[the following comments are inspired by, rather than a response to
the above remarks...]
Are right-of-center political and economic presuppositions necessarily
a problem ? Do they in any way diminish the quality of the work or the
logic of the interpretation ?
Certainly left-of-center political and economic presuppositions are more
than amply represented amongst current proponents of 'sustainable'
agriculture. Unfortunately, there seems to be a tendency to present
materials coming from the 'left' as neutral and somehow free of bias,
while that coming from the 'right' is held suspect in many circles.
Neither the 'left' nor the 'right' has a monopoly on Revealed Truth, and
the agricultural/ecological/population challenges we face are of
such great magnitude that we would all do very well to keep our minds
open and have a good rousing debate to flesh out our differences. A debate
not to determine who are 'winners' and who are 'losers,' but to figure
out honestly and with sincere hearts just what we are collectively and
individually going to do about the challenges. A simple (and largely
intellectual) conviction that things *ought* to be one way or the other
is a luxury we can no longer afford.
To often, as I have worked in Latin America, have I come across regions
where virtually every wild thing bigger than a hamster has long since
gone into one stewpot or another, and where forest is being cut down in
order to grow maize on a 40-degree slope.
Whatever the bias, the reality of much of the world is such that
Dennis Avery's conclusions cannot be ignored in the short to medium
term. As an agronomist and long-time proponent of organic agriculture,
I wish it were otherwise, but our options have been severely limited
by population pressure.
And if world population pressure (60% of the population of Ecuador,
for example, is under age 20!) is not resolved, then even Mr. Avery's
vision will be for nought. The population problem will be resolved,
one way or another -- most of the options, however, are rather messy and
My belief is that Avery-style high-yield agriculture might actually
be able to buy the world some time to deal with population pressure,
but it certainly doesn't seem sustainable over the long term, and
if the population problem isn't resolved, then Avery's suggestions
are probably pointless in any case.
I am quite cognizant of the weaknesses in Avery's arguments (high-
yield agriculture has been generally quite devastating to wildlife of
various sorts; debatable assumptions about productivity and yield in
organic / sustainable sysstems; etc. etc.) but his overall point
must be taken both seriously and in context.
Agricultural sustainability will not arrive overnight. If high-yield
agriculture can achieve true sustainability -- wonderful, it's worth
trying. If it can be practised in ways that still move the farms in
the general direction of greater sustainability -- that's not too bad.
If it can merely avoid further damage and manage to co-exist with
sustainable-systems-under-development -- that's at least tolerable.
But the only justification I can see for going down that road at all
is to gain some extra time during which an effective system of world
population control can succeed. If Mr. Avery and his colleagues at
Hudson can propose a program of population control with considerable
probability of success -- and link it in a well-reasoned way with
high-yield farming -- then it certainly merits serious consideration
regardless of the political leanings of its proponents.