Saturday, July 05, 2008

Revolution unnoticed...

Although the last 21 months in agriculture have sparked much wondering and wider questions than ever before, we still don't embrace the idea of a revolution occurring in our profession.  Maybe we should consider it.
Sex before marriage. Bob and his boyfriend. Madame Speaker. Do those words make your hair stand on end or your eyes widen? Their flatness is the register of successful revolution. Many of the changes are so incremental that you adjust without realizing something has changed until suddenly one day you realize everything is different. I was reading something about food politics recently and thinking it was boring.

Then I realized that these were incredibly exciting ideas—about understanding where your food comes from and who grows it and what its impact on the planet and your body are. Fifteen or twenty years ago, hardly anyone thought about where coffee came from, or milk, or imagined fair-trade coffee. New terms like food miles, fairly new words like organic, sustainable, non-GMO, and reborn phenomena like farmers’ markets are all the result of what it’s fair to call the food revolution, and it has been so successful that ideas that were once startling and subversive have become familiar en route to becoming status quo. So my boredom was one register of victory.

Although we typically associate revolution with the sudden overthrow of a regime, the Industrial Revolution was an incremental change in everyday life and production that began a little over two centuries ago and never ended. It’s a useful reminder of what else revolution is. [More]

I have been blundering in the dark (along with more than few others) to find precedent or analog to this incredible time, and have been inching toward the preposterous idea I am living through history every bit as world-changing as WWI or Sputnik. 

The failure of our reliable tool of comprehension - technology - to provide insight and understanding to this rapid and pervasive change in our lives has left us with under-developed philosophical skills to deploy ineffectively for understanding.  We are not merely experiencing history, we care creating it more than ever by good choices and bad.

Is this an Agricultural Revolution?  Like a recession, the label will probably be applied long after we in it are gone.  But if you have ever longed for a chance to live during times of crucial human development, to have at least the chance to alter the flow of human events, however slightly, or to simply witness firsthand moments of long-lasting consequences, I think your wish has been granted.

And I do not believe we have much to lose by acting as if this is true despite our doubts.  Even extravagant pretentiousness or overly dramatic gravity as we move ahead in 2008 will look years from now less foolish than lazy or feckless indifference.


Ol James said...

"That is to say, the revolution is in part against the very speedup that has made us all busy, distracted, anxious, and unable even to perceive the tenor of our own times." I liked this excerpt from the latter part of the article.
Another article she wrote, "Finding Time", is just as well written.
But then I have to wonder...why are we in such a hurry??

John Phipps said...


You old fox. Sometimes you surprise even me.