By Dr. E. Ann Clark
The future is organic because the design drivers that have shaped and molded the current agri-food system are changing, demanding a wholly new, and largely organic, approach to agriculture. Efforts to make the current system less bad — more sustainable — are counterproductive because they dilute and deflect the creative energy and commitment that are urgently needed to craft productive, ecologically sound systems, writes Ann Clark. (Image)
Published Jan 14 2010 by University of Guelph, Archived Mar 7 2011.
Organic will be the conventional agriculture of the future, not because of wishful thinking or because it is the right thing to do, or because of some universal truth revealed from on high.
You don’t need to be a utopian to see the agricultural landscape of the future dominated by organic practitioners – whether in the city or in the country – if you stop to ask yourself …why are we not organic now?
How did we get to where we are now, and not just in farming but in the entire agri-food system?
How did we evolve an agri-food system so centered on specialization, consolidation, and globalization? What drove us to an agri-food system that reportedly consumes 19% of the national energy budget – but only 7 of the 19% are used on the farm, with the remaining 12% incurred by post-farmgate transport, processing, packaging, distribution, and meal preparation (Pimentel, 2006)? Is this all the result of Adam Smith’s invisible hand – an inevitable and inescapable result of the unfettered free market or other universal principle in action – or is there more to it?
This paper will present the argument that the future is organic because the design drivers that have shaped and molded the current agri-food system are changing, demanding a wholly new, and largely organic, approach to agriculture. Efforts to make the current model less bad – more sustainable – are counterproductive because they dilute and deflect the creative energy and commitment that are urgently needed to craft productive, ecologically sound systems driven by current solar energy (Pollan, 2008). Although time does not permit coverage, post-oil design drivers will also necessarily demand not just organics but novel agri-food systems emphasizing
- local/decentralized food production, and
- seasonal consumption expectations,
- from minimally processed foods.
Evidence will be presented to show that organic is not enough, however. Ecological soundness will require a de-emphasis on annual cropping coupled with re-integration of livestock, both to mimic the principles that sustain Nature and to dramatically reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
AGRICULTURE WAS NOT DESIGNED TO BE SUSTAINABLE
The design of contemporary agriculture did not evolve in a vacuum. McDonough and Braungart (2002) said that:
“Design is the first sign of intention”.
So what was agriculture designed to do? Agriculture here in the colonies was designed primarily for one thing – to export vast quantities of undifferentiated, raw commodities back to the Mother Country. We do the same thing today, but the recipient is ADM, Cargill, Smithfield and Tyson. Arguably, agriculture performed other services as well – sustenance, good place to raise a family, and a way to make a living.
Read the full post at Energy Bulletin