By Wes Jackson
Wes Jackson believes the time is correct to put off monocultures, that are prone to nationwide protection threats and are in part liable for the explosion in our healthcare bills. Soil erosion, overgrazing, and the poisons polluting our water and air all linked to our modern type of American agriculture foretell a inhabitants with its actual future health and land destroyed.
In this eloquent and well timed name to fingers, Jackson asks us to seem to nature itself to steer us out of the mess we’ve made. We do that via consulting with the common ecosystems that might let us know, if we hear, what may still occur to the way forward for food.
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The Jeffersonian ideal can exist larger in Kansas because of soils and rainfall. It is a more forgiving landscape. Across the ecological mosaic exists a range between and beyond these two extremes. It is time for each piece of that mosaic to be evaluated according to where it falls on that scale. Discovering Aldo Leopold I am embarrassed to say that a full decade passed from that time on the South Dakota ranch before I would become aware of Aldo Leopold and begin to adopt his understanding. It was 1963, and I was twenty-seven years old, and it would be another decade before I would fully internalize the implications of his insights for a new agriculture.
He has taught us its necessity and possibility. And while few of us even yet can be optimistic, Wendell has given us enough to be hopeful. His novels, such as Watch with Me, A Place on Earth, and Jayber Crow, accomplish this alone. His essays accomplish this alone. His poetry certainly speaks to all of that and more. I can say without hesitation or qualification that Wendell Berry may be the most practical person I know, precisely because he made his art capture the roundness of a rooted, grounded life—beyond acres and calories, foundations and roofs, crops and livestock.
Can we preserve nature intact in half the world by utterly degrading it in the other half? Can we preserve nature intact anywhere by radically oversimplifying our economic relation to it, dismissing nature’s integrity as an economic standard, and ignoring its processes—in effect, replacing it with the standards and processes of industrialism? Can we afford to abandon forever the possibility of a living harmony between humanity and nature, economy and ecology? It is just to say “forever” here, because if we destroy all the land-using or land-based cultures, we may be unable to develop them again—not, at least, with the present population in the foreseeable future.