Our culture is an aberrant experiment in the history of humankind. We're the first civilization to routinely eat unpronounceable food, food that would not rot, and to grow food with chemical fertilizers. We're the first to transport the average morsel of food 1,500 miles between farm and fork.
We're the first culture without chores for children and where the average family never sits down and eats together. The average American is far more informed and interested in the latest belly button piercing in Hollywood celebrity culture than what will become flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone at 6 p.m. Most Americans actually think chicken nuggets in the shape of Deno the dinosaur are a muscle group on a bird.
We're the first civilization with cheap energy, cheap grain, and food that can't be made in a domestic kitchen. The results of all this profound disconnect with our ecological umbilical is that America leads the world in chronic disease, has the highest health care costs, the fastest desertification, the largest erosion numbers and the biggest juvenile delinquency problems.
Can a civilization this profoundly removed from the visceral participation in farming and food even survive? Can the assumptions, like cheap energy, cheap grain, and processed food that can be nutritious, really continue into the future? Chances are nature's profit and loss balance sheet will eventually make itself known even to Wall Street. When that happens, nature's principles and the historically normal patterns of the past will provide cultural and personal glue to hold things together.
What are some of those things? Work for children so they can join the adult population with self-actualization, experience, and common sense. The idea that we can have responsible adults at 20 years old who have been deprived of the responsibilities and requirements of adulthood for their first two decades of existence is nonsense.
Edible landscapes, from institutional landscapes to backyard lawns, will move food production into an integrated format instead of today's segregated model. Nature cannot abide the segregation that denies soil its solar-generated biomass decomposition on site. Nature cannot stand concentrated animal feeding operations that require massive fertility translocations and losses. Living roofs. Cisterns. Exercise equipment hooked up to water pumps to send the water from the cisterns up to the roof as irrigation water.
Southern-facing solariums on all buildings. Not only do these heat the adjoining structure with captured solar energy, but they also grow cool-season vegetables in northern climates to extend the growing season and wean cold areas from food addiction to warmer climes. When that happens, refrigerated truckers can do other things besides burning up fossil fuels that require U.S. military action in the middle east to keep flowing.
Farms centered around perennials rather than annuals follow the historical model, prior to grain subsidies, crop insurance, chemical fertilizers, cheap energy, and mechanization. The grass finished herbivore used to provide the key to nutrient density because that was the one food item that did not require erosive, fertility-depleting, energy-guzzling tillage. As farms move to perennials, grass will once again be king, rather than grain.
The future is not a return to hoop skirts, hearth cooking, and washboards. But as nature's balance sheet becomes more and more obvious, we as a culture will begin rediscovering and re-instituting many of the patterns our forebears used because they had to. We will use them because we want to, and we will return to normalcy fully grasping our technology that enables us to heal the earth much faster than anyone could have conceived just a generation ago.
From computer micro-chipped electric fence energizers to biomass chippers and shredders, slow cookers, automatic bread makers and Cuisinarts, we can massage our ecological womb better than ever in history. That massage, of course, requires a participatory environmentalism, not environmentalism by abandonment, which unfortunately dominates much of the radical environmental agenda. We humans are responsible for much of the degeneration on the earth; we must take responsibility for its healing. That's why we have big brains and opposing thumbs. Let's get busy.
Joel Salatin will present three workshops at the Seven Springs, Pa. MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR.