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Sunday, 4 May 2014

Agriculture – An Example that Illustrates the Need to Break Free From the Past

The strategic drivers affecting the future development of agriculture can be summarised as follows: increasing world population; growing demand for calories and protein in developing countries; limited or decreasing resources (arable land, water, energy); sustainability, particularly reducing energy intensity and greenhouse gas emissions and reversing loss of habits and the decline in biodiversity (including the decline in soil biodiversity); increasing food quality awareness in developed nations; protection and preservation of water resources; and dealing with problems of soil compaction, erosion, loss of soil organic matter, salinisation, and desertification.

Many of the problems listed above are the result of the application of reductionist scientific methods and industrial engineering thinking. It is quite surprising therefore, possibly an act of insanity, that, just as people are waking up to the damaging consequences of industrial scale intensive farming, and all the scientific and technological paraphernalia that has to go with it to keep those very large agricultural technology businesses happy, people are talking about applying more of the science, engineering and technology that is so evidently part of the problem.

It has been said, by people with vested interests in maintaining the status quo, and in a most condescending way, that it would take two planets to feed the world using organic farming methods. But what they will not tell you is how many planets worth of oil and natural gas it will take to feed the world if humanity listens to this nonsense, and does not develop a completely different way of growing its food.

I have been examining and investigating these matters since 2007, observing and analysing the conventional thinking and research that is being disingenuously presented as innovation, but which is if fact holding back the development of a new and sustainable system of agriculture. And this is yet another way in which human behaviour needs to change, for it is important to understand that when it comes to matters of agricultural policy, it is not at all based on reason, facts and evidence, but on values, beliefs, and the selective use of information that leads to the results that people are looking for. And it is nothing but a delusion, and a very dangerous one, that this is not so.

This is the nature of science, engineering and technology development, and we need to make this reality more widely known, so that we can not only change science, engineering and technology, but also policymaking. And the nature and consequences of these delusions are explored in my novel Moments in Time, which has just been published, and will be available on Amazon web sites in the coming days. Here in this most unusual of novels, you will encounter the uncomfortable statement that science, engineering and technology, as we currently know them, are a bag of bones and entrails dressed up with a little good meat. Once more I am back to the story of Prometheus, which is recounted in the prologue of Moments in Time, for the whole book, using a technique called caricature, seeks to highlight the bag of bones issue by dealing with the dangerous delusions of an engineer, and the consequences of his (yes a male figure, because these are gender related values) rather peculiar and very European perspectives.

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