I think the example of Japan is interesting, as it has rather impressive yields despite what would be considered a very inefficient organization of agriculture -- lots of little farms, with lots of people working at them.

There are some interesting numbers on this point at the World Resources Institute on yields per hectare and whatnot.  Comparing the US, home of industrial mega-farming, and Japan, where I look out the window and see 90 year old grandmothers tilling the ground by hand, you can get some sense of the efficiencies possible with small-scale agriculture.

Japan, cereals    Average crop yield (kg per ha) 6147
US, cereals       Average crop yield (kg per ha) 5824

Japan, Ag. Workers as Percent of Pop, %7.3
US, Ag. Workers as Percent of Pop, %2.9

Now, these are average numbers, and I am sure there are more efficient farms elsewhere that balance out the little plots farmed by 90-year old grandmothers where I live.

Admittedly, Japan has a far higher per-hectare fertilizer usage rate.  The stats on this page are all fertilizer types combined.

Japan, fertilizer per hectare    295
US, fertilizer per hectare       111

But when I was studying Japanese history, I read that in the pre-industrial Edo period fish-meal fertilizers were a huge business, and used by most every farmer who had the means to do so.  So, I started to wonder what proportion of Japan's fertilizers were of the traditional type, but can't find data on that.

This data is sorta tangential to the discussion

by Zwackus on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 09:18:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for bringing in the Japanese angle, Zwackus. I don't know the answer re fertilisers myself, and it's interesting, since American farming methods don't generally stint the fertiliser.

It may be that Japanese soil husbandry over centuries has delivered a more fertile soil today. Which would fit the Cornell study's showing that soil fertility increases over years of organic farming.

This article suggests that Japanese farming today uses chemical fertilisers causing environmental damage, which recourse to traditional fish-meal use may help to limit.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jan 4th, 2007 at 03:00:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, intensive irrigation helps.  Somewhere around %50 percent of Japanese agriculture is irrigated, mostly rice fields I would suspect.

I have to admit, I was surprised at the distinctly greater fertilizer usage by the Japanese, as I'd always thought Americans were the worst.  But I suppose if you're out there, looking at every crop and spraying by hand, then maybe you'd end up using more than one would with an even spraying via plane.

by Zwackus on Thu Jan 4th, 2007 at 03:26:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fertiliser use in modern agriculture is all about cost optimisation and about maximising profit. i.e. sales against cost of labour, land and fertilisers.

With land and labour scarcer and more expensive, and more intensely subsidised food prices in Japan, fertiliser use is more profitable - thus Japanese farmers get their optimal return with a higher amount of fertiliser. It's also a product of much more intensive agriculture, too.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Jan 4th, 2007 at 07:46:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I had translated some bits of his plan in this diary: Green is rouge (which was about the neolib reactino to Hulot, via Eric Le Boucher)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 05:57:55 PM EST
I completely forgot that. Reference added above.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jan 4th, 2007 at 03:05:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No problem - thankfully you mostly translated other stuff than what I had already done.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 4th, 2007 at 04:58:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Would this ever be magnificent if this became a core part of the discussion in the United States?

Now, I wonder whether someone slipped him our work on Energize America (www.ea2020.org).

"A Vice-Prime Minister (Government Number Two) would be in charge of Sustainable Development" sounds like our act for a Sustainable Development Agency for the US Government.

Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart. NOW!!!

by a siegel (siegeadATgmailIGNORETHISdotPLEASEcom) on Thu Jan 4th, 2007 at 12:06:56 PM EST


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