Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Knowledge of ecology mixed with the ability to imagine

Michael Pollan is the author of The omnivore's dilemma: a natural history of four meals, he also wrote the book The botany of desire. Both books discussion and explain the relationship between man and traditional compare to industrial farming. In the TED video above, he trying to explain the relations (the ecology) between different speices, including our own. Starting at time 07.25;
"-As soon as you start seeing things from the plant’s point of view or the animal’s point of view, you realize that the real literary conceit is that. Is this — the idea that nature is opposed to culture. The idea that — that consciousness is everything. And that’s another very important thing it does. Looking at the world from other species’ points of view is a cure for the disease of human self-importance. You suddenly realize that consciousness — which we value and we consider the — you know, the crown of — the crowning achievement of nature — human consciousness — is really just another set of tools for getting along in the world. And it’s kind of natural that we would think it was the best tool. But you know, as — there’s a comedian who said, “Well, who’s telling me that consciousness is so good and so important? Well, consciousness.” 

The best part in this TED is the example of the farm starting at 10.43 in the video and the text below at 14.45:
"-But look at it from the point of view of the grass, now. What happens to the grass when you do this? When a ruminant grazes grass, the grass is cut from this high to this height. And it immediately does something very interesting. Any one of you who gardens knows that there is something called the root-shoot ratio. And plants need to keep the root mass in some rough balance with the leaf mass to be happy. So when they lose a lot of leaf mass, they shed roots. They kind of cauterize them. And the roots die. And the species in the soil go to work, basically chewing through those roots, decomposing them. The earthworms, the fungi, the bacteria. And the result is new soil. This is how soil is created. It’s created from the bottom up. This is how the prairies were built: the relationship between bison and grasses.

And what I realized when I understood this — and if you ask Joel Salatin what he is, he’ll tell you he’s not a chicken farmer, he’s not a sheep farmer, he’s not a cattle rancher: he’s a grass farmer, because grass is really the keystone species of such a system — is that, if you think about it, this completely contradicts the tragic idea of nature we hold in our heads, which is that, for us to get what we want, nature is diminished. More for us, less for nature. Here, all this food comes off the farm, and at the end of the season there is actually more soil, more fertility and more biodiversity.

It’s a remarkably hopeful thing to do. There are a lot of farmers doing this today. This is well beyond organic agriculture, which is still a Cartesian system more or less. And what it tells you is that if you begin to take account of other species, take account of the soil, that even with — with nothing more than this perspectival idea — because there is no technology involved here except for those fences, which could be — you know, they’re so cheap, they could be all over Africa in no time — that you can — that we can take the food that we need from the Earth, and actually heal the Earth in the process".

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