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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 752)...

    In your books you stress the idea that the Taker way is unsustainable because our style of agriculture breaks the law of life. Then in Beyond Civilization you wrote about how to move past the Taker way.

    The book was really interesting especially with the examples of creative ways people are organizing themselves differently, but I wondered why you didn't talk about how to redo our agricultural food system.

    ...and the response:

    If people went on thinking the way people thought in the Middle Ages, there would have been no Renaissance--no scientific revolution, no industrial revolution. But no one living in the thirteenth century (no matter how bright) could have described how people would be thinking in fifteenth century.

    The same sort of thing is true of us. If there are still people living here in 200 years, they won't be living the way we live, because if people go on living the way we live there won't BE any people here in 200 years. I'm pretty bright, but I can't tell you how people WILL be living in 200 years (if there are still people living here). All I can say is that they WON'T be living the way WE live.

    The way we live includes an unsustainable form of agriculture that I've called Totalitarian Agriculture--and if there are still people living here in 200 years, they won't be practicing that style of agriculture. It has to be kept in mind that agriculture is not in itself Totalitarian Agriculture, which represents a sort of war waged on the living community. Agriculture itself is nothing more than the fostering the regrowth of favored foods, which need not be conducted as any kind of war. Agriculture is being practiced and has been practiced sustainably by many Leaver peoples for thousands of years all over the world, and I think it's reasonable to suppose that our ancient hunting-gathering ancestors practiced it as well--taking care (as they made their rounds through their territories) that the foods they favored would be available again when they next returned.

    As I say, I can't tell you how people will be living in 200 years (if there are still people living here at all). Nor can I describe what form of agriculture they will be using to feed themselves. All I can do is to keep insisting that, while Totalitarian Agriculture is unsustainable, agriculture itself need not be. The formulation of exactly how it must be practiced so as to feed humanity sustainably in the future must be left to others who have a more comprehensive understanding of what is technically possible than I do.

    Science didn't wait on any single individual to solve every problem it would ever face, and the human race can't wait on any single individual to solve every problem it faces in the troubled decades ahead. A lot of good minds have to change before these twin problems get solved: (1) how to feed humanity sustainably and (2) how to systematically and humanely reduce our population from its present catastrophic level to a non-catastrophic level.


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