Diary of a Knowledge Broker by Steve Bosserman

Independent investigation of the truth; collaboration for social justice

Independent investigation of the truth; collaboration for social justice


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August 30, 2005

Introduction to Social Agriculture

In his book, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond posits that agriculture is the foundation upon which civilization is built. Nonetheless, this association is not without certain complications. Some activist authors such as John Zerzan take an extreme stand that agriculture is the bane of true civilization. On the other hand, historian and author Fernand Braudel brings a less judgmental perspective in his trilogy, Civilization and Capitalism: 15th-18th Century. He focuses his historical inquiry on the everyday experiences of those whose daily lives were lived at the crossroads of a burgeoning agricultural society and the rise of capitalism. Yet again, there are other writers such as Heather Pringle who, in her article, "Neolithic Agriculture: The Slow Birth of Agriculture,” softens the view further by holding that the birth of agriculture occurred in the Neolithic Age prior to the large-scale cities and far-reaching civilizations. Plant and animal domestication during this period did not bring with it the adoption of a social dominance model which appeared later. The range of these three suggests that the association of agriculture and civilization has considerable room for further exploration!

The application of strategic frameworks facilitates the exploration of ideas and intellectual spaces. This is certainly the case in the association between agriculture and civilization. As the convergence of technology, energy, environment for life at the point of human equivalence draws nearer, agricultural practices will change dramatically.

Integrated Agricultural Economies.jpg

In the diagram above, the combination of technologies that are faster smaller more integrated more intelligent fuels a bifurcation in production agriculture. Agricultural practices that yield what people use in petroleum, fiber, and industrial applications take advantage of economies of scale and promote globalization and commoditization. Meanwhile, those agricultural practices that result in what people eat such as nutraceuticals, place-based specialties, food with specific qualities (organic, faith-based, ethnic), and livestock, leverage economies of place and tend toward localization and customization.

The dichotomy prompted by the bifurcation of production agriculture feeds a creative tension along the continuum of energy—an energy that if usefully applied, has the potential to bring the association of agriculture and civilization into a more favorable balance than at any time in human history. As condition reports are received through different media about changing conditions and circumstances in production agriculture they can be tied to the "strategic framework" suggested by the diagram and organized into meaningful actions on the continuum in response. And given the advances that are on the horizon this topic of agriculture, civilization, and technology will provide ample fodder for future consideration!

 


posted by Steve Bosserman on Tuesday August 30 2005
updated on Saturday September 24 2005

URL of this article:
http://www.newmediaexplorer.org/steve_bosserman/2005/08/30/introduction_to_social_agriculture.htm

 

 

 


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Readers' Comments


I see some dangers in the globalization of agriculture, be it only for the fuel-and-fiber type applications. The highly mechanized large-scale production type of agriculture needed fror such applications has serious drawbacks for the environmental soundness of our actions.

In my view, agriculture should be predominantly local - economy of place and should be tending towards organic agriculture, that is, eliminate artificial fertilization as well as the poisons used to control pests and weeds.

Such an agriculture is possible and yields are no less than those of the chemically assisted growing of foods and feeds.

Posted by: Sepp Hasslberger on October 5, 2005 02:24 PM

 















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