Is farming finished?

Bad things are usually done by people who think they are doing good things. Bad things are almost everywhere done by people who imagine that they are acting for the benefit of humanity. I was reminded of this recently by the apparent convergence of views about the future of farming from both the right and the left of the political spectrum. 

First, let’s take a look at the perspective from the left. The vegan environmentalist and campaigning journalist, George Monbiot, has been very much in the public eye recently, using a TV programme on the UK’s Channel 4 together with an appearance at the Oxford Real Farming Conference and an article in The Guardian to set out his views on the future of farming and food production.

In his TV programme, Apocalypse Cow: How Meat Killed the Planet, Monbiot argues the biggest problem driving us towards global disaster is how we feed ourselves, particularly on meat. He instances the ways in which agriculture, particularly the rearing of animals for meat and milk, has rid the UK of the trees and shrubs vital for a thriving ecosystem. Grazing sheep prevent tree saplings from growing, cattle emit greenhouse gases and take up land that otherwise could be re-wilded for the benefit of nature and animals, as has been demonstrated at Knepp Castle in West Sussex. Monbiot also says that English cows in conventional farming systems are fed on imported food based on palm oil kernels and soya; and thus our consumption of meat is an indirect contributor to the devastation of rainforests in other parts of the world. What is more, fertiliser, excrement and pesticides leach into rivers causing toxic algae blooms, the planet faces a soil fertility crisis, and we do not have enough space to feed a growing population. 

Monbiot believes that the existential threat posed by runaway global warming necessitates a radical reimagining of food production, as part of which we must get away from the idea of ‘farming with the grain of nature’. He argues that, to save humanity, we must stop raising animals in fields and instead, produce protein and other nutrients in laboratories. He visited a lab in Helsinki in which a company called Solar Foods grows a flour-like substance from water, air and bacteria alone. The process does require electricity, but with the rise of renewable energy, this could also be sustainable. Currently, the resulting product is ready to be used as a flour-substitute.  The programme showed Monbiot eating a pancake made from the stuff, and saying that it tasted no different from one made with conventional flour and eggs. The scientists say that, in the future, bacteria will be modified so as to produce the proteins needed for lab-grown meat, milk and eggs.

This is of course a step further even than current lab-grown meat experiments, which Monbiot says are less than ideal because they still require crops to be grown and valuable land utilised in order to ‘feed’ the proteins. Monbiot argues that the subsidies currently provided to farms by the government should continue, but be directed into re-wilding and tree-planting projects instead. 

On the morning of 8th January, the day that Apocalypse Cow was to be broadcast, I listened to an interview that Monbiot gave to Charlotte Smith for BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme. She asked him why he thought the future was going to be about synthetic food. He replied that farming had served humanity well for the past 12,000 years but that the Agricultural Age was coming to an end, because factory food was going to be much cheaper. Casein, whey and milk proteins (which constitute only 3% of the contents of milk) are now starting to be made at very low cost in factories and as a result dairy farming won’t be profitable any more. By the middle of this century, most farming in the world will have gone the same way.  People like cheap food and what he called “farm-free food” will be much cheaper than farmed; meat, for example, will be made in factories on what he called “collagen frameworks” from fermented water and soil microbia. For farmers, this will be like the closure of coal mines was for miners and his advice to them was “Get Out Now.” 

Speaking at the Oxford Real Farming Conference later on the same day, Monbiot said:

“I don’t think I’m going to make many friends here today. We are on the cusp of seeing one of the greatest technological advancements for years.  We’re about to see a shift of food production from farm to factories. Farming to fermentation. Farming as we practice it today is not resilient. The shift from the farm to factory, much as you may hate it, comes in the nick of time. The only sector to be unaffected will be fruit and veg. The environment will be absolutely minimal. The best news humanity has had for a long time. I want there to be a way out for farmers, and a massive restoration of nature”.

And it’s here where we begin to see a convergence of views between Left and Right. Both sides believe that technology will save us from ourselves. Here, for example, is Dr Madsen Pirie, a founder and current president of the neo-liberal think tank, the Adam Smith Institute, in an article written for Free Market Conservatives:

“One of the most promising (technological innovations) is the move to create farm-free foods, ones that promise to greatly reduce the massive environmental footprint that farming makes. A paper I co-authored 17 months ago explored the development of cultured (“lab-grown”) meats, pointing out that the price reduction since its inception means it is poised to compete commercially with animal-grown meat, but using only 1% of the land, and leaching no fertilisers or pesticides into the environment, nor releasing methane into the atmosphere.The meat is cultured from a few animal cells that are fed with nutrients to produce what could be tons of meat. Scientists have managed to give it the texture and taste of animal meat. 

This year the Finnish firm, Solar Foods, revealed it has created protein “from thin air,” combining hydrogen split from water with atmospheric carbon dioxide and nitrogen to enable soil bacteria to produce a protein flour they call “solein.” This is done more efficiently than plants grown with photosynthesis, and could within a decade compete with soya on price, without requiring land cleared from forests to grow on.

These developments raise the prospect of using only a fraction of current farmland to meet future food demands, leaving the way clear to reforest and “rewild” much of the land currently needed for agriculture. They herald an agriculture revolution as profound as that which happened 12,000 years ago, when humans shifted from being hunter-gatherers to using crops and animal husbandry as their main food sources.

There will be a massive impact on the agricultural industry, as there are with many technological innovations, but the development will generate the wealth that can deal with this. The biggest impact, however, will not be upon the industry, but upon the planet, as we vastly reduce the footprint that agriculture makes upon it. As so often, it is the unlimited resource, that of human creativity and ingenuity, that is solving the problems.”

One irony in all of this is that many advocates of sustainable farming largely agree with Monbiot’s diagnosis of what ails conventional farming. Here, for example, is Richard Young, policy director of the Sustainable Food Trust: 

“The SFT agrees with almost all of George’s genuine concerns about the impact of intensive agriculture and the serious threat from global warming. But strongly disagrees with him about grazing animals, which we see as central to the development of sustainable food systems, especially in countries like the UK where grass grows exceptionally well and over half our farmland is unsuitable for cropping”.

Young also pointed out that Monbiot has built his position on exaggerated claims, occasional misquoting of a source and global statistics not relevant to the UK.  

Nir Halfon, from Plaw Hatch Farm in Forest Row, has written an excellent account of his experiences at the ORFC, including listening to the debate in which George Monbiot took part. Nir concludes his piece as follows:

“In Biodynamics, we stand by the important role which livestock has to the farm organism. We recognise the importance for them to live in alignment with their essence and character. For them to be able to experience their true nature. Imagine the landscape without cows or sheep grazing in fields or pigs rooting in woodlands. How would that look like? The land needs these animals to maintain itself and keep it fertile.

Clean air, water, shelter and food are the most important human needs. Over the years farms have become solely food production systems. This industrial food producing has had a big part to play in causing the social and environmental issues we face today. In my opinion, local, small, mixed (biodynamic) farms offer all the solutions for these issues; this needs to be highlighted in the media and the British public.”

As I indicated at the beginning of this piece, the adversarial spiritual forces work through the good intentions of human beings. Scientists, technologists – and, yes, environmentalists – are particularly vulnerable.

What both Monbiot and Pirie appear to be blind to is that food is much more than just fodder for our bodies. I have written more about this here. To quote from that piece:

“ Today we still think of food as primarily a kind of fuel for our engines; and therefore we are still without a science that can distinguish the innate qualities of foods beyond their value as fuel. Conventional medicine recognises only the physical aspect of food, which mainly amounts to counting calories and identifying the material nutrients such as protein, fat, carbohydrates etc. But are foods a mere assembly of matter – or is there something more, such as an invisible life-energy, and a coherent, ordered template conveying essential information? (…)

…when we first put food into our mouths, what happens is that the subtle energy of the food enters into our subtle body. The food first gives us its life, its wealth of information, its capacities, its knowledge, its order force (life design principle), its memories and experiences. All these are stored in the subtle body of the food. Foods are in fact highly developed information systems that sustain life. Foods are, of course, also fuels for our engine but only at the very end of the digestive process, and after our organism has first used the food in many other ways.”

Does anyone imagine that the orange froth turned into a flour substitute in Helsinki has any subtle energy or life force left within it?

Of course, health problems won’t become apparent until people have been eating such stuff for some time. What I suspect is that richer people will continue to eat real food which nourishes body, soul and spirit and keeps alive the possibility of accessing the non-physical side of human nature; while the poor will be strongly encouraged and incentivised to eat this new factory ‘food’ which will gradually deprive them of the ability to perceive anything other than the material. We shall then see what Rudolf Steiner foresaw in this blackboard drawing:

It depicts the bifurcation of the human race into those who have the potential to know, and those who will no longer have access to knowing, what it truly means to be a human being. If farming is finished, this will be our future.

21 Comments

Filed under Agriculture, Biodynamic farming, Climate change, Farming, Organic vs Non-Organic Foods

21 responses to “Is farming finished?

  1. Robin M. Hall

    Thanks Jeremy, this is certainly the central theme for many farmers at present. It is a frightening thought that in the future ‘the masses’ may be existing on vat – grown slop, while the elite continue to eat ‘proper’ food.
    The production of large quantities of cheap food of questionable nutritional value could be traced back to the industrial revolution. The need to feed a growing urban workforce who had no means to feed themselves can be seen as the beginning of many of the unwholesome developments in agriculture. These urban workers became disempowered from the means to feed themselves, and after a few generations, ‘forgot’ that their ancestors were subsistence farmers. I am surprised how rarely land ownership is raised as an issue while these arguments about food production are raging, as for me fair distribution of land is absolutely vital if a population is to enjoy self determination of life and indeed, diet.

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  2. David

    Thanks Jeremy, very thoughtfully written article. A link led me to some past articles you’ve written, finishing with the “strangeness” of Rudolf Steiner, which is something I’m currently grappling with. Your research and articles helped my understanding – thank you. I was happy to read that you occasionally spend time on a farm, so you have some firsthand experience of the “pastoral” existence that can be transmitted through food. As with so much in life, we must find a balance. Something Jesus said describes my thinking: “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” This thought helps me to understand how it is that the “bad” is often done by those who think they are doing “good” – it’s what’s coming from within them. To my mind, no man-made product will ever come close to comparison with what was divinely given originally, but we’re so far removed from that, that all we can hope for is some kind of balance. My indigenous (karmic) roots would love to see much of what’s now farmland restored to its original forested state, when man subsisted on wild game, but I know that’s a fantasy, given the relocating of much of humanity to sprawling urban centers. These urban centers are where many of these new, “untested” ideas are springing from, since those enjoying pastoral farm life see no need for change. While Robin in his comment hearkens back to the industrial age for the beginnings of modern food trends, my thoughts go forward, to what food sources will be like when/if another incarnation is desired? Should be interesting to see how food sources have developed.

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  3. Agree with your point about the divide between rich and poor. There was a movie that came out the year I was born, 1973 called Soylent Green. Soylent Green featured Charleston Heston and depicts the future in 2022 and this very food crisis. It’s shocking how accurately some of it was predicted.

    I think we need alternative everything at this point. We need urban crusaders to educate the poor in urban areas how to grow their own food. We need alternatives schools, alternative healthcare, alternative education, alternative housing, just about alternative everything. It can’t all be scrapped at once but Steiner understood we have to do something new in every area of life to even make a dent.

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    • Thank you, Laura, David and Robin. I think that Laura’s mention of Soylent Green is quite appropriate here and I hope that Monbiot and people like him are aware of it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_Green

      A contact in the USA has just emailed me to say that he thinks the push for lab-produced food is analogous to the push for self-driving cars – it ain’t gonna happen. It’s probably the military who want self-driving vehicles for their own purposes and similarly it’s either the military or the space programme which has an interest in lab factory food.

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  4. L.

    Could you explain the bit about ‘the bifurcation of the human race into those who have the potential to know, and those who will no longer have access to knowing,’ and the blackboard image, a little more, please ?
    It reminds me of a remark that Lewis reported from a conversation with Tolkien, the latter saying that one of the reasons man reported having more ‘supernatural’ encounters in the past was due to his deeper connection with the land, generations growing and consuming food from their own locality, thus being literally imbued with the Spirit of the place, the genii loci.

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    • Thank you for your question, L. That blackboard image was drawn on 3rd August 1924 and relates to this lecture: https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/Dates/19240803p01.html
      It is one of Steiner’s more esoteric texts and is partly about those who find themselves aligned with the school of Michael and those who for karmic reasons are unable to be so aligned. In this situation the angels of both sets of people have to go their different ways with their humans, one into a more advanced evolution and the other into a lower cycle. My interpretation of the blackboard image is a kind of simplified gloss of what Steiner was suggesting – the splitting of humanity into two different lineages.

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    • Silver Moon

      On the bifurcation of man. This is a very interesting statement, in that anything to do with the Sentient Soul leads to the kind of question that has a ‘yes/no’ answer. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, as there are many questions that require this level of attention. The problems arise when more difficult situations arise.

      We live in the age of the Consciousness Soul, and consciousness, if it is anything, is subjective. We cannot share our innermost experiences save through poetry or other forms of art – and those are extremely demanding of the human. In that every age has its challenge, ours is to strive or regress to the level not of the Mind Soul (Gemüt Seele*), but the Sentient Soul.

      The Sentient Soul is where one is conscious of the sensations around one, and in being conscious of such things the human can consider them. But they can only consider those things they are aware of. Given that this is the age of the Consciousness Soul, human development has reached a point where those who have regressed to the state of the Sentient Soul will always be challenged by the things they cannot grasp. Worse: in this world of ‘yes/no’ there will always be other Sentient Souls who believe in something different, and thus the very existence of Sentient Souls will bring about the challenges they need in order to develop the highest member of their soul. The problem is that they will stand on their own authority and demand that everybody accept that they are right! It means that those who do not agree with them are inherently wrong. Naturally, those who are wrong will hold that they are right and the others are wrong. It was the situation that in 1935 led to the civil war in the Vorstand of the Goetheanum that saw their only true Initiate, Ita Wegman, expelled for her perceived wrongdoing. That was when they stated collectively that they had no interest in humanity’s future.

      Yet the answer is simple, and it was Goethe who pointed to it with his emphasis on conversation. To converse is where two people with mutually opposing mindsets can learn from each other, rather than bitterly telling each other that they are wrong. My point is this: conversation is the easiest way in which one might broaden one’s perspective on life. After all, those bound to the sense world because of their Sentient Soul are limited to their perceptions and those alone. When everybody else is wrong because the individual cannot imagine anything else… it leads away from conversation. Worse still, they will be able to establish their authority over others in order to deny conversation the more.

      How can the Sentient Soul break out of a prison of their own making? By doing the seemingly impossible by accepting that others have the right to their (often very different) points of view?

      So how can one find the kind of people who have a future? What is certain is that anybody who demands a status or authority over others is highly unlikely to be one of them. Those who have no status need not trouble themselves over the stated position of another person, indeed, they are often belittled by those in authority and thus ignorant of the demands of our age. The demands of the age become rather too obvious for those who are oppressed. Such people are in a position where they can learn from anybody – even if that other person is unable to. After all, it is possible to learn from someone else’s world view, their perspective on life, even if it imprisons them in their Sentient Soul.

      The ones to look for smile easily, have a sense for conversation that accepts other points of view, even if they occasionally challenge it. After all, how can they explore the other person’s point of view unless they ask questions? This can lead to the situation where the Spirit Man is developed, and a person can appreciate another lifestyle in a way that has no interest other than appreciating its diversity.

      I wish to add that there are very few people who have this ability; worse, those who do rarely have the interest. Humanity has grown young in the way Rudolf Steiner described, where at a relatively young age – around the age of 28 in our day and age – their interest in the present Sentience comes to overwhelm them and they become one of those lost to humanity’s future. They harden and become inert to those around them. It is a rare occurrence to meet an older person who has both the capacity and the interest. I am blessed in knowing several; without them, my sanity would depend on nature alone.

      *Sometimes mis-translated as the ‘intellectual soul’ and thus leads many to believe that it has more to do with understanding life objectively.

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  5. Kathy Finnegan

    Would the splitting into two different lineages relate to the withdrawal of those spiritual beings who, in the past, maintained “reality” for us, but had to withdraw when it became time for us to maintain it for ourselves? I have a very hard time with the idea that some will never have the potential/chance to evolve. Does this thinking reject the “Great Wheel” of Mahayana Buddhism?

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    • We are entering deep waters here, Kathy, and rather than write a long essay, perhaps the most useful thing I can do is to refer you to Chapter 6 of Steiner’s book “An Outline of Esoteric Science”, which has the title Cosmic and Human Evolution Now and in the Future. There are one or two sentences that it is worth picking out here, though, e.g.: “Just as wisdom, which formed earlier, discloses itself in the forces of the sense-perceptible earthly world, in present-day forces of nature, love itself will appear as a new natural force in all phenomena of the future. This is the mystery of all future evolution: that our knowledge and everything we do out of a true understanding of evolution sow seeds that must ripen into love. The greater the power of the love that comes into being, the more we will be able to accomplish creatively on behalf of the future (…) Through its very nature, spiritual knowledge transforms itself into love.”

      Steiner goes on to say that: “If we were to believe that evolution condemns a certain number of people to become members of the kingdom of ‘evil humanity’, we would have failed to see how the interrelationship between the sense-perceptible and the soul-spiritual takes shape in the course of this evolution. Within certain limits, these worlds, both the sense-perceptible and the soul-spiritual, each constitute a separate evolutionary current. Through forces inherent in the sense-perceptible current, the forms of ‘evil human beings’ come about. However, it will only be necessary for any given human soul to incarnate in such a body if it has created the necessary preconditions itself.” There is no suggestion whatsoever that some will never have the potential or the chance to evolve – quite the contrary.

      My understanding of this chapter is that, in Steiner’s vision of human evolution, the concept of Mahayana Buddhism in which enlightened bodhisattvas help others to become free from suffering is confirmed, though not specifically in those terms. But it’s all quite complex and repays careful reading.

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  6. Silver Moon

    The real problem with these factory produced alternatives to meat is that they are deadly boring! Quite frankly, they are so dull as to drive a vegetarian to turn to eating meat. Taking a little time to make up a lentil roast or some butternut burgers is well worth the effort when compared to ‘fishless fingers’ that taste of uninteresting additives. As ever, technology is there to save the individual from thinking – or having to do something. No surprises to learn that the overworked but vegetarian employee has no time to make nut roasts… and in eating bland meatless meals, deny themselves the very etheric energies that would lead to a more powerful imagination. Not to mention a more powerful will. And it all comes down to the subjective…

    Jeremy mentions that ‘ [solein] could within a decade compete with soya on price.’ As well it might. The problem here, as in many business orientated questions isn’t price, but quality. Price is ‘evidence’ and thus objective, something that the Sentient Soul can point a finger at. Qualities, on the other hand, are subjective. Scientists, in their drive to the objective and thus regress to the state of the Sentient Soul, have tried to contain and objectify the nature of qualities – in food at least – with their abstracted concept of the ‘vitamin.’ All a vitamin can tell you about are the qualities a particular food contain naturally. A well grown lemon is a better source of vitamin C than the pharmaceutically produced equivalent.

    The problem is that corporations cannot make much money selling lemons… and that because it is hard to find machines to do most of the work involved and thus satisfy purchasers who think only in terms of price. That is to say, those who have regressed to the level of the Sentient Soul and can only quote, use evidence or prod things with their finger.

    Farmers face the same problem with supermarket buyers. Farmers are up against industrialized products and production systems, and worse, they find themselves sucked into the vortex through price competition. When a farmer ‘buds’ all his cattle in order that he can squeeze a few more cows into a field, the result is that they produce vastly more methane than they would had they been allowed to retain their horns. As ever, every attempt to be cheaper leads to an unforeseen side-effect. The entire benefit of budding then becomes irrelevant when all farmers do the same and the predatory buyers can beggar all of them by hammering the price? What is a farmer to do when he is always striving to be cheaper? It’s not as if they can break out of this vicious circle and let their cows have horns again, because that would bankrupt them in an industry where margins are constantly under pressure from amoral business practices.

    It leads to my question for any businessman: “how can you become more expensive and still remain in business?”** The answers are never that hard to track down; the problem is that they always lie in the subjective – and there are few businessmen willing to accept this personal, indefinable element that they cannot point at with their finger (see my other comment). In being unwilling to deal with it, they tell the world that they have no interest in humanity’s future. I will admit that some have done this, in the manner that some farmers allow their cows to retain their dignity – that is to say, their horns. The question is then a matter of whether they are aware of what they are doing and whether they can apply it to other areas of their business – and thus work their way out of the downward spiral.

    **Rudolf Steiner answered this question in his 1922 lecture series on economics, albeit tangentially. Bringing such ideas into current practice often means confronting anthroposophists who can only think in terms of the things Steiner said, but cannot take that subjective step inwards that would allow them to imagine the concepts he tried to convey.

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  7. Ton Majoor

    Steiner tried to ‘objectify the nature of qualities’ in another way. ‘Innate qualities of foods’ can be perceived by the consciousness soul, a kind of Extended Mind (see wiki). Cf. A Brief Outline of an Approach to Anthroposophy (CW 18):

    “I live with a color outside my body; through the activity of my body, that is, my eye and my nervous system, this color is transformed for me into a conscious perception. The human body is not the producer of perceptions and of mental life in general, but a mirroring device of psychic and spiritual processes that take place outside the body. Etc.”

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  8. Arthur Koenig

    Does anyone remember Malthus? The Earth was healthier then and food production increased to meet the increasing population.
    Now the Earth is facing Climate Change, which is reducing farm-able soil , especially in e.g. Africa. in the developed world Vast areas of productive soil have been degraded by intensive agriculture further threatening food supplies.
    Scotland is facing hot dry summers – perhaps local wine will replace Buckfast as a favourite tipple. On the other hand Scottish vegetable production suffered from drought.
    Synthetic/Farm free meat is not a new IDEA , seen Cornbluth’s novel ‘The Space Merchants’ from 1952. The system was fed with Algae from tanks using photosynthesis. Then it was Science Fiction, now it is Science Fact- at least potentially.
    An interesting aspect about the mass produced food of ‘questionable quality’ is that life expectancy has steadily increased for those who can get it. Against all the odds it is areas suffering food insecurity where populations are increasing fastest.
    (going off topic: I do wonder where the current Billions were in their last incarnation. Sometimes I suspect it is only those with paid up membership of the A.S. who are subject to R &K)

    All over the world people are leaving the land and moving into cities as agriculture ceases to be significant employer and rural services cease. Even in small, developed nations villages are dying- no shop, no Post Office, no school and NO BUS.
    In Germany farmers have been driving hundreds of tractors into cities to protest about rules limiting use of fertilizer, especially slurry. excess nitrate is not only polluting lakes rivers and coastal waters but also ground water needed for human consumption. Farmers have to maximise crop yields and minimise costs in order to survive. The question is a socio/economic one as well as a biological and ecological one.

    Bio-dynamic agriculture is wonderful. Land lovingly cared for over decades with all the treatments almost glows with an etheric aura. The food produced is generally very good and a blessing for those who CAN AFFORD it. Which is an important point. When I worked at Botton Village the Social aspect subsidised the agricultural allowing the creation of ‘Spiritual Soil’. Unfortunately that no longer fits the CVT Business Plan, so I guess the glow is fading.
    Similarly PRODUCING BD food is a question of who can afford to. A major cost of farming is the LAND. Land ownership is key question.
    Has anyone calculated (ooh nasty Ahrimanic numbers and counting) how much food is needed to feed the world and how much of this could be produced Bio-Dynamically?
    In the Persian Gulf there are Dairy Farms with cows in air conditioned sheds fed on fodder grown in hydroponic tanks. Converting that system to BD seems quite challenging.

    AS for urban food production, yes, well , hmm, OK. I have an allotment but most crops are not worth the effort. Especially with summer droughts.
    And 2 of my 3 bee colonies have died this winter.
    At least I AM connected to the ‘down to earth’ business of soil and plants and compost heaps and bees. So sorry not to include learned esoteric contribution.

    Oh and to Silver Moon- I worked with Horned cows and survived but when i kept couple of goats I had them dehorned. Even a de horned goat is painful enough when it chooses to use it’s head agressively.

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    • Silver Moon

      “Farmers have to maximise crop yields,” with economics in the state it is, that is true. However, it is more a matter that they have fallen prey to what Steiner termed ‘egotistical economics’ [the phenomenon of ‘Purchase Money’]; nobody wants to think and everything thus becomes egotistical and selfish. In that they do not think of the people they deal with – supermarkets are as bad at this as any – all they are able to do is to try to be cheaper. I have only one question for a businessman: “how can you be more expensive and still remain in business.” If this question cannot be answered, they really should look to leaving business. After all, cutting prices means cutting profits and that means cutting livelihoods.

      In order for a business to be effective, it must adhere to the first law of business: “the customer values your product more than the money they pay you.” I could go on…

      The issue of people being able to ‘afford’ BD produce is as much a matter of whether they want to afford it. After all, when in our day and age nobody wants to think, leave alone treasure the subjective pleasures of flavour, price tends to dominate all decisions. Food has become ‘fuel’ to many who have fallen in this trap and is balanced in the family ‘economy’ with buying fuel for their motorcar so as to get to work in the city. It is clear that there is a vicious circle at play here: the answer to the problem is better food whose etheric qualities enhance thinking – the problem here being the heightened awareness of the problems humanity faces. Not to mention their having to drive to work to do some brainless job for eight hours a day.

      When Botton Village had to stop subsidizing its food because of a decision made by the brain dead whose existence is spent behind a desk or on the sofa in front of the TV, is it any wonder that they are part of the problem and not part of the solution?

      As to the question of land, especially in the UK, where land prices are higher than most, RS was at pains to point out that money locked up in real estate is unhealthy. That the London banks have little idea how to do anything else (save commit fraud on an industrial scale) only means that the problem is not going away any time soon. The advent of Brexit and of many families selling up and leaving implies an incipient price crash. After all, if events are allowed to get out of hand – as they clearly have in the UK – a crash is inevitable. Just as it was in 1890 with Baring’s Bank having burned its fingers with too much dodgy stock. Naturally, the government did what any ignorant organization would: it papered over the cracks and told the world they had solved the problem.

      “I do wonder where the current Billions were in their last incarnation,” if I might point out, they were there. It is more a matter that in these end times (and end times they are) as many people are to be incarnate as possible to enjoy the effects they have communally produced. Rudolf Steiner mentions how in past ages there were colossal numbers of Chinese alive during early Post Atlantean epochs, and if you consider the ‘young soul’ who is not inclined to incarnate so frequently, they too will be adding to the number incarnate today.

      You mention that your colonies of bees have died; I trust that you are allowing them to keep some of their own honey? It is how bees exist, and feeding them sugar syrup is not going to strengthen them against the pressures of a polluted world. I also appreciate your problem with goats; we all have our shortcomings and mine is to needle humans rather than animals. However, it is the swiftest way to determine the honest, accepting types who have a chance to build New Jupiter as any.

      As to your dry soils, if you are on sand, you might want to consider adding Bentonite Clay (calcarious is better). And I mean tons of the stuff. If added to the compost heap in the manner described by Rudolf Steiner, it has the double benefit of making the compost more effective and of improving the retentiveness of the soil to water.

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      • Arthur Koenig

        Thanks for your comments Silver Moon,
        Recent report from a refugee camp in Jordan:

        https://www.bbc.com/news/av/science-environment-51466978/how-mattresses-could-solve-hunger.
        Are old mattresses are a curse or a blessing in the desert? How would these people pay for BD food even if it was available?
        There is a huge void between the comfortable reality of the Well Fed, not to mention the Wealthy. (What is the POINT of a Lamborghini??) and the millions of subsistence farmers or refugees.
        Historically in famines desperate people took off thatched roofs to shake the last few remaining grains from the straw. In East Africa people died when they ate the poison treated seed corn sent as ‘aid’ but it could not be planted because of drought. In World War One, a German family ate the seed potatoes saved for next season.
        The professor and staff from Sheffield University are actually DOING something to help people in a desperate situation. There are also some Waldorf teachers trying to provide trauma therapy programmes. But traumatised people need ‘fuel food’ to stay alive before they can ‘develop spiritually’.

        Now to the Billions incarnated at present. I can go along with the concept that the sum total of all created human spirits are all incarnated at once in order to experience the current state of civilisation. It may be their last chance. Sometimes I wonder if human population really is reaching it’s peak and, like all other populations , is about to crash down to a viable number. Between Climate Change and new diseases and Donald Trump there might be a far smaller population next century.
        Botton Village used to strike me as a possible post apocalyptic refuge, because of it’s isolation and organic cultivation.

        Drought and compost. I don’t have any Bentonite but I do have compost. Lots of compost. But even when cultivated beds are significantly raised by added compost the soil still dries out. OK the garden IS on sand, a metre down it is pure glacial sand. I am now wondering if it might be improved by burying a mattress. (see link above).

        As to ‘question for a businessman: “how can you be more expensive and still remain in business.” The answer is ‘Make Sunglasses’ 90% of glasses both prescription and sun are made by one factory in Italy. The company has also bought most of opticians in USA which only stock specs from own factory. There is an interesting documentary about that somewhere in the cyber world. E.g. they bought Ray Ban and increased the price from 30 to 150 dollars and they sell into a ‘premium Market’.
        That leads to whole business of the economic divide between rich and poor. Typified perhaps by Bill Gates ordering a yacht for 500million dollars and migrants drowning in rubber dinghies of the Libyan coast. At least it gets them quicker to their next incarnation.
        Sorry I am starting to waffle on.

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        • Silver Moon

          An interesting response, Arthur Koenig.

          I would like to tackle two issues that you raise as the problem for businessmen isn’t to turn to sunglasses but to change their ways of thinking – that’s hard enough to achieve with Anthros, leave alone businessmen who think they’re doing the right thing. Every one I know has seen their profits eroded, yet they cannot listen to common sense.

          The problem with a sandy soil is that it has, in my experience of having worked the stuff, it has little by way of protection from the earthly forces that draw the root downwards. Put the other way, there is little balance between the root forces (Ahriman, nurture, destruction) and the forces of growth. This balance is essential and it cannot be assumed to be equivalent in the way scientists believe, because of the nature of creative and destructive forces that exist in the living realm. Clay – of which Rudolf Steiner spoke all too little, and the aside he mentioned in his Agriculture Course of Breslau, 1924, was never recorded, even if he remembered to speak of it. Nor has Maria Thun ever made much of the study of clay. It is an important element in agriculture in that it makes the soil into a kind of skin – and skin is the barrier, the mediator between that which is outside and that which is inside. The mercury that stands both as barrier and mediator between sulphur (outside, Luciferic forces) and salt (Ahrimanic, inner forces).

          Without clay in the soil, it is like an open sore which suppurates and needs healing.

          My own experience of putting compost on sandy soil was to see it disappear within three months, and by this time, the soil was fully bio-dynamic by way of the various sprays et al. It was the addtion of Bentonite that made a big difference, but it did take time and took no little research into the lectures Steiner gave on agriculture (along with many others for hints) to arrive at an effective method of its use. That is to say, it shouldn’t be added to the earth in its raw state; as a pure mineral, it must be enlivened through the composting process. You could also use charcoal, which is highly absorbent – but here other considerations need to be factored in, which I assume if you want to use it, will do the required due diligence by way of considering Steiner’s quips. There are many things he indicated but never fully elucidated – but with some time spent on thinking about these things, the full implication of what he said will become clear. It is the nature of Anthroposophical Science that anybody willing to think about something will arrive at the same conclusion, albeit from differing perspectives.

          As to incarnations, it is possible that the boat people of Libya will incarnate again; however, Africa has been despoiled rather than cultivated. The fields around Carthage were once fertile; today they are sandy desert. Mankind, had it put its mind to the issue, could have redeemed the situation – and mattresses are a short term remedy. The Henry Doubleday Society did a lot of work on soil regeneration in the Sahel region using a tree that roots easily in the barren soil, but also provides material for cooking with. It means the dung usually used for cooking can be spread on the soil instead. The other side of the boat people* are seeking a ‘European’ lifestyle, rather than the kind of balance Steiner spoke of that leads to an inner satisfaction, rather than a material, existential one. It is that inner satisfaction with one’s own life that can lead to the dawning of the higher elements of the human; in that this is most likely our last incarnation, if we are to have a future, we will need to complete our development now. If you know the colour of your soul, you will have developed the second spiritual member, the Buddhi. If you don’t, get working on it because you won’t be getting another chance. Even if you do, you’ll be too troubled by poor soils and a lack of food to be able to do much about it.

          The problems associated with technology – mattresses being but one such – have led to the situation where soils have been denuded by poor farming methods. Technological ‘fixes’ such as chemical fertilizers has led to a situation where even ten years ago, wheat seed would not germinate if used for a successive year. Thus, new varieties were needed every year because of the inherent weakness of the strains. And all because compost wasn’t used – to the point where the brain dead of Germany revolted because they weren’t allowed to despoil their land with chemicals and poisons! No doubt they were encouraged by the ‘Chemie Dreieck’ companies…

          (* Putting aside the trafficking and the NGO ‘mercy boats’ that were the other end of the trafficking operation once the leaky ships used had been impounded by European authorities and flimsy dinghies were resorted to.)

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      • Arthur Koenig

        Dear Mr Moon.
        Thanks for suggestion re. Bentonite. I ordered some, 25kg, delivered to home. Pushing the sack on my bike the mile to my allotment was excellent exercise but a considerable effort. Sixty years ago I carried 100kg (2cwt) sacks of corn up stairs into barn loft. Now I doubt I would get the sword out of the stone.
        I have reduced my cultivated area so I hope that the moderate dosing will double my crops in the summer. Currently there is no danger of soil drying out but now is not Summer.
        So far there has been no real Winter. German vintners unable to make ‘Eiswein’ because no frost to freeze grapes. Climate change is, of course, a hoax. Someone in USA assured me of that.

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        • l.

          Hi. Not disputing the climate change, but just incidentally as regards the frost, from my own observation (and from one or two supporting references on tv) there is a temperature difference of up to a two or three degrees between rural & even small town/large village environments these days – partly from the lights at night (I’ve seen ‘pools’ absent of frost on the ground under streetlamps), and it seems like any farms would have to be at least a couple of miles distant from any town on every side to be completely unaffected. The whole night is illuminated, the dark is gone, and most of europe looks like it is on fire in night-time pictures taken from space. Whether it has just a temperature aspect or involves electric or other fields too, I don’t know (not even remotely educated on these matters),but it seem to me that this aspect hasn’t been looked into properly. I do know that the greater part of the night-time insect life has vanished here (suburban area bordering on countryside) in the last fifteen to twenty years (though some of this is directly caused by the actual streetlights themsleves – all the larger, stronger-flying moths could be seen flying into the the heat of the lamps, which killed them, when the lights were replaced with new, brighter kinds a few years back; till now there are less & less remaining each summer).

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        • Silver Moon

          Dear Arthur Koenig and l

          Do please add the Bentonite to your compost; its absorbency will be beneficial there. Take for example the practice of adding raw wood chippings directly to the soil, their absorbency can rob it of its nutrients; in the compost heap they can act to absorb the goodness and thus impart it when spread.

          The real problem with global warming is not the rise in temperatures, but of the jet stream becoming erratic. I noticed several years ago that it swung every month; February would be warm, March chill and April warm. This continued until recently but now the swings are every two weeks or so. This means the blossom can be influenced early, only to be taken by a frost in the following weeks. Add to this the increase in wind strength and damaging, localized rainfall that erodes soils degraded by modern, chemical practices.

          It matters not what Americans say, they tend to say what they want to say at the moment (to comfort themselves) – and worse, want to hear it too. If global warming is man made, there is a possibility to arraign it. If global warming is natural – as many Americans opine – then humanity is powerless in its face.

          The issue of electricity is another matter, but its proper understanding must lie on Rudolf Steiner’s concept of the ‘fallen ethers.’ For electromagnetism (a pillar of modern ‘science’) is an abuse of forces that have been excised from nature by man where they are unable to act in a healthy way. Thus electric motorcars are part of the problem; as ever, technology only throws a veil over the dangers of abusing nature for our own selfish ends.

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  9. Midnight Rambler

    When I read this extract from Jeremy’s post :

    “Monbiot believes that the existential threat posed by runaway global warming necessitates a radical reimagining of food production, as part of which we must get away from the idea of ‘farming with the grain of nature’. He argues that, to save humanity, we must stop raising animals in fields and instead, produce protein and other nutrients in laboratories.”

    I recalled that RS had also mentioned the creation of food in in chemical laboratories and managed to track the reference down:

    Berlin 4th November 1905. “The significance of the Last Supper is the transition from nourishment taken from the dead animal to nourishment taken from the dead plant. When our Fifth Sub-Race will have reached its end, in the Sixth Sub-Race, the Last Supper will be understood. Even before this it will be possible for the third form of nourishment to begin to make its appearance, the purely mineral. Man himself will then be able to create his nourishment. Now he takes what the Gods have created for him. Later he will advance and will himself prepare in the chemical laboratory the substances he will require”.

    RS talks about the true science of the future being a sacramental process and I think organic and biodynamic agriculture already go in this direction. The danger is that Monbiot’s vision could lead to factories producing more soulless gloop. I am not clear what RS envisaged by the “third form of nourishment” but wouldn’t it would be interesting to get more ideas on how we could work towards it, and find an alternative to the gloop factories ??

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hans van Willenswaard

    I just saw an e-article of George Monbiot in the Guardian in which he retracts his opinion on meatless diet / veganism. He does not mention (yet) his views on factory food.

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  11. Pingback: Is farming finished? — anthropopper – SHOWERS OF BLESSINGS COVENANT HOUSE

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