The bigger the spread, the more you can make. The more that you create, the cheaper you can sell it. The more there is, the better it is for everyone. These are the kind of business paradigms that are deceptively difficult to prove, but it hasn’t stopped many enterprises from basing their business models on it. Look at Henry Ford. By creating an assembly line model, his ability to build more cars grew exponentially. In turn, this meant that they could be sold cheaper, and more people could afford one. This allowed the Automobile industry to grow, and to fragment in order to satisfy every possible niche of the product. At face value, it would appear that there wasn’t a model that couldn’t benefit from this, but now we are seeing the folly of this plan, although it has taken 70 years.
In 1945, the Green Revolution subsidized peasants in developing countries to abandon what were looked at as medieval farming methods of small plots full of diverse indigenous crops. In its place the experts saw vast fields of single crops that were bred for very high yields. The fact these crops were not native to the area in question was easily solved by massive doses of pesticides and fertilizers. This system was already in place in the US prairies, and the early results were rocketing everyone’s profits, choices, and had even grown the sure-fire business success story – the addition of invented jobs in single use industries to cater to the growth in demand. As long as many more people were making money from one activity, everything in the Universe was as it should be. Well, two generations later things have changed for the worse – a nightmare scenario with many misunderstood effects.
Of course, we now know that the farming method best suited to long term sustainability is small operations with a rotation of crops and a system of fallowing where sections of growing land lay unused for a while. There isn’t much money to be made, but there is definitely a living that goes on as long as the farmer’s descendants want it. The ‘Frankenstein’ system we have now isn’t just not achieving this growth, it is actually destroying the ground conditions that are required to grow anything.
Pests have now grown resistant to the pesticides that have killed their natural foes. Many pests are growing larger, laying more eggs, and exploding future generations to numbers that have never been seen before. Moving en masse across borders, they now threaten entire countries’ harvests. Coupled with this is the destruction of natural soil that is on the verge of simply stopping producing the chemicals required to grow anything. As this happens across the Western World, we are looking at all the basic food groups we are used to seeing as simply ending.
Of course, we could simply ‘turn Asian’, and do what the rest of the World is doing and base our diets on Rice, but this isn’t going to happen. Combined with soil erosion, the brown Planthopper has decimated rice crops in Vietnam, China, and Malaysia already this decade, and is threatening to move into Thailand – the World’s largest rice producer. If the thought of South East Asian famine isn’t horrific enough for us in the West, think about the people that have learned about soil erosion in the past. Like the soil itself, they went away and never came back: Mayans, Greeks, Romans, and the inhabitants of Easter Island. This business model has to be sopped in farming, and people need a way to live as we change farming practices globally – Combine this with a warming planet, and we are in deep dirt.