A lot of the problems that we are facing in the world today I think of as nature telling us ‘sorry – it doesn’t work like that here’, farmer and author, Chris Smaje, told me this week.
For Chris, one of the ways we can reconnect with nature would be to ditch destructive agriculture practices. In place of the behemoth global farming systems and networks currently destroying soils and leaving hundreds of millions of people malnourished, he wants to see a shift to A Small Farm Future – also the title of his new book, to make local economies the cornerstone of a resilient and thriving world.
“We need to rethink things,” he said. “So we need to bring these different elements, the different crops, the livestock, the trees, the water and human living back into a more steady relationship and that has to be done locally. It has to make sense locally in terms of the local ecology in place.”
He added: “One of the points I make in the book is that one thing we’ve done is become increasingly reliant on this small number of, mostly cereal crops, which increasingly are grown in bread basket parts of the world like the North American prairies, which are semi-arid areas which are very vulnerable to climate change and water stress, but also productive historically. But the ironic result of that is that by producing this torrent of cheap grain, which partly emerges from cheap fossil energy and other inputs and also from subsidies, it has undermined people’s ability to produce subsistence in other parts of the world using more local subsistence crops and that pushes people into a more commercial model of farming in lower income countries, with people producing coffee or tropical food crops for example, and that can be a very precarious existence. So again there is this trade-off irony of greater and greater crops threatening the ability for us to keep up that abundance, which is also not that great economically for us.”
To begin transforming the system, Smaje says people must first reconnect with nature, ‘let it do its thing’, within a new system of sustainable local economies.
“The essence is we need to work with the landscape, to have good landscape design integrating the different elements. It’s almost like humans then are just kind of skimming off the surface flow of the ecology and letting it do its thing,” he said. “But we’ve got into this whole other way of thinking in the modern period where we’re always looking to maximise return on investment and I think that has created some positive things perhaps but also has a down side – we’re back to trade-offs again. And part of that down side is that the ecology doesn’t really work in that way.”
No matter what level you are at Chris, my guest this week on Inside Ideas, says you can ‘get growing’ and support the transition to more local economies.
Catch up with the full podcast for more from the pages of A Small Farm Future.
The award-winning film-maker and journalist, Jenny Kleeman, was one of my first guests on the Inside Ideas podcast.
In her brilliantly titled debut, Jenny takes the reader on an entertaining journey through the ever changing realities of what it is be human in such a rapidly transforming world. One where you can ‘eat meat without killing animals, have the ideal sexual relationship without compromise, and have the perfect death without suffering’.
The book has it all, tragedy: in the maddening stories about how men still have a firm grip on the levers of life; comedy: in the way Jenny forensically details the rip roaring ride tech has been taking us all on; and hope: in the better future innovation could still deliver.
It is a great book, and Jenny was an amazing guest. Catch up with the full podcast for more from the pages of Sex Robots & Vegan Meat.