Article -- Agriculture: Ending the World as We Know It
Thursday, July 29, 2010
John Feeney in Agriculture, Carrying capacity, Civilization, Horticulture, Hunter-gatherers

[6/2014 - Note: I've long preferred an earlier working title I had used for this article: Agriculture: The Beginning and End of Civilization]

My first full article in a year and a half,  Agriculture: ending the world as we know it, is out today in the Canyon Country Zephyr. Published by Jim Stiles, The Zephyr, based in Southern Utah, has been taking independent, uncompromising stands on environmental matters for over twenty years. That makes it a good fit for this piece falling far outside the standard environmental thinking dominating the mainstream media.

The article looks at the unsustainability of agriculture and, therefore, civilization. It examines the human break from nature in the origin of agriculture ten thousand years ago and where we are headed as a result. We cannot avoid tough times ahead, though we do have options available for softening the landing. Ultimately, we need to acknowledge the obvious but fundamental point that hunting and gathering is the only human way of life we know to be sustainable.

Update on Wednesday, September 22, 2010 by Registered CommenterJohn Feeney

One point I'd like to have covered more thoroughly in the article is the notion that a horticultural alternative such as large scale permaculture-based food growing could simply replace agriculture. The text of a footnote to a previous blog post (see below) adds a worthwhile clarification:

On a large enough scale, even a major improvement such as permaculture would seem to suffer from a similar problem of transforming the land excessively for human consumption. It is intended, however, to be practiced on a scale small enough -- and with ethical constraints against large populations -- that it might prove sustainable under conditions of a much smaller human population. This is not to suggest it as an "alternative" to agriculture, without which humans did quite well for most of our history. As an approach to small-scale gardening -- something practiced by many hunter-gatherers -- it makes great sense. Once we begin to depend, though, on growing food as our primary means of subsistence, upping the scale by altering large tracts of habitat, taking control of our food supply by creating and storing unnecessary surpluses, the problems start. (I am aware of nothing concrete, by the way, built into the practice of permaculture which would prevent population growth. I welcome information to the contrary.)

That said, there will surely be a transitional period, post-civilization, when permaculture and related approaches to food production will be essential to many of those shifting toward true sustainability, even prior to a full move into hunting and gathering.

Update on Sunday, January 6, 2013 by Registered CommenterJohn Feeney

Related to the note above, please also see the more recent notes following the previous post.

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