The End Of Farming?
March 22, 2020 11:42 AM   Subscribe

For decades, the way we farm has been degrading land and destroying wildlife. Now there’s a revolution coming – but is it going to create more problems than it solves?

Well, maybe not: In 1988, Sabarmatee and her father Radhamohan bought an acre of degraded land in Nayagarh district of Odisha. They wanted to set up an experiment to see if a forest using organic techniques. Organic farming was not widespread in India at that time, therefore they had to rely on trial and error. But over time their efforts succeeded and after nearly three decades their one acre has grown to 90 acres and with a lush forest cover. In 1989 the duo registered a NGO called Sambhav, which would work on organic farming and ecological conservation.
Regenerative agriculture is one of the most promising wide-scale environmental solutions. This short documentary is a comprehensive journey through a variety of landscapes and regenerative farming techniques.
The thing is, we need to rethink the whole system, not just fix details. For instance:
If you want to save a cow, eat an Impossible Burger. Or stop eating cheese.
It's not simple, but it's not impossible either.
posted by mumimor (33 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
Growing your own microgreens provides you with year-round vegetables in a financially and environmentally inexpensive way. Previously.
posted by No Robots at 12:10 PM on March 22 [5 favorites]




I know it's improper to comment before Reading The Fabulous Links, but I just wanted to pop in early and say this all looks FASCINATING, and even though it will take me two or three weeks to getting around to watching all the videos, I really appreciate this post, and I'm looking forward to checking out all the details.

Thank you for putting this together, mumimor!
posted by kristi at 12:25 PM on March 22 [3 favorites]


I'd rather eat a veggie burger than an impossible burger. I @#&^%@# love them.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:34 PM on March 22 [7 favorites]


I'm with you, grumpybear69, there's nothing wrong with vegetables as they are.
posted by mumimor at 12:37 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


The Green Revolution gave us food security, but like so many things we took it too far.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:38 PM on March 22


You are not sustaining a world population of +8 billion human beings on organic farming. We won’t even sustain +5 billion that way. Even if somehow you got most of humanity to go vegan. It’s simply not possible.
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 1:08 PM on March 22 [6 favorites]


You are not sustaining a world population of +8 billion human beings on organic farming. We won’t even sustain +5 billion that way. Even if somehow you got most of humanity to go vegan. It’s simply not possible.

To be honest, I don't know, and also I am no fanatic. But I know some people disagree.
posted by mumimor at 1:14 PM on March 22 [8 favorites]


You are not sustaining a world population of +8 billion human beings on organic farming.

Not with monocultural corporate agriculture, certainly. (Unless, potentially, everyone goes vegan, which we all know is not happening.) Not covered by most studies on farming & agriculture: how much things change with family and community gardens in those areas that can support them. How much changes if most meat eating shifts from "whole lot of beef and corporate-farm chicken" to a backyard pen of chickens or pigeons or rabbit hutch.

Studies comparing vegetarian/vegan/US-style meat eating are common; studies that consider "what if you only ate meat that was produced within 75 miles of you" are rare.

Carne-vs-vege is an old argument with a whole lot of data; locavore is barely mentioned. Part of that is because big corporations have no interest in supporting locavores - by nature, "eat local" clashes heavily with corporate farming of all kinds. And part is because it's just harder to collect data; the different resources available in different areas make it hard to assess.

But I'd love to see some studies about "What happens if no more than 10% of your diet is imported from more than a hundred miles away?"--possibly with a wider allowance for grains and dried beans/legumes. What happens if you free up the resources spent on packaging, storing, shipping, and dealing with concentrated waste?
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:07 PM on March 22 [26 favorites]


Great post, and really interesting article. I hope that some of the practices that are described, like planting cover crops before winter to reduce erosion, are common-sense enough that some of the more conservative farmers won't refuse to consider them. Regarding the argument from some conventional agriculturists cited in the article that we need to continue conventional agriculture to meet growing food demand, the counterpoint is that declining soil quality, climate change, loss of insect and microbiota biodiversity, and increased fossil fuel prices will eventually cause conventional intensive agriculture to hit a wall, and their ability to feed the world's growing population will collapse, possibly abruptly, causing far more famine and suffering than if we find and develop more sustainable approaches that mitigate those rapidly growing problems.

I'm skeptical of the prediction in the article that farming of the future is going to be dominated by "vertical farms" using LED grow lamps. It's hard to guess exactly how the efficiencies work out here. On the one hand, there's a potential increase in efficiency of production due to reduced problems with pests, better (micro-)climate control, etc. On the other hand, the energy for growth has to come from somewhere. The lamps are going to be powered ultimately by some means of electrical power generation, which in practice means one of the following: fossil fuels (unsustainable for obvious reasons); some form of solar-derived power like photovoltaic, wind, or hydroelectric (which for this purpose involve significant efficiency losses in the sunlight -> electricity -> LED lamps -> biomass conversion as opposed to the direct sunlight -> biomass conversion); or nuclear power (fission only for the foreseeable future, currently too expensive to be viable due to its unpopularity and underinvestment in development of modern plants -- fusion could be a game-changer here but remains hypothetical for now). At the moment, the only viable option for powering these farms is solar, but solar energy is harnessed more efficiently by growing plants directly in sunlight. Perhaps the improved efficiency of production offered by a controlled, indoor growing environment will offset the loss of efficiency in using electrical power to grow them, but it's not really clear to me where the balance lies there.

Stacking crops vertically reduces the visible footprint of a farm on the land, but if using solar power, its "energy footprint" in terms of the amount of surface area of the Earth required for capturing solar energy is going to remain roughly constant at best, or may actually grow due to reduced efficiencies in energy conversion and transfer. Regardless, it seems like if you have the technology to make "vertical farms" work, you could just as easily use it to do indoor "planar farms", powering crop growth directly with sunlight just as with natural crop growth, but with the added benefit of a controlled environment. And in fact we already can do that; they're called greenhouses.
posted by biogeo at 2:31 PM on March 22 [12 favorites]


solar energy is harnessed more efficiently by growing plants directly in sunlight.

I guess it depends what's being optimized - biomass per unit sunlight, space, water, time, etc. Available sunlight doesn't seem to be one of the most pressing concerns.

And there's also some research into which wavelengths might be better so your solar panel will collect the entire spectrum but your LED only emits a certain wavelength.
posted by xdvesper at 4:03 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


A major issue with organic farming is that it requires more land than conventional farming. While might be possible to feed the planet with organic farming, much additional land would be required to be converted to agriculture, with major adverse impacts on ecosystems and on climate.

It would seem to me that it needn’t be either organic practices or conventional farming. Both have a role. Perhaps conventional farming for most cereal crops and organic for most vegetables and fruits and animal proteins to improve nutrition and reduce ingested growth hormones and pesticides, especially for children. My understanding that fruit trees are very susceptible to pests, and organic fruit trees are largely grown surrounded by trees that are treated with pesticides that form a barrier, for example.

As for indoor farming, there are tremendous reductions in need for pesticides and herbicides. Do they offset expense and environmental cost of the construction of structures themselves?

Energy could be from wind as well as solar. Growing crops year round in northern climates might be more efficient in vertical arrangements due to reduction in heat losses. One could envision heliostats providing reflected sunlight for direct photosynthesis, for photovoltaics for lighting, and for heat.

Lots of trade offs to consider. Important stuff!
posted by haiku warrior at 4:48 PM on March 22 [5 favorites]


You (as in the generic MeFite) probably wouldn't be surprised to learn that post-WWII large swaths of the US' farm land was pretty much in the shit, especially in the South where farmers would plant cotton on the same fields year after year, depleting the soil so much that yields were collapsing to half what was previously possible.

What you might be surprised to learn is that farmers largely learned from the experience and now practice crop rotation (this is how soybeans became a huge thing here in the US) and leaving some fields fallow. They still use a metric ass ton of fertilizer, but now to increase yield far beyond what has proven possible with any other means of production, not to maintain yield on failing cropland.
posted by wierdo at 5:21 PM on March 22 [9 favorites]


Organic farming is one of those things that is great for people who can afford to indulge in the practice, and paradoxically, not so great for people who cannot afford to do anything but indulge in the practice.

The Green Revolution gave us food security, but like so many things we took it too far.

Kind of a weird thing to say. Particularly if you consider "The Green Revolution" an ongoing thing. And if you're going to concede the "food security" result as a plus, "taken too far" is going to be a pretty high bar jump. What actual proven alternative does one propose?
posted by 2N2222 at 5:45 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


Far from feeding the world – Van Eck tells the students, European colonisers destroyed the world’s indigenous food production systems.[...] Now, he says, Europe is trying to export its broken agriculture system to solve a hunger crisis it created.

This is a view that I think deserves a lot more attention than "organic: y/n?". How much land in Africa and South America is growing coffee beans so that Dunkin Donuts or whoever can brag that they have the freshest coffee - by dumping 1hr 15 minute old coffee?

Meanwhile, 40% of the US corn crop goes to ethanol. Some row crop farmers finally got mad at Trump - because he wanted to end the biofuel requirements that guarantee a non-food market for corn overproduction. That same corn overproduction has washed 100s of years of fertile prairie topsoil into the gulf of Mexico.

I don't understand how people can look at our current production patterns think we're at some kind of sensible operating capacity: "this, but more!" The US government is spending a lot of money propping up farmers whose crops are not what is most important from a food perspective. And the last thing I want to see us do is just hand over the reins to monsanto and syngenta to decide what efficient cropping is.

The growing sheds in the Netherlands might go too far, with a high price in terms of energy use. But, we could be increasing greenhouse space and knowledge of how best to use that space. Being able to control water need and usage is a huge production factor in a lot of places.

And we could be spending our huge subsidies on plantings that capture carbon! Rather than filling marginal areas with yet more corn and soybeans in pursuit of a Farm Bill subsidy.

(I know these articles were not US centric but we share many issues with Europe.)
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:00 PM on March 22 [14 favorites]


Thanks for this. I've always been fascinated by the postwar modernization of agriculture in Europe. With the memory of food shortages during WWII still fresh, the 1957 Treaty of Rome set the goal of maximizing agricultural productivity within the European Economic Community. In 1962 the Common Agricultural Policy was enacted, which among other things established a system of agricultural subsidies. These subsidies were, and are, massive, to the extent that for a long time, they dominated the EEC budget. Today the Common Agricultural Policy still accounts for some ~35% of the EU budget.

It's difficult to overstate the effects of that policy, both in terms of efficiency gains (it enabled the tiny, densely populated Netherlands to become one of the world's leading agricultural exporters, for example), but also in terms of its influence on land policy, crop development, livestock handling, and the social position of the farmer, who increasingly became an instrument of national policy rather than someone who ran, well, a farm. As farms turned into high-tech factories, farmers turned into technocrats, who gradually became joined at the hip with technocrats in government, concentrating on economies of scale and technological innovation for the greater good of -- forever! -- banishing the spectre of famine. In this they succeeded spectacularly.

On the flipside, all that money & institutional investment introduced a kind of corruption, in the form of political clientelism, as well as waste, overexploitation of land & lifestock, and the destruction of many kinds of rural beauty. It also essentially closed the EU agricultural market to developing nations. Structural changes are needed, and have been the subject of fierce debate for decades, but the system is so entrenched that the pace of change is glacial. But I think there is absolutely a growing awareness that the challenges need to be faced sooner rather than later, because change is inevitable, whether you like it or not. The good news is that the accomplishments of the past 70 years show that change is definitively possible.
posted by dmh at 8:01 PM on March 22 [6 favorites]


> You are not sustaining a world population of +8 billion human beings on organic farming

I was surprised to learn that pre-columbian no-till farming of corn had yields that rival chemical fertilizers from Corn Facts II

Corn Facts I on the blue
posted by ASCII Costanza head at 8:38 PM on March 22 [9 favorites]


IIRC, the missing component is labor. The US is down to something like ~2% of people working in agriculture. 'Seeing Like a State' discusses exceptionally high yield smallholder farms: You can perhaps get to higher organic yields per acre, but it's expensive, in the Marxist labor-underlies-all-value sense. Maybe works great in places where labor is cheap, and is incredibly expensive in 'comparative advantage' terms in places like the US.

This isn't necessarily a deal-breaker, though. You can probably find XX% of people who hate low-wage service work, if you've got a good-enough Revolutionary Farming Programme (RFP), so long as the pay is better and the work gives them a shot a a healthier, more stable life.

But you gotta figure out how that gets paid for. The problem, of course, is that food is so very very cheap... How many people does your $raw_food_product need to feed to send your kid to school and save a bit for retirement? That's the /labor leverage/ that technocratic farming excels at. So, for the RFP to be competitive, you probably need some pretty serious government/policy intervention: just make it a bit better than the average shit job by some combination of subsidy and making all of the other Stuff That Matters cheaper.

So, in conclusion, if we fix housing, education, medical and retirement expenses, we can /maybe/ have a new society of high-yield smallholder sustainable farmers. (Or we can just subsidize the shit out of it directly.)

The other 'nice' factor is that one of the big arguments for all of the ALREADY EXISTING gigantic farm subsidies is national security. (You don't want food riots when your major food source(s) gets pissed off and closes their ports.) It would be amazing if we could move those subsidies away from fsking ethanol and into higher yield organics.

--

In a slightly different hot take, I'm increasingly afraid that ANYTHING we do at scale to feed N billion people will result in massive unforeseen ecological consequences. We should absolutely try to Do Better, but there likely aren't silver bullets.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:17 PM on March 22 [7 favorites]


Really appreciate all the perspectives on this important topic.
posted by blue shadows at 10:47 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


I come from an extended family of farmers and ranchers (And loggers). And there are not many jobs that will so efficiently produce broken old bodies. I spent a number of summers as a kid working on a potato farm. Or mending fences and feed lots for beef and dairy cattle. I even worked at a creamery.

And there is nothing romantic about Ag work. It is back breaking unrelenting physical labor.

Automating it with machines and chemicals becomes immediately attractive to anyone who has to actually do it.
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 11:34 PM on March 22 [10 favorites]


And there is nothing romantic about Ag work. It is back breaking unrelenting physical labor.

Automating it with machines and chemicals becomes immediately attractive to anyone who has to actually do it.

You are so right!

But, about feeding those 11 billion. The majority of the world's people today are fed by smallholders, using no pesticides, and that will continue to be a large part of the world's food. The posted video from India shows one of the many global initiatives that aim to make this production more secure and better quality by working with nature instead of against it.
As people move to the cities, as they do when their villages are devastated by draught or flooding or overpopulation, there will be more need for industrially produced food. Here, I think The Netherlands are setting an interesting example, because their agriculture is so incredibly diverse. I am not a fan of Dutch products and I rarely eat them, because they don't taste of anything, but I think the technology of feeding the urban centres has to be diverse. If we plan to eat mainly meat and grains and soybeans, we will need more land and more fertilizer and pesticides.
So food security also has to do with what we eat. Any responsible government, or the EU or UN, planning for food security should also be looking into diets, and sending out information about how to eat in a way that is both healthy and protects our ressources. I'm not saying they should force anyone, but that they should educate everyone. Today big ag, lobbyists and/or corruption have far too big an influence, not just in the US.
According to this blog, you can feed a family of four on two acres of land, with a lot of hard work. It's a blog for urban eco-romantics, but it does fit with the experience many, many people all over the world have today and many of our grandparents had. There is easily enough land in the world to feed 11 billion people that way. Of course we don't want that, and that is fine. But the Dutch model is an industrialized, urban version of it, and constantly developing.
The situation we have today is not sustainable, Interview:
‘We are in serious trouble’: The other crisis – our food supply
. That is a UK version, but it applies in many industrialized nations. It applies here, where there are more pigs than people and hardly any uncultivated land, and where agriculture is woefully unprepared for the challenges of climate change. We have to change the whole system and it will cost us a lot. But as a Danish king once said, when he funded the Academy right after the State went bankrupt: We may be poor, but we don't need to be stupid as well.
posted by mumimor at 1:31 AM on March 23 [4 favorites]


We can have our cake and eat it too by shifting to more intensive aquaculture cycles and combining traditional cycles with our technology. The duckweed-chicken-fish cycle for instance is a really effective one. You put a chicken coop over a pond of whatever fish you want. The fish feed on the chicken shit and feed falling through slats in the coop, duckweed grows off what the fish and chicken shit, the chicken and fish feed off the duckweed. The duckweed cleans up the water to make the fish safer to eat. Then you siphon off the excess nutrients in the pond to an intensive aquaponics greenhouse and grow whatever you want from it. You get eggs, fish, crops, and eventually poultry protein.

Duckweed is one of those plants that can convert nutrients to starch at a ridiculous rate. We're talking 5x the rate of corn here. You could probably take the excess duckweed and turn it into biofuel if you wanted to. We can really do amazing things if we want. Hell, we have plenty of salinity ravaged land to build this stuff on. It's just the political wil to shift from conventional ag.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 4:19 AM on March 23 [6 favorites]


I don't think anyone except maybe the large corporate farmers is under any illusion that the system we have now can be sustained as-is over the long term.

Personally, I'm most interested in figuring out how we keep the benefits of intensive farming, not least of which is freeing most of the population to work on other things (which was as much an enabler of the industrial revolution as the cheap energy was), while reducing its impact on the surrounding ecology.
posted by wierdo at 4:55 AM on March 23 [2 favorites]


With respect, mumimor, I don’t think your assertion that we can easily feed 11 billion people on 2 acres of land for a family of 4 is correct. Four people per 2 acres is 0.5 acres per person. The amount of currently arable land is estimated at 17.6 million square kilometer. There are about 250 acres per square kilometers, which would feed 500 people. 500 x 17.6 million = 8.8 billion.

The same linked site estimates that there is potentially another 27 million square kilometers of arable land, mostly in Africa and in Central and South America. However much of this land is hosts ecosystems (like Amazonian rainforest) that we don’t want to disturb.

These numbers are are why the organic versus conventional farming issue is so tricky.
posted by haiku warrior at 6:15 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]


haiku warrior, I both agree with you and think that maybe there are other ways, which is what the post is about. I'm not at all resolved on this, but I can see that other ways of thinking about land and farming are showing interesting results all over the globe.
If a farm is something with big fields of grain and pastures with grazing livestock, there is no doubt that there is not enough land. It's even likely that a lot of the land that is in use now will have to be abandoned very soon. As in within the next five years soon. That's why I believe that agricultural reform has to go with a food reform, where many people have to learn a different approach to food.
But people are exploring other methods, from the high tech approach in The Netherlands to the reforesting efforts in Scotland, Australia and India (and many other places). I embrace both sides of this debate. Personally, I mostly stick to organic when it comes to meat, dairy and grain, because those industries are the least sustainable. But my favorite fruit and veg providers are not organic, just scientifically informed.
I'm writing this from out family farm. 150 years ago (when it was not in our family), it was a major provider of grain and dairy to the nearest town with supplemental sheep production in spite of severe desertification. After WW2, it was a profitable provider of income to a family of four with two live-in employees. There were all the livestock, from cows to fowl, and lots of grain, veg and fruit. When I was a kid we harvested grain and hay for the animals, using tons of fertilizer and pesticides, and the production of grain, beef and dairy was split between us and the neighbors, obviously helping each other, but nevertheless specialized and compartmentalized. When I was in my early 20's, the grain production was a sentimental pastiche, supported by EU money, my grandmother only kept things going because she was a genius at horse breeding. What had seemed like a scientific boost to the farm had been a burn. This is exactly what is going to happen to the communities where rainforest is being replaced today with plantations or cattle farms, and I think it will happen in just one generation, as it did here.
Now, there is no agricultural income here. We have some EU support for maintaining a butterfly habitat. But I have realized that the land is regenerating by itself, and actually doing better than in several hundreds of years. This is not an accident, but the result of an idealist local forest manager encouraging my granddad to plant trees on the desert parts of the land while he was fertilizing the fields. And I am wondering how to move on from here without repeating the mistakes of my ancestors but building on the wisdom. I'm not posting from a theoretical point of view, or a dogmatic one. I'm looking for ideas. Right now, the land is still frozen, but I hope to use the lockdown to make some improvements.
posted by mumimor at 6:53 AM on March 23 [6 favorites]


Thank for you for your thoughtful reply, mumimor. I believe that you and I are in agreement that there is room for a lot of creativity with respect to agriculture, both growing crops and producing animal proteins in sustainable and humane ways.

Please don’t interpret my contradiction of your assertion of “easily feeding 11 billion people” as an attack on you or on those advocating for more use of organic/alternative farming practices. Merely I was presenting some hard numbers showing the challenge before all of us. I applaud your efforts and your non-dogmatic approach, and I look forward hearing about how you get on. Good luck!
posted by haiku warrior at 12:12 PM on March 23 [2 favorites]


You are not sustaining a world population of +8 billion human beings on organic farming.

This always gets brought up and I wish people would cut it out because frankly, industrial ag isn't keeping 7.8 billion + people feed now either anyway.

I agree that it's complicated, and likely going to take a variety of solutions (*cough*sarahfaber*cough*).

Also a lot of the terms are not mutually exclusive. You can totally have 400acres (industrialised) of certified organic spinach or whatever. It's...complicated...
posted by jrobin276 at 7:19 PM on March 23 [3 favorites]


You are not sustaining a world population of +8 billion human beings on organic farming.

Which is why we desperately need less people in the world. If we don't do it voluntarily, things like viruses and wars and climate change will attempt to do it for us.

I did not have kids. It is the thing I am most proud of doing in my entire life.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:30 PM on March 23


The simplest and the best way to get less people in the world is to educate and empower women. We don't need to talk about killing people.
posted by mumimor at 4:03 AM on March 24 [10 favorites]


Agreed, but I think it's important to recognize the stakes. In part because of overpopulation, the stakes of not educating and empowering women are literally life-and-death for millions of people, whether women, men, or otherwise. That's in addition to the more immediate intrinsic moral imperative of educating and empowering those who lack access to education and political and social autonomy, of course. All of these issues are connected; we cannot fully solve any of them without addressing all of them.
posted by biogeo at 9:55 AM on March 24


(You don't want food riots when your major food source(s) gets pissed off and closes their ports.)

...Or closes their ports for reasons unrelated to economic or political contracts, like "global pandemic has put too many workers in the hospital to safely manage port activity. This port is open 4 hours/day, for a max of 3 ships."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:04 PM on March 24


I'm still watching a lot of YouTube videos about this, and reading articles I've bookmarked for the past years.
One thing I'm gradually realizing I hadn't thought through before, though I hinted at it above, it that billions of people today are living off their land and that many others are to a very large degree getting their food from these smallholders. So when we talk about feeding 11 billion, we need to take them into the equation, and optimally make them more productive.
The rhetoric of the big agricultural organisations is, of course, that they are feeding the world, and they are the only ones who can. And for most of us here on MetaFilter, who are buying a large part of our supplies at supermarkets, that seems like common sense. It just isn't the whole truth.
When you make a village in India more productive, as in the second link in the post, you don't only achieve a more prosperous and healthy village, you also slow down the urbanization that is choking the world. You fight climate change in two ways: the village is greener and stores more CO2, and the villagers remain in the village instead of contributing to the growth of the cities and their CO2 pollution. If the village has a surplus, they can provide better, locally produced food to the towns and cities. This article about the now infamous wet markets in China showing how they provide a surprisingly large percentage of the food to the big cities in China (and that the bush meat is only a tiny part of this). The wet markets depend on wholesalers, specially in the big cities, but there are still small farmers bringing their surplus to market.
Small scale farming is less invasive and while I don't think people should be cutting down rainforest, they could be greening the Sahel. Or growing food in the city.
Agricultural economists tend to dismiss small scale farming. I know, a decade ago I was on a project about enhanced productivity in agriculture in Denmark and its consequences for the communities left behind. Back then I took the premise for granted. Now, I'm not so sure. Those huge monocultural farms are very vulnerable to market fluctuations and climate change, many of them have huge debts and the work is still really hard, even with the big machines and the computer monitoring. It's lonely, too. As the villages die out, there are less social gatherings, less women to date and marry for the overwhelmingly male farmers, and further between schools if you get children. The farm-labourers from Eastern Europe aren't part of the community, they are sending their money back home if they have family there, or drinking it up if they don't.
On the other hand, I lived for 6 months in a community that has a very famous organic dairy, where today most of the local farmers provide the milk. As of a couple of years ago, they also have a butchery that turns the young bulls into high end beef products. And they are working on a production that lets out less CO2 and where the calves can grow up with their mothers, which is already selling well. These are not tiny homesteads, but they are also not big industrial farms. They are wealthy, and they support a living community. They reliably supply products to one of the largest supermarket chains here, so they manage a huge distribution network. This is not a small-scale operation, but it is made up of many small-scale operations. I think that is very interesting, it's another way of thinking of scale. When I was driving around the country doing research for the productivity project, 4 out of 5 farms I passed would appear run down and broke. In this area the number is reversed -- the difference is visible.
A final thing about the hard work of small-holder farming: it's not like the hard work has disappeared. Millions of day laborers are working all over the world for ridiculously low wages. I bet they would rather have their own 2 or 10 acres, and a cooperative distribution system.
Sorry about this wall of words, I guess I got carried away...
posted by mumimor at 2:06 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


The simplest and the best way to get less people in the world is to educate and empower women.

That is only part of it. The other part is to provide birth control. And then elevating their entire societies to a modern capitalist consumer economy so wealth isn't just tied directly to large laboring families.

And then we are back to square one in terms of environmental impact. That is what we know works. And that is what we know causes the problems.

BTW. When people bring up over population, please, please, don't accuse them of wanting to kill people unless that is literally what they are advocating. And nobody here is.

He was saying that over population leads to massive amounts of people dying through wars and pandemics and starvations. Which what we are seeing NOW. And wanting to avoid that suffering is literally what he was talking about. A major global effort to reduce populations through family planning isn't eugenics.
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 1:22 PM on March 25 [2 favorites]


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