A Nostalgic Essay on Agriculture

Looking at the current state of the world can make us feel sad and nostalgic. For all that human civilization has been through, it seems like we never learn from our mistakes of the past. The huge gap between the rich and the poor. Resource partitioning is a joke. We can’t seem to agree on how much human presence is affecting the biosphere, and how important that is.

However, it’s also amazing to see the progress we’ve made since our neophyte days as cave dwellers. We’ve engineered our planet from a wild and dangerous place to an environment capable of sustaining an amazing population density. We’ve transformed our species from humble wanderers to ecological engineer extraordinaires, all in the matter of a few thousand years (that’s light speed in evolution scale).

A major tool in our success is our ability to use our environment in creative ways. As early farmers, we’ve learned how to control plants to give us food on a predictable basis. This was a big advancement from our days as nomads, when we had to travel across the land to replenish our resources. Finally we could settle down, work the land, and reap the socio-economic rewards of building a community. Our mastery of plants and the ecosystem were pivotal to our success. 

Agriculture has relied on aligning the systems that had already existed, and were very successful, in nature. Our understanding of how plants grew, fed on the land, their relationships with other plants and insects, empowered us to do this. Soon, we were able to improve the environment to favor their production. Then, acting as a powerful selective force, we optimized natural species to give us better control and bigger yields. We’ve always worked under the framework of nature, as merely another species working in symbiosis with others. Clearly, we’ve grown ignorant of that fact.

When we look at the current world problems, it helps to look at it in light of our role in nature. All we are is another species struggling for survival. To deny this is to become a parasite, quickly consuming our resources, ignorant of our eventual starvation.

Advertisements