Sooner or later the question comes up, whether it is between two friends sharing a pot of stew made from local grassfed beef and their garden harvest, livestock farmers gathered on a pasture walk, neighbors working together to tend a flock of backyard chickens, or organic vegetable producers discussing yields at a conference.
“But can we feed the world this way?”
As we try to move humanity away from dominant power regimes and thoughtless extraction of the earth’s resources, toward a way of life that honors the earth and all of her creatures, I think this is the most maddening question we can be asking ourselves.
Nevertheless, we’ve all been conditioned to reflexively turn to this question as we challenge our methods and consider new paths toward sustainability.
However, 75 or 100 years ago, such a question would never have entered into our dialogue. To ask a local farmer or homesteader how his or her production methods were going to feed the world would have been absurd. The local producer’s job was to support the family, the community, and his or her bioregion–not the world.
But following World War II, with the onset of the “Green Revolution,” feeding the world became a national mantra. It was a ubiquitous “good” that handily justified the discovery that the petrochemicals used in warfare could find postwar applications if dumped on our food supply.
“Feeding the world” consoled farmers as they incurred mountains of debt to afford the fossil-fuel-intensive machinery and expansive acreage that would enable them to crank out tons of food for which they would garner increasingly lower prices.“Feeding the world” was the elixir offered as our grandparents attempted to adjust their palates to a food supply that was suddenly tasteless as local food disappeared from the market. “Feeding the world” was the slogan tossed about as rural people the world over surrendered ties to the land, moved to cities, and trusted that the food system would take care of itself. “Feeding the world” was the background tune playing in the bank, on the car radio of the seed salesman, in the office of the accountant as farmers were counseled to “get big or get out,” to expand their production and change their growing practices to participate in a global food supply, rather than a regional one. “Feeding the world”was the motto that let Americans turn their heads and not notice the polluted waters, the increasing severity of floods, soil loss, or the fact that the little farm next door had suddenly disappeared. …..(read more).