Contribution to GTI Roundtable "Farming for a Small Planet"
Bravo once again to GTI for the substantive discussion provoked by Frances Lappé’s sober and lucid critique of Big Ag. The comments have been particularly useful this time because there are so many interesting organizations working for “Agroecology Now.”
I founded and manage The Green Market Santa Cruz in Trinidad, where for the past three years we have been striving to educate both farmers and consumers about what it takes to grow healthy food and healthy communities. We have been supporting small local farmers through our CSA (community supported agriculture) program and through our Edible Talk series demonstrating the interconnectedness of all things.
The comment I want to make is a reflection on two lines in the essay: “The underlying reason industrial agriculture cannot meet humanity’s food needs is that its system logic is one of disassociated parts, not interacting elements. It is thus unable to register is own self-destructive impacts on nature's regenerative processes” and “Once citizens come to appreciate that the industrial agriculture model is a dead end, the challenge becomes strengthening democratic accountability in order to shift public resources away from it.”
This inability of corporations to be self-reflective and self-aware is an ethical issue. The “personhood” attributed to these multinational entities by our legal systems lulls us into forgetting that the system logic of disassociated parts is the very foundation of the industrial system. It is the profoundly anti-democratic nature of the dissociative organization of industry that is creating the cognitive dissonance in this late phase of capitalism. We have silos in academia and government absolutely incapable of the integrative interdisciplinary and holistic approaches required to regulate and manage our common destiny in the interest of democratically governed human beings.
Unlike Lappé, I think corporations do register their destructive impacts on Nature (i.e. planetary wellbeing) much earlier than they let on; they hide the deleterious effects through accounting rules that do not reflect true costs, and worse, they continue the fear-mongering mantras of scarcity in a world that still provides abundance. It becomes difficult for citizens of the various countries comprising our political world to “appreciate” that industrial agriculture is a dead end when they are constantly told otherwise and furthermore they are largely impotent because the systems of democratic accountability in most nations are in tatters.
Far from despairing, I am challenged “to remake our understanding and practice of democracy,” especially at the community level where a deep ethic of interdependence and interconnectedness can grow roots so deep that the agroecology that we practice to nourish ourselves, our lands, and our local ecosystems transcends the noxious national and global politics that protects industrial agriculture’s (and Big Pharma’s) profits.
The Green Market is making progress engaging with the corporate sector through our “Eat Local Challenge,” which is highlighting the lack of sustainability of Trinidad’s huge food import bill. As people here come to understand the importance of food security, we are beginning the sensible conversation about how to incentivize and revitalize agriculture using the techniques and philosophy of agroecology.