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  (ARCHIVES)Back to Current
Still romanticizing the family farm (09/18/2011)
By Janet Lewis Burns
Poets, biologists, lyricists, journalists, Willie Nelson, dreamers, and old farmers jawing over midmorning strong coffee, at the one café in a Midwestern country town, all talk about it. Recalling those good old days “down home” on the family farm, when every effort was its own reward, takes folks back to a time of unsophisticated, moralistic, and congenial living.

How long can honest, virtuous, and principled individuals ignore and turn away from today’s corruption, as though nothing can be done about it? Societal greed bites the hand that feeds us all. Those who’ve never entertained any hope for a sustainable humankind, and choose not to play an active role in worldwide solutions, are a crucial factor in the possible demise of the human race.

Julian Cribb’s September - October Utne Reader article, “The High Price of Hunger,” from “The Futurist,” echoes, “The world’s farmers need a pay raise, or else, come mid-century, the other 7 billion of us may not have enough to eat.” “In October 2009 the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that world food production would have to increase 70% by 2050 to adequately feed the planet’s growing population.” Solutions to the dilemma of land and water shortages and degradation are far too costly for most farmers to implement. “When farm commodity prices rise, the industrial firms increase the price of their wares.” Hello! “…FAO researchers reported that 24% of earth’s land surface was seriously degraded,…” “This degradation is caused primarily by the low profitability of agriculture, which drives many farmers (particularly in poorer regions) to misuse their land.”

Beyond an opened window, reflections of lacy designs on sheer curtains rise and fall across Grandfather’s midday nap. His head bobs against the polished oak of an heirloom rocking chair, with its familiar squeaks and creaks, where generations of children had been nursed and cuddled, where legacies are born…and swiftly deserted for a more profitable and less cumbersome means of making a living.

From the introduction to a compilation of essays, contrived by noteworthy American visionaries, entitled “Imagine What America Could Be In the 21st Century,” the editor, Marianne Williamson writes, “Some people imagine great light-filled possibilities ahead and work each day to invoke them.” “…they are prepared to live by their own bottom-line message; separately, we face almost inevitable darkness, while together, we face unimaginable light.”

Paul Hawken, a consultant concerning issues of cultural and ecological restoration, states in his essay, “We live in a time in which every living system on Earth is in decline, and the rate of decline is accelerating as our economy grows. The commercial processes that bring us the kind of lives we supposedly desire are destroying the Earth and the life we cherish.”

The enlightening essays in ”Imagine” represent the expertise of nearly 40 dedicated contributors, outlining an upright, non-racist, more just America, with a total transformation of our political, and socioeconomic systems. Think of the accomplishments that could become realities, if all of mankind would consider the possibilities, instead of being defeated by prejudiced, self-imposed impossibilities!

The recent interview of 72-year-old self-avowed “environmental heretic” Stewart Brand, by Arnie Cooper, in September’s The Sun, reveals a character who’s outspoken, witty, and smart as a whip! Brand has devoted his life to the environmental movement, and not without his share of critics.

He’s held on to earlier beliefs that “technology would lead humankind to destroy itself,” and that “the end of nature” began 10,000 years ago “with the development of agriculture.” “Once you have the perspective of decades and centuries,” he explains, “problems that seemed unsolvable, and pressing urgencies fade away to expose what is crucial.”

I like his optimism. Here’s one of his many down-to-earth gleanings : “I suppose to someone whose idea of farming is to get up in the morning and milk the cow, that sounds like a factory farm, but that’s how an Amish farm works. They’re regarded by many as the best farmers in the U.S., and they’re the most dubious about new technology, but they’re comfortable with genetically engineered food crops. As I understand it, the Amish standard for accepting a new technology is whether it helps or hurts the community.” That makes perfect sense to me!

As I read about mankind’s destruction to our ecosystem, I fret, “Somebody should do something about that!” Soon, my mind wanders back “down home,” and I’m where I belong – napping in the family heirloom rocking chair, with its peaceful ebb and flow.

Why does life have to be so darn complicated?

Janet Lewis Burns has been a lifelong resident of Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com

 

 

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