Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
it's notable that some ancient peasanty methods of farming, which we "superior" Westerners look down on, managed to sustain human life and advanced civilisations on the same land footprint for thousands of years -- F H King's book Farmers of Forty Centuries describes in some detail the practises of Chinese peasant farmers which prevented soil depletion and ensured continuous, multi-century survival on the same land.  King notes along the way that Asian peasant farmers understood the importance of composting fpr centuries -- maybe millennia -- before the Western wheat/beef culture had a clue.  [it is perhaps noteworthy that the wheat/beef culture is consistently associated with wars of conquest to acquire more land to replace what has been exhausted by that inefficient and destructive farming pattern (here R Manning in Against the Grain provides a good big-picture guide).  hence expansionism is a fundamental myth of the wheat/beef culture and requires myths of Manifest Destiny, Westward Ho and so on to justify its endless hunger for new farmland to ruin...]

King was writing at that critical juncture in the 30's when there was a meme war in agriculture.  several eminent scientists and public thinkers -- King for one, Albert Howard for another -- were skeptical about the whole Liebig school of Reductionist Chemistry Triumphant, but they lost the war.  the winners were the "futurists", in love with industrial Taylorism and a reductionist/technomanagerial approach to food, nutrition, and agriculture that became a nearly mystical cult and has had the most grotesque effects on our culture... the end state is well described by e.g. Pollan in his recent works, especially In Defence of Food...

at the same time, the symbiologists were losing the meme war over biotic systems (to the fanatical crypto-Darwinist "all is competition red in tooth and claw" school which not coincidentally very well suited the emerging ideologies of free market capitalism).  so on all fronts reductionism, compartmentalisation, and narrow mechanistic control fantasies were the triumphant ideology (or religion) du jour.  mix in the century-and-a-half-long drunken binge on nearly-free fossil energy, and the result was several decades of ruthless, reckless vandalism and resource liquidation.  the industrialists partied hearty, had a real good time -- and now we (and even more so our children and our grandchildren and their grandchildren) get to live on in the trashed house and clean up the vomit (and worse).

the "productivity" of this brief fossil-fuelled binge of extraction, liquidation, and exterminism further seemed to substantiate the fantasy of compound interest -- liquidation providing enormous quick returns not achievable by any sustainable activity.  so here we are, with a set of ironclad beliefs firmly based in an incredibly fleeting, temporary and disastrous period in human history:  the brief blazing arc of the Age of Kleptocracy and the Industrial Fossil Frat Party...

which, amazingly, is still going on.  just like one of those soused fratboy bashes where some of the hardcore party animals simply will not admit that it's dawn and the party's over... and the reality police have been called...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Apr 18th, 2008 at 09:28:35 PM EST
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