this is something i have been working on for a number of years and thought i would share with the ats 'fragile earth' community. i know it
needs work but i think it is rather informative and worth at least a casual read! i know it is a LOT of information but hey information never hurts.
As a student who has studied conservation I have become increasingly familiar with the many impacts human beings have on the natural world. Impacts
such as tropical deforestation, the logging and fires in our northern forests, the pollution and depletion of our fresh waters, the over-harvesting
and pollution of the marine habitats, and urban sprawl quickly consuming the remaining natural habitat, which is already dangerously fragmented by our
transportation systems. All of which are only symptoms of symptoms. Obviously there is something about the way we operate as human-beings that has
dangerously skewed the balance between us and the planet Earth. Evidently there is a problem but putting a finger on it is difficult, like when
you’re young and have been sent by your mother to clean a horribly messy room and you stand, as a child, dumbfounded, not knowing where or how to
begin. That is where the whole of humanity is today, knowing there is a problem, and frantically yet unsuccessfully attempting to address all the
symptoms. However, the time to address the cause of the symptoms by making fundamental changes in the way we function has come.
Again as a student who has studied the ecological, anthropological, and social issues surrounding conservation, I have realized that at the root of
our interactions with the Earth exists the Earth’s identity and place within our cultural function. As part of my studies I was studied the
foundations of modern ethics, and no where in this study was there any attention paid to humanities responsibility towards nature, only towards one
another. This is representative of our current relationship with the Earth; it is no surprise that we do so much harm because culturally we have lost
any earth based ethics—we have become totally detached from nature. It is only by reconnecting with the natural world, and giving it a place within
our cultural lives, that humanity will begin to balance itself with the Earth. It is my belief that food has the potential to become the catalyst for
humanities next great transmutation—towards living sustainably on the Earth.
Because food is basic to life and it is produced by the natural world it serves as the most natural and lasting Human-Earth connection. Today however,
the state of agriculture also suffers from our lack of Earth-ethics. Agricultural production is now a major component of the national industrial
complex; indeed, it accounts for as much as $240 billion of our countries annual GDP. Herein the crux of this paper created, human cultural and social
machinations destroying the Earth, the most basic connection between humans and the planet—food—is currently incorporated into the socio-cultural
systems that exacerbate our ecological predicament, what to do?
It seems that often such troublesome situations turn out to be excellent opportunities to devise inventive and progressive solutions to serious
problems; because, as they say, sometimes the best way to learn is by getting burnt. It is an educated guess, on my part, that the solution to
today’s ecological crisis could largely be solved by reincorporating the Earth into our daily lives by adopting a new form of agricultural
production that encourages the connection between people and place; giving birth to a sustainable balance of scale between man and the environment. I
believe that first; the industrial agricultural system is unsustainable and inefficient. Second, because agriculture represents the most fundamental
link between humans and the environment it is the best socio-cultural mechanism that can be redefined to balance humans with the planet. Third, local
organic farming is an ideal sustainable alternative to the industrial model that is capable of transporting human-kind through such needed changes.
My argument in support of these beliefs is comprised of two main parts; first, a critique of the negative impacts of industrial agriculture; and
second, an argument for the inherent benefits and solution in the local organic system. To validate my argument I believed it necessary to further
divide these two main sections into three subsections, which I call the three confounding aspects of agricultural production; comprised of the
economic, social, and ecological realities surrounding agriculture. By addressing each of the three confounding factors in agriculture in both the
organic and industrial sections I intend to prove that first, industrial agriculture is an unsustainable practice; second, the local organic farming
is indeed a sustainable alternative to the industrial model. Again, this will be accomplished by outlining the negative impacts of the industrial
system and the benefits and solutions inherent in working system.
The Woes of Industrialized Agriculture
The first section of this paper deals with the realities surrounding industrial agricultural production. It begins with economics, as economics are
the motive behind industrial production, then moving onto the social and ecological impacts.
Industrial Economics: Comparative Advantage, Specialization & Free Trade
The main operational thesis driving industrial agriculture in every country is the specialization of production into areas in which each country has a
comparative advantage within the global, free trade market. As Herman Daly, the former head of Economics’ for the Environmental Department of the
World Bank says, “No policy prescription demands greater consensus among economists than that of free trade based on international specialization
according to comparative advantage…that presumption is the corner stone of [free trade]” (Daly 1996, p50-57).
In order to understand the motivation for specialization and global trade it is necessary to understand the theory of comparative advantage and its
application in a global market. David Ricardo first presented the theory of comparative advantage in 1817 in the book, The Principles of Political
Economy and Taxation. He introduced this theory in this manner,
“To produce the wine in Portugal, might require only the labor of 80 men for one year, and to produce the cloth in the same country, might require
the labor of 90 men for the same time. It would therefore be advantageous for her to export wine in exchange for cloth. This exchange might even take
place, notwithstanding that the commodity imported by Portugal could be produced there with less labor than in England. Though she could make the
cloth with the labor of 90 men, she would import it from a country where it required the labor of 100 men to produce it, because it would be
advantageous to her rather to employ her capital in the production of wine, for which she would obtain more cloth from England, than she could produce
by diverting a portion of her capital from the cultivation of vines to the manufacture of cloth” (Ricardo 1817, 7.16).
What Ricardo is stating in this archaic passage is how a country may choose to specialize its production to products that it produces more efficiently
than other products. By adopting a mode of specialized efficient production a country may trade these efficiently produced products for necessities
and economic profits. To enact this principle globally would to increase global efficiency and wealth. This economic model is more clearly stated
within the context of the modern era by Karen Lehman and Al Krebs as, “in its simplest form comparative advantage dictates that countries should buy
low and sell high regardless of a products importance to the local culture and economy” (Mander, et al 1996, 125). They illustrate this point by
saying if corn in Mexico can be bought globally for less money than it costs to produce it locally, regardless of the corn’s local cultural and
economic importance, then that is exactly what Mexico should do. So, rather than producing corn, Mexico can focus on producing a good, such as
tomatoes, which It can produce more efficiently, and trade those tomatoes for corn and economic gains (Mander, et al 1996, 125). It is this principle
of comparative advantage that is responsible for the shift from producing goods largely at a local level for local consumption to producing massive
yields of high-yield varieties of staple crops to be sold globally as a commodity.
[edit on 30-7-2009 by Animal]