Let’s Get Busy

Reader Contribution by Joel Salatin
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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.  

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about the Seven Springs, Pa., FAIR Sept. 24-25. Tickets are on sale now. 

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