Saturday, June 11, 2016

Reading: Miraculous Abundance

Miraculous Abundance: One Quarter Acre, Two French Farmers, and Enough Food to Feed the World by Perrine and Charles Herve-Gruyer

Recently I was talking with two of my sons, both with degrees in computer science, and interests in robotics and AI - as in Artificial Intelligence as opposed to Artificial Insemination - and thus immediately you can see how their paths have diverged from mine. Not that I am interested in artificial insemination, but it is certainly closer to my areas of interest than the other AI! They were talking about robots taking on much of the work, about food grown by robots, and air-grown lettuce fed nutrients by robots / computers, about having a universal basic income, about freedom to do what they like. For me, doing what I like means getting out and growing food myself. Getting my hands dirty, watering and weeding, sowing and planting, being stung by bees as a tend the hives, and making books. I am far more fallible than the robots will be, but it's doing what I like.

I have doubts about such a future: even if it comes to be, I suspect there will be huge disruption, culture shock, and disintegration before we reach a point of ease. I suspect that this society will be one of even more extreme difference between the privileged and the poor. On top of that, I worry about the actual logistics of such a society. And right at the end of this book, comes a definition of 'technoabundance' which spoke to my unease: "creating goods with little or no recyclable value based on a predatory utilization of natural resources, renewable and nonrenewable. These goods are available in quantity, but for a limited time only, and not for all. They produce waste and contribute to the destruction of the biosphere." The Herve-Gruyers were speaking within the context of farming, but I think it applies to everything. My sons probably think I am uneducated in the area of technology, which is true, but I fear they are naive in the area of human behaviour: those who love power will always strive to  control the economy and most everything else. My sons, are way too trusting.

Meanwhile, others are way too frightened - some of the survivalist websites I've stumbled across have useful information tucked in among terrifying fear and hatred. They have gone back to the land in a primitive reaction to their fight or flight instinct.

The Herve-Gruyers have a completely different attitude. They have developed their farm through permaculture, but have brought so much more to their book: their previous lives, ongoing travels, investigations and experiences, working with scientists - they have a progressive attitude to growing food. They haven't just gone back to the old farm ways of their cultural history: they add ideas from all around the globe, from the past and present, and look to the possibilities that the future may bring.

The book covers so much and makes a fascinating read. We learn about their interesting personal history, about how their farm and ideas developed, things they have tried that have worked and not worked. I love the mixture of theoretical and practical, the discussions around philosophy and ethics, and pictures. Pictures are always good!

I loved this book! It is inspiring, interesting, well written, and totally agreeable to me - in the sense that I agree with it, but it expanded my knowledge and understanding as well. My sons wouldn't like it, but I'm tempted to buy a copy just in case they might be interested one day.

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