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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 7:22 am 
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HFat wrote:
Please consult actual historians. In the absence of a welfare state or plentiful food aid, inequality means some people eat while others die. Cathedrals were built during a long period. During that period, there were striking population collapses on a decadal scale in many areas. The "great leap forward" famine in Maoist China was small potatoes in comparison. People did starve and then they died from epidemics, as starving people are wont to do. Going by the church records, infants in particular apparently died in droves as you'd expect when people are starving.

Read that again and get the gist of it. :) I'm quoting Schumacher btw. My point is that the system we have today, while very nice and comfortable (but perhaps not so fulfilling) for us in the rich west, is not that great on a global scale. Sure there were, is and will probably always be starvation.

HFat wrote:
Or you could look at proper studies comparing farming techniques in which other variables are held as constant as possible.
Then you'll understand why so many farmers have abandonned sustainable techniques long ago for many crops. No factories or huge corporations were involved back in the day.
Fertilizers actually work. People used unsustainable fertilizers before synthetics. Even fertilizers which are called sustainable actually compete with food grown for human consumption.
There is no way to feed billions of people sustainably with current tech. And so I've never seen a single professional farm that was anywhere close to sustainable. Sure, people raise livestock sustainably on marginal land (or worse). People also grow a bit food sustainably on the side but that won't feed very many.

The problem with proper studies are that they seldom get all the details. Reality does. ;) Sure unsustainable fertilizers work, otherwise they would not be used. They only work in the short term though and that is an enormous problem.

Why could we not feed billions of people using sensible technology, sound energy principles etc? Sure, with the current political and economic system it's difficult, which is why you find little of this stuff in the market.

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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 7:42 am 
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Vicotnik wrote:
My point is that the system we have today, while very nice and comfortable (but perhaps not so fulfilling) for us in the rich west, is not that great on a global scale. Sure there were, is and will probably always be starvation.

People starve much less than they ever did in recorded history thanks to cheap food aid. It takes chaos, war or insane ideologues in governement to get mass starvation now.
You evidently have no idea how bad chronic famines were.

HFat wrote:
Why could we not feed billions of people using sensible technology, sound energy principles etc? Sure, with the current political and economic system it's difficult, which is why you find little of this stuff in the market.

Sensible is possible, sustainable isn't (with current technology). Fertilizer is the main issue but pretty much everything about highly productive farming (in labor terms) is unsutainable.

edit: actually that's wrong. I didn't read carefully. My WAG is that feeding "billions" would be possible if people were willing to go back to the land and work hard... just not as many billions as are living now.


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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:02 am 
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HFat wrote:
People starve much less than they ever did in recorded history thanks to cheap food aid. It takes chaos, war or insane ideologues in governement to get mass starvation now.
You evidently have no idea how bad chronic famines were.

How bad chronic famines were is not the point. And we have it very good right now, true. But this will not last, since we don't have infinite cheap energy, soil etc.
My point is that we are mislead about how terrible life was in the past and how great it is now. It's easy to "prove" this by quoting the right numbers.

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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:17 pm 
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Back in the 1970s, a conscientious farmer told me of his admiration for China, which feeds 4 times the population of the U.S. using 1/3 the arable land.

Especially back then, a lot of the farming techniques in China must have been traditional, i.e. low tech.

These facts say something.


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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:59 pm 
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Reachable wrote:
Back in the 1970s, a conscientious farmer told me of his admiration for China, which feeds 4 times the population of the U.S. using 1/3 the arable land.

Especially back then, a lot of the farming techniques in China must have been traditional, i.e. low tech.

These facts say something.
That's quite simple to explain by the fact that they don't eat us much meat.


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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 5:16 pm 
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HFat wrote:
People die from the e. coli on organic food too. Did you know that organic fertilizer often contains e. coli whereas chemicals do not?

Why does it contain e-coli ? Because you get it from animals that have e-coli (the ones that eat corn mostly) and the fertilizer (ie the manure) is not handled properly.
I grew up farming and the only fertilizer in the fields came from the animal waste (manure and waste water that we used to clean the barn in the winter, and the water used to clean the milking facility year-round) that accumulated over the winter and was spread in the fields the rest of the year, in the fields that the cows had been grazing in (after you move the animals to a fresh pasture) or after the grass had been bailed for hay. All this natural fertilizer is stored in a large concrete pool (open air), grass, weeds, grow on the crust at the top, birds eat the bugs, there is a whole ecosystem on there... Then you dig a hole in the crust, suck up the stuff in a tank and spread it in the fields.
We drank water out of the natural springs in the fields (that was also used to water the veggies in the garden), drank the milk from the cows that grazed in the fields (unpasteurized, right out of the milk tank), and never ever got a stomach bug like bad e-coli.
e-coli contaminated food happens when the manure is not handled properly to begin with, or when there is too much of it for nature to do it's job. This also tells you that you are not farming properly btw.
Granted it was a small farm, so it was easier to control. (50 dairy cows year round, 10 to 15 calves a year for meat, 60 sheep, for meat, 10 to 15 chicken for eggs, depending on how hungry the fox was, and how awake the dogs were at night).
Looking at CAFOs, I am amazed that people don't get sick more often...

(I just typed another rant... :))

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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:14 pm 
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Reachable wrote:
Back in the 1970s, a conscientious farmer told me of his admiration for China, which feeds 4 times the population of the U.S. using 1/3 the arable land.

Especially back then, a lot of the farming techniques in China must have been traditional, i.e. low tech.

These facts say something.

Funny how obvious BS becomes fact.
China has about as much arable land as the USA. As one can infer from ancient history, it's also got a lot of high-grade arable land for low-tech farming thanks to the big rivers flowing through eroding sediments (natural fertilization).
The USA exported a whole lot of food in the 1970s.

The Chinese put in a whole lot more labor into agriculture in the 1970s (some of it at gunpoint).
People did not eat too well in China in the 1970s. And they didn't let much go to waste compared to the USA.
The PRC changed traditional practices where it made sense (and sometimes where it didn't, as the disastrous "great leap forward" exemplifies"). One of the first things the PRC did was to jumpstart chemical fertilizer production. It's much higher now (a lot higher than most countries) which goes a long way to explain China's ag output but it was already growing fast in the 1970s. Low-tech or tranditional this wasn't.
Organic fertilizer was historically huge in China but while some practices were sustainable (if risky) others were famously not.


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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:17 pm 
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Vicotnik wrote:
My point is that we are mislead about how terrible life was in the past and how great it is now. It's easy to "prove" this by quoting the right numbers.

Maybe you could start by explaining in what way "we" are mislead.
You're the one quoting an economist about history...


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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 12:10 am 
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HFat wrote:
Maybe you could start by explaining in what way "we" are mislead.
You're the one quoting an economist about history...

This is just my opinion, I'm not trying to prove it in any objective way. Earlier in this thread Cistron wrote "If we returned to the most fundamental farming method, we all be farmers again living in fear of starvation, as was the case in the middle ages." and that prompted me to write that I think that that is a myth. I mean the notion that life in the past was terrible and life today is great.
I really don't know what you're after here. :) I can point you towards some literature that has shaped my opinion regarding this if you like.

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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 12:50 am 
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If you say someone is being misled, I'd like to know how. Especially if I'm part of the group who's being misled (you haven't even been specific about that). I don't like being someone's tool, you see.
References are fine but I also want names so as to be able to judge if your allegation has any plausibility before I waste my time. So names of individuals, names of organizations, dates, meeting places...
When it comes to actual conspiracies to mislead the public, we can provide such details. But those who alledge that others are being mislead without any evidence (see "climategate" and so forth) are usually themselves the victims of misleaders. When someone wants you to believe their BS on faith, their first job is to make you doubt the actual experts with vague allegations.


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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 12:56 am 
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Start with reading Propaganda by Edward Bernays and Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann.

edit: For a quick taste of E. F. Schumacher you could listen to his speech from 1976, titled The World Crisis and the Wholeness of Life.

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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 1:48 am 
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Vicotnik wrote:
Start with reading Propaganda by Edward Bernays and Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann.

1922 and 1926, when no one had much of a clue about the topics at hand...
And I'm supposed to find in these books information regarding the alledged subversion of history, agronomy and so forth during the following century? They're also supposed to explain to me why Marxist academics basically agree with liberals on these issues? 1920s US politics and business propaganda is supposed to explain why the PRC uses shitloads of chemical fertilizer?

Vicotnik wrote:
edit: For a quick taste of E. F. Schumacher

Thing is, why should I even give a minute of my time to this grandstanding economist?
After 4 Google Scholar searches, I found 1 vaguely relevant publication by the guy with 5 cites while I found many publications by economists which are actually relevant and have >100 cites. Are economists the kind of expert we should be listening to anyway?


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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 2:08 am 
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HFat wrote:
Thing is, why should I even give a minute of my time to this grandstanding economist?

You are asking me? I don't know. :)

But seriously, to grasp these things we have to start at the beginning. Reading Edward Bernays is crucial to understanding this. If you want a quick fix I cannot help you, sorry.

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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 2:45 am 
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I don't want a quick fix, I want a hint that you are serious.
So how does Bernays relate to agricultural policies in the PRC?
How does Bernays relate to your allegations about the probity of historians who weren't even born when he wrote Propaganda? What does business propaganda have to do with historical research into agriculture and nutritional status in the 14th century to begin with?
And so forth...


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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 4:34 am 
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I'm not really interested in debating this. Don't get me wrong, but I don't think this thread is the right place for it. If you're really interested in learning why I feel the way I do about agriculture, then Schumacher is a good, quick way to start. He doesn't cover the whole subject, but what he says about large scale industrial machinery in that speech I linked to is pretty spot on. Right now I'm reading (or listening to rather) a book by Charles Eisenstein, 'The Ascent of Humanity'. Pretty good stuff there, but part of it is a bit fluffy for my taste. Eisenstein is a "degrowth activist" and you could say I lean that way myself.

On the topic of propaganda, I really don't know any better way to start than to read Bernays book on the subject. If you want specific examples of propaganda in the world today you don't have to look far. You could look at small things like TV commercials or bigger stuff like the role of the US mainstream media in the run up to the Iraq war.

I don't think I ever mentioned China.

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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 8:18 am 
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HFat wrote:
Reachable wrote:
Back in the 1970s, a conscientious farmer told me of his admiration for China, which feeds 4 times the population of the U.S. using 1/3 the arable land.

Especially back then, a lot of the farming techniques in China must have been traditional, i.e. low tech.

These facts say something.

Funny how obvious BS becomes fact.
China has about as much arable land as the USA. As one can infer from ancient history, it's also got a lot of high-grade arable land for low-tech farming thanks to the big rivers flowing through eroding sediments (natural fertilization).
The USA exported a whole lot of food in the 1970s.

The Chinese put in a whole lot more labor into agriculture in the 1970s (some of it at gunpoint).
People did not eat too well in China in the 1970s. And they didn't let much go to waste compared to the USA.
The PRC changed traditional practices where it made sense (and sometimes where it didn't, as the disastrous "great leap forward" exemplifies"). One of the first things the PRC did was to jumpstart chemical fertilizer production. It's much higher now (a lot higher than most countries) which goes a long way to explain China's ag output but it was already growing fast in the 1970s. Low-tech or tranditional this wasn't.
Organic fertilizer was historically huge in China but while some practices were sustainable (if risky) others were famously not.


I'm not going to let someone like you scare me into thinking that the world is absolutely dependent on the latest agricultural products marketed by multinational corporations anymore than I'm going to be fooled into thinking that the future health of the human population is dependent on distributing more of the latest pharmaceutical drugs. While some of these products are indispensable, a great many of them are not.

Can the 7.2 billion only be sustained with non-sustainable agricultural practices? If the answer to that is "yes" then it's also, at the same time "no." The majority of the world's population is now urban, and, like me, knows next to nothing about agriculture, but they can only reasonably view those who promote sustainable practices as being more trustworthy than corporate propaganda.


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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 8:34 am 
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I'm not interested in scaring anyone, just calling out the purveyers of obvious BS... especially if they have the gall to claim others are the ones who mislead.

Reachable wrote:
... they can only reasonably view those who promote sustainable practices as being more trustworthy than corporate propaganda.

This assumes people can tell "those who promote sustainable practices" from those who propagate "corporate propaganda". Looking at this thread, it's obvious this is not a realistic assumption.

See I get my information from "those who promote sustainable practices".
The difference is, I get it from people who write boring papers instead of spouting whatever sounds good regardless of whether it's true. Yes, there is such a thing as fact-based advocacy of sustainable practices. Imagine that!

And no "corporate" products have been pushed here. Chemical fertilizers aren't inherently "corporate" and neither are non-sustainable fertilizers.
If you can't stomach the policies of the PRC for instance, it's foolish to try to pin them on corporations.


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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 8:48 am 
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HFat wrote:
See I get my information from "those who promote sustainable practices".
The difference is, I get it from people who write boring papers instead of spouting whatever sounds good regardless of whether it's true. Yes, there is such a thing as fact-based advocacy of sustainable practices. Imagine that!

Links please.

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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 9:09 am 
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I've already told you about Google Scholar.
If you want more, here's the most obvious given my location: http://www.fibl.org/

Links on an anyonymous forum are no way to reach reliable information. Trading links hasn't prevented you from repeating the sillyness you attribute to that economist about medieval starvation for instance.

edit: I thought I'll add this since some people are seeing corporate devils everywhere: I have never had a job with a corporation. I don't vote for corporate cronies. My employer promotes sustainable ag and opposes corporations. I've volunteered for organizations promoting sustainable ag and opposing corporations. I've donated money to people who oppose corporations, train small farmers and stuff.


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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 9:25 am 
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The gist, HFat. The gist... :D

Thanks for the link.

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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 9:40 am 
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If the foundations are BS, it's likely the gist is also going to be BS.
I'm not looking forward to being a chronically-starved superstitious illiterate afflicted with a short life expectancy and all manner of health conditions which would be easily managed with modern technology.


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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 10:00 pm 
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HFat wrote:
I'm not looking forward to being a chronically-starved superstitious illiterate afflicted with a short life expectancy and all manner of health conditions which would be easily managed with modern technology.

We live in this world, now. It's your grandchildren you should be worried about, not this privileged generation of western Europeans. You are quite safe.

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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 10:48 pm 
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I am of course not worried about becoming illiterate. :-) And I've already lived more years than most of our ancestors thanks to industrial agriculture and modern medicine.
But since I don't look forward to this kind of life, I don't wish it on anyone.

I'll not stand for obscurantism, especially while Christian or Muslim theocrats remain as influential as they are.


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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 4:12 am 
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Factory "farming" is in fact a mining process - it is extractive.

We know how to improve on the old ways of farming, to make them additive like nature always has been.

Perennials are needed for about 80% of all our crops.

Wes Jackson and the Land Institute has been working on perennial grains, and he and Wendell Berry have developed a 50 Year Farm Bill plan - see PDF here.

I like this quote from Wendell Berry:

"Once plants and animals were raised together on the same farm - which therefore neither produced unmanageable surpluses of manure, to be wasted and to pollute the water supply, nor depended on such quantities of commercial fertilizer. The genius of America farm experts is very well demonstrated here: they can take a solution and divide it neatly into two problems."

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 Post subject: Re: Chalk up another win for corporations
PostPosted: Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:15 am 
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From my point of view in a rural area near the Siebengebirge, Germany, I see far too little being done to preserve the environment.

Several decades ago, the local area was stitched together, both economically and culturally, with many small farms, which did much to preserve the natural environment. Many of these are gone and many more will be soon, too, unless action is taken.

It's not well know that EU subsidies tend to benefit large agricultural enterprises or even airports (as caretakers of surrounding woods and fields) at the expense of smallholders. Intensive livestock breeding and monoculture are favored with all their destructive effects.

In addition, the region is booming and local governments are on cozy terms with local developers and building firms, and green space has greatly diminished.

The future should be one of small farming operations: sustainable and ecological.

Some German and EU politicians have grasped this, but the mainstream follows the money.


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