Somewhere in the far 2013…
The thirst for profit is destroying agriculture - and the world - but the trend towards local shops and farmers' markets offers real hope.
British farmers cannot produce pigs as cheaply as Poles, nor cattle feed as cheaply as Brazilians, nor milk as cheap as Americans, nor fruit as cheaply as Spaniards. If they do not roll up their sleeves, they will simply have to withdraw, the market dictates. According to a recent study by the National Pig Breeding Association, about 100 small and medium-sized pig farms are likely to close this year, 10 per cent of the total.
Britain loses dozens of dairy farms every month. Gardening has long since disappeared (what happened to the Garden of England - Kent?). Only 1% of Britons now cultivate the land.
However, the situation is the same everywhere. Traditional farmers in Africa and Asia are being called upon to give up food production for their own peoples and to grow raw materials for us in exchange for our money, which we make through banking.
Of course, farms need to be as large as possible in order to achieve a significant economy, and the workforce needs to be reduced to cut costs, so most existing smallholder farmers, men and women, need to go.
Hundreds of thousands of farmers have committed suicide in India, but most are fleeing to the cities to join the estimated one billion emigrants from the province, who now live in urban ghettos (almost a third of the country's urban population).
Objective data - such as scientists and economists advising world powers use to support their ideas - suggest that new approaches do not work - not if we believe that the goal of agriculture is to produce quality food.
One billion people worldwide with the current 7 billion population suffer from chronic malnutrition, and another one billion suffer from chronic malnutrition - to such an extent that according to an article in Nature magazine in May, the number of diabetics in the world now exceeds the total population of the United States and Canada, the reason for this is the way of eating.
The damage to the whole world is great. Mainly due to industrial agriculture, half of all species on the planet may become extinct by the end of the century. Agriculture has occupied 40 percent of the world's land, but the pollution it causes endangers living beings everywhere, including in the seas, where runoff from farms destroys coral reefs.
However, the corporate-government complex that governs our lives is firmly committed to the fierce financial competition in the neoliberal world market. So British farmers, in British conditions in a British social context, are in direct conflict with African peasants and American mega corporations and Ukrainian grain barons (or at least they would be if it were not for European subsidies), while agriculture as a whole must be competes for investments in cars, weapons, casinos and hair salons.
If British farmers cannot make more profit in the short term than Poles or Brazilians (or corporations located in their countries), then they simply have to leave. In fact, just a few years ago, the Tony Blair government seriously raised the issue of British agriculture following the fate of the coal industry. It may seem unacceptable, even disgraceful, but as Lady Thatcher assured us many years ago, "there is no alternative", and all British governments after that, even those with the word Labor in their name, blindly believed it.
The strangely named National Union of Farmers is determined to do big business.
The big problem is the huge clash between morality, biological reality and the current economy. Until and if we do not strike a balance between the three, we will have problems. In addition, we must recognize that morality (what is good) and biological reality (what is necessary and possible) must be paramount, and economics must come second.
As John Maynard Keynes said decades ago, economies "need to sit behind," and we need to focus first on "our real problems with life and human relationships, creation and behavior, and religion."
If we do not recognize the moral obligation to provide food for everyone without ruining others, then what does morality mean? There is no excuse for the current failure, because logical biological thinking shows that good food for everyone should be highly possible. Report after report - one that governments and large organizations prefer to ignore - shows us that the best way to ensure that everyone is well fed, sustainable and secure is through mixed, complex and low production costs (semi-organic) farms.
They must be time consuming (or there will be no complexity), so it is not an advantage to be on a large scale. Such farms have a traditional structure, but they should not be traditional in technology. They would benefit from good technology and science. However, small to medium-sized mixed farms, which can feed us well and provide us with a good job, are in complete contradiction with the imperative to increase wealth in our time. To survive in the struggle for profit, a skilled workforce must be replaced by large machines and agro-chemistry, agronomy must be simplified - monoculture rules - and everything must be done as much as possible.
Although industrial agriculture does not feed everyone, it has led to mass unemployment and the accompanying poverty and despair, and is destroying the fabric of the world. It prevails because it produces heaps of short-term money for the people who pull the strings. We need to make a turnaround, and fast. I mean us, all of us ordinary people, because the governments and corporations that run the world and their experts and intellectuals who serve them will not. The standard ways to change are through reform or revolution.
However, reforms are too slow and today's politicians and big business, to which they are grateful, cannot change course. The revolution is too uncertain and dangerous.
So we need a third way - a renaissance: to build something better in its original form. In fact, it is democracy. All over the world, people and communities are starting small mixed farms of the kind the world really needs, and others are opening small shops and farmers' markets, as well as transport services for these new farms. Thousands of organizations around the world are working to support and coordinate these efforts.
Now in 2022…What are we still waiting for?
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