What is the Purpose of Sustainable Agriculture? Essay on Agriculture
This is the essential question that we need to understand when organizing a system to prevent environmental degradation and creating a clear conception of nature. Multiple factors contribute to the diminishing of our earth’s natural resources, but none such as agricultural production. With our ever increasing population, one would think that increasing the amount of crops produced would be sufficient; so why are we currently worried about not having enough land to increase production?It is simple, all the resources that we are currently using to live a more economic lifestyle is being transformed into waste product that becomes unusable. That is exactly what is happening with our agricultural systems today. We are wanting to increase crop yields by continuously disrupting, adding, and damaging the soil systems that we currently have available without realizing the consequences for future generations. The key in developing a system of harmony between humans and the ecosystem is shifting farming practices from large-scale production to small/rational agriculture.
Large-scale or industrial agriculture is a food production system in which the farmer is indirectly involved with the growth or harvest of his crops. Any farm that uses laborers or machines and utilizes the heavy use of chemical fertilizers/pesticides, monoculture, meat production in confined animal feeding operations, and having limited crop production can be considered large-scale agriculture. This method of farming has become one of the top main food production systems in the United States. But while the benefits may sometimes outweigh the negative effects, large-scale agriculture has a higher risk of creating more damage when it increases productivity. Marx’s Estranged Labour and Shiva’s Decolonizing the North are two examples that help authenticate the negative impacts large-scale farming has on the environment and our community.
At the beginning of Marx’s article, he begins by identifying how we presupposed our current lifestyles from direct political economy and subjugated ourselves to live off the production of the public workers. As a result, capital wealth accumulates for the few who are in charge. He later goes on to talk about the relation between workers and overseers by stating, “Through the medium in which estrangement takes place is itself practical. Thus through estranged labour man not only engenders his relationship to the object and to the act of production as to the power that are alien and hostile to him; he also engenders his relationship to the object and to his production and to his product, and the relationship in which he stands to these other men (Marx 78).”
An example of the relationship between the laborer and the farm supervisor is the inability for the laborer to earn a living wage. The worker sells their labor and time to companies that pay just enough to maintain their product reproduction. This, in turn, creates a capitalistic society that strives to maximize profits, often at the expense of exploiting human labor unfairly and negatively impacting the nutrient cycling through the reliance of fertilizers. “While creating an objective world by his practical activity, man proves himself a conscious species-being and the object of his labour is, therefore, the objectification of man’s species life.” “Estranged labour tears from him his species life, his real species objectivity, and transforms his advantage over animals into the disadvantage that his inorganic body, nature, is taken from him (Marx 76).”
This passage identifies the relationship of the working man and the work he is subjected to endure to provide a comfortable lifestyle for either himself or his family. As this passage continues, it is understood that the body of the working man comes directly from nature and is created to have dominion over all things, thus concluding estranged labor is not caused directly by the working man, but from an external force that causes the feeling of detachment from oneself. Along with the disconnectedness, this particular passage provides a great example of what Vandana Shiva would call “White Man’s Burden.”
Decolonizing the North by Vandana Shiva is a short passage advocating reversing the system of colonization, with the understanding that regardless of who you are, either the oppressed or the oppressors, we are all connected into a culture of oppression. This type of culture eventually results in the idea of rejecting a new technological era and questioning science’s ability to solve our ecological problem. In addition to the depletion of small-scale farms comes the increase in large-scale monocropping practices and the exploitation of available natural resources. Shiva states that “the ecological crisis is rooted in the mistaken belief that human beings are not part of the democracy of nature’s life, that they stand apart from and above nature (Shiva 265)”.
This is clearly illustrated when looking at the capitalist system used to run our current agricultural production farms used to sustain our entire population. Our current and future generations will have to change their outlook on agriculture and not view the earth as a profitable system with unlimited resources. Earth needs to be viewed as a living, breathing system that requires care and time to renew its resources. Changing old mindsets begins with the understanding of what is currently causing earth's deterioration. Even though science has provided us with the research and knowledge to create positive environmental changes, we are still ignorant towards the world around us.
The use of specialization and scientific language has created a communication barrier between scientists and the general public. This contributes to the relationship between the colonized North and South. A balance needs to be created between the industrialized North and the consistent South to understand the burden of the working man. A system of communication also needs to be incorporated to bridge the gap between scientists and the uninformed public about the fears that we are facing now. A system such as large-scale agriculture that continues to use resources that are already limited and maintaining a labour force that is being treated unfairly and being exploited is unconventional and unsustainable. To create a
Rational agriculture on the other hand is the ability to use available land in a sustainable manner, while meeting the needs of society. Through the idea of selling raw products at the highest possible profit, it creates a control system that farmers base their decisions. The idea of maximizing profit helps producers determine the amount of farm labor required, cooperative business management contracts, and specific crops/animals are grown in a span of one year while keeping in mind practices that are humane and with no exploitation of labor. While some of these farms may be individually run, some may continue to acquire more hands to help with harvesting and selling.