Catastrophe, Technology, Limits, and Localism

Charles C. Mann’s The Wizard and the Prophet, published earlier this year, is a fabulous book. Not a perfect book; sometimes, in order to bulk up this two-pronged thesis, he will throw in supplementary material that threatens to bog down his central investigation. But that investigation comes through loud and clear all the same, and it is one worth looking at closely.

How the Cult of the Colossal Imperils American Agriculture

The ethos we’ve built around farming in the United States is broken. Rather than encouraging farmers to eliminate risk by diversifying their crops, pursuing sustainability, and embracing a proper scale, we’ve propped up a truly unsustainable style of production with subsidies and insurance programs.

Inefficient Productivity or Productive Inefficiency?

New research demonstrates – again – how deceptive the concepts of productivity and efficiency are in agriculture. Huge increases in labor productivity and modest increases in land productivity are gained by a massive increase of use of external resources, while natural capital is depleted. Is that efficient?

It’s Not the Grapes

The Cornish-Rock cross is an ideal partner for the vertical factory model — a model in which bird, agribusinessman, and illegal immigrant plant worker are tightly bound in the same machine that spits out soylent green parts for consumption by the masses. The model that provides cheap protein, provides cheap veggies, provides cheap clothing, provides a cheapened life….

Chemical Industrial Agriculture is Unsustainable. Here’s why

Even without pesticides, industrial agriculture is doomed to fail from extremely high rates of soil erosion and soil compaction at rates that far exceed losses in the past, since soil couldn’t wash or blow away as easily on small farms that grew many crops.