BY LALO PEREZ VARONA
“Why are we here?” this question was able to land in the developing consciousness of our human ancestors. Unable to answer it they conjured tales that were brought to life with rites and rituals. We inherited this tradition as we continue performing rituals in our attempt to approach the question that will always remain. Rituals required settling from roaming, and so, agriculture was born to feed the settled. This is the legend I like the most. Regardless of why we came to settle there is a clear distinction between humanity before and after the agricultural revolution.
Imagine the life of a human who lives deeply intertwined with his surroundings suddenly becoming settled. The first thing we ever domesticated was ourselves. For the past 10,000 years we have been imperceptibly driving the wild out of us. Understandably so, as the wild can be deeply discomforting. Our oldest settled forebears turned to faith to comfort the suffering brought on by the unanswerable question. During the agricultural revolution, as trade became implicit, more of us turned to silver. It proved its ability to purchase our way out of discomfort. It does this through technology like buildings, clothes and tools. When we fulfilled the basics for most of humanity, we continued to discover new discomforts to solve. We have since gradually focused our attention to technology driven enterprises in an attempt to capture comfort and sell it off to those who want it, and in the process become the product of the technological tools that are meant to serve us. We have reduced agricultural value to a mere 3.4% of global GDP in 2019. 2/3 of the world’s population lives in urban areas that depend on global trade to feed themselves. “Pears grown in Argentina, packed in Thailand”. Our cities could be called Urban Islands as they are uncapable of producing their own food, their own energy, their own water. Our globalized world exists because inexpensive energy has provided the illusion that we don’t need to be connected to our surroundings. We have deluded ourselves into thinking that our silver will continue to develop technology to outsmart our continued deterioration of the life system that provides our sustenance. We have completely failed to accept a capitalist adage; “you either pay for it, or you pay for it”. There is no escaping the debt we have incurred in using up this cheap energy.
It is cynical to think that we can go back to hunting and gathering. Undoubtedly, we will continue to be an agricultural society. Herein lies the opportunity. As much as we have devalued farmers and farming by poisoning our land and minds with chemicals, fuel and financial instruments, farming continues to be a realistic way to reconnect with our truth. Our well-being is directly correlated to the well-being of our providing ecosystem. We are as much a resource to our providing earth as she is to us. Agriculture can only rise from the human will.
Our need for control, to be dominant as a species, has allowed us to develop an agriculture that has depleted soils, contaminated the water cycle and brought on an onslaught of disease whose statistics engender fear. If the current pandemic scares you, dig deep into the statistics of disease. We have accepted that being sick is part of life. The generation being born today is the first in centuries to have a shorter outlook on lifespan than the generation that preceded it. Our daily actions are writing a dystopian novel and calling it history.
To all of those who think we control nature, as a naturalist and farmer I can assure you, we don’t even control the things we assume we do (ex. most of us don’t know that the vast majority of the cells in our body aren’t human cells). While it’s comforting to believe that technology gives us control over nature, it is not the way forward. The complexities happening in a gram of biological soil is beyond the scope of current science. It is futile to continue to measure and dissect something that must clearly be interpreted as a whole to properly function. As science has strived to understand nature it routinely speaks of it as if it were outside of us. We are part of nature, and she surrounds us with countless examples of abundance.
We need to reconnect to the feeling we get when we see the forest, the ocean, the desert, the skies. No one is left unimpressed by these. With the memory of this feeling we can build the empathy necessary to encourage a generation of people to become farmers. This does not mean everyone must cultivate the earth. Quite the opposite; it means we have to become adept at observing how we can participate in farming our way out of this urban isolation we continue to pursue. We can harvest energy from the sun, the earth, and the rivers. We can harvest food from our biological thriving soils and our seas. We can harvest water from the skies and the air to use in our cities. And our cities should thrive with people that are well fed, so that they can pursue what their will ordains.
As we are forced to reckon how our global habits have brought on a pandemic, I urge you not to fall into the trap of thinking the problem lies outside of ourselves. Only through cultivating our will can we change our habits. Through eating well can we cultivate our will. And only through taking care of our surroundings can we eat well.
I hope we can offer what will surely be a booming generation of quarantine induced babies a world filled with farmers, will, and well being…