Agriculture

The Future Economy is Here

On Friday (click), I mentioned that the future is here. Now. Not tomorrow. Not on the second Tuesday after the signing of the Keystone Pipeline Accord. Right now. Look up. There it is!  It is just a matter of learning to see it. Here, this is what it looks like, in case it’s night or your window has curtains…

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Lambs Quarters in the Spring Sun

In a world of monocultural agriculture, in urban configurations that include huge amounts of waste space, and in which most space is not productive of life, the earth sends forth lambs quarters to heal the soil. To capitalist agricultural traditions, this is called a weed and is actively suppressed. So is the economy that it supports.

It is amazing. Wherever the soil is removed from life, which is a complex series of mutually-supportive relationships unfolding in time (an economy, if I’ve ever heard of one), lambs quarters and other colonizing plants sprout, to begin the process of regeneration. That’s our clue to regenerating our economies. We just need to look. If we look, we might see lambs quarters showing us the precise place in the living earth where true profit can be made and true healing can begin, with beautiful lambs quarters salads and cooked dishes to replace spinach and all its cello-packed long-distance trucking hydrocarbons. Healthy for the soil, healthy for local economies, healthy for the atmosphere, healthy for farmers, and healthy for our bodies. Take a look at this dry hill…

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Lambs’ Quarters and Its Buddy Wild Lettuce Doing Their Magic

The soil is dust at this time of the year, but they are deeply rooted and thrive on natural water. No water infrastructure required. Got that? No tax burden. No capital costs.

And if we look around, we might see another wet season crop finishing up at the beginning of the dry season:

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Desert Parsley

This is the plant that kept the Syilx alive on this land for eight thousand years of spring hunger. This is the one they burned the grasslands for, to keep the cycle of renewal in a youthful, productive phase.

Do you see? Once the land has been let go for a few years, it starts to look like this:

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Sagebrush Getting Out of Hand…

… but the balsam root (a food crop) still doing well. Mind you, only a few crops are thriving here. 

Up close, that sage really looks like this …

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Sagebrush

A monocultural desert.

That’s why succession agricultural is the way to go: as the first colonizers are replaced by food plants, which are replaced by woody plants providing shelter and food for winter birds, the full richness of what the land can provide is spread over time — about 15 years of it. After that, it’s time for renewal — not plowing, just clearing away, and then …

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… the desert parsley will be doing more than hanging on. This is a form of agriculture that creates a living economy. Rather than future potential being stored in capitalized mutual funds or in heavily indebted water systems or in monetary objects of various kinds, they are stored in the future creative potential of the land. Human creative potential is directed towards ensuring the health of those investments. Instead of investing for the present, and passing the debt on to our children, we invest in the future and pass the profits on to our children. In this respect, monocultures like this …

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Dwarf Royal Gala Apple Walls

… are also forms of economic organization. In this case, heavy capitalization. This 20 acre orchard likely has a capitalization of four million dollars, and a return on investment of approximately zero. It is, in other words, an economic system that doesn’t work in any practical sense. What you see in the above image is the creative potential of the wild earth to produce life (a complex system of inter-related relationships) reduced to a small number of species, including grass, dandelions, mallow and a few other wild plants trying to heal the soil, and dwarf apple trees. The idea is that by concentrating all of the creative potential of the land into one product, it can be produced in abundance, and the difference between a complex living system, in which the life energy here were shared with many species, and this model, in which only one species (humans) benefits, the investor (the farmer) can use the excess as profit, and turn it into money (a social relationship.) The next year, the land can produce the same wealth again. Well, that system is broken. The only profit being taken here is by the capital systems (banks, chemical companies, post companies, trucking companies, packing companies, supermarkets, and so on), leaving the farmer, the land, and all the hungry people and animals unserved. Here’s where the profit goes …

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Farmer Spraying Poison to Thin His Apple Trees

When I was a young man, we did this work by hand. It was a major source of employment. In order to keep food cheap, it is now done by poison and, logically enough, thousands of people in this community go to the food bank to try to keep from starving. The farmer is using a canister spray mask c. 1970, a pair of gloves, an old shirt and a turban as protective gear. Good luck on that.

You see how that works? In a fully-capitalized form of agriculture, fully-privatized and removed from community (employment), profit must be extracted by reducing social costs (which were once the profit), rather than merely reducing competition for life energy. Humans with no access to the life energy now have to pay for it. Well, it doesn’t have to be so. The land is shouting the future to us:

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1 Hour Before Spraying

Ignore the apple blossoms. They’re not the future. They’re just debt. The future is the dandelions growing between the rows. In the current model, they are mowed down to prevent soil erosion.

That’s how to see the future. Look at what is being ignored, yet which is still alive. Until 20th Century Industrial Chemical Farming (largely a Nazi invention … really), dandelions were a source of salads, wine, syrup, coffee, and medicinal herbs, with great value. Surely, 2 out of 3 rows of apples returning NO profit to earth or humans but only to non-living systems (which must remove life energy from earth and humans in order to concentrate that profit) could be removed, to leave more space for dandelions, and a series of succession plants building on their healing of the land, OR 1 row could be cropped in an annually-regenerating crop of aromatic saplings for meat and fish smoking facilities, eliminating food refrigeration costs and providing shelter for birds, OR 1 row could be given over to community gardens, or … well, one could go on, because the current system does not produce life or profit, so you can do anything else and add wealth to town. Tomorrow, I will expand this story. Today, though, I wanted to make an initial economic point: 1. any form of agriculture is a form of economy, written large; to understand the economy, look at what’s in front of you; 2. in industrial agriculture, profit is the life energy removed from living systems, with the flaw that 3. the living systems cease to regenerate and systems become old, tired and no longer capable of supporting complex life (such as humans or slugs), and 4. for living systems this is the deal breaker, because the alternative is a dead planet. However, 5. successful economic systems renew and 6. the living economy is attempting to do just that. By observing the opportunities it is taking, we can see the opportunities that we can take, for renewed economic profit, renewed living environments, and renewed social and personal health. When humans become impoverished and are the weeds in their economic system, they need only look to the weeds …

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Pineapple Weed

Growing in the iron-hard soil of a roadway (with the frilly leaves). Zero water. That’s a bit of wire weed (looking very flush with spring water) with the broader leaves, poking through. You cannot kill wire weed, and you cannot pull it out without explosives. Well, I exaggerate, but, tough, right?

Pineapple weed flowers make a far more beautiful tea than chamomile tea, it grows everywhere you let it and many places you don’t, and has the beautiful and relaxing aroma of fresh pineapples. Water requirement? Zero. Wireweed is an ancient herbal remedy and a key ingredient in Vietnamese cooking. At the moment, these crops produce zero dollars for the economy, but they could produce millions, with almost no capital cost. The future is here. It just needs to be seen, because once it is seen the path to wealth and prosperity is very clear. Contemporary agricultural practices are tired and old, and at the end of a cycle. They require more and more input for less and less return. Yet, new crops are everywhere (and renewed economic models), and require almost zero input — except for the creative input of seeing them.

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Arrow-Leafed Balsam Root Seed Crop is Ready on the Hill!

While “cultural tradition” says it’s not yet time to plant a garden.

3 replies »

  1. you sure make some strong points here, working with nature is so much smarter, less work, less poison, i am a big believer in diversity, feeding the soil, feeding the insects, and letting things take their natural course!
    permaculture is all about simplfication, doing less, harvesting more!

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on seeds for natural justice and commented:
    so much energy, chemicals, bank payments to produce mass produced food. Instead we can follow permaculture advice to reduce energy and inputs, just relax and let the weeds grow, many wild plants that people fight but are so well adapted and self seed .
    In our garden we let many greens self seed, and we have food year round, thanks to kale and collards that can be harvested all winter.

    Like

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