Nov 7, 2016
Why do we work? – Hawthorn Rising
Organic egg industry pits factory farms against family farms | Agweek
A Paradigm Project for the future – Location: Morocco : Augusta Free Press
This is the World Organic News Podcast for the week ending 7th of November 2016.
Jon Moore reporting!
The blog Hawthorn Rising brings a post: Why do we work?
It begins with a quote from Masanobu Fukuoka author of The One Straw Revolution.
“I do not particularly like the word ‘work’. Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive.”
The post goes on to suggest we currently need to work to cover bills, debts etc. and then end with the sentence:
It wasn’t always this way, and needn’t be in the future either, however we would have to change our expectations drastically!
This needs some unpacking. Let’s begin.
We work because we live in a system which has created a value for work. The protestant work ethic springs to mind. From this follows, amongst other things, the need for efficiency, rational use of resources, the abhorrence of idleness and so on. Fukuoka refers to the days of his childhood when the local farmers grew sufficient food for themselves and had a surplus by farming between Spring and Autumn, that would be Fall for the North Americans out there. During winter they and their soils rested. The farmers hunted rabbits, repaired tools, met and recuperated.
This meant they had time for reflection, for poetry, for being fully human. Whilst Fukuoka spoke against the idea of work, he was not opposed to labour. He happily put the hours in when they were needed. He was just opposed to the battery hen world of factories and offices.
If we take a further step back we can see the concept of work, of the protestant work ethic and economics in general are based upon the principle of shortage. My economics textbook began with the statement: “Economics is process where unlimited wants negotiate finite resources.” For most of human existence this has been the case. Fisher-gatherer-hunters solved this riddle by matching the carrying capacity of their domain to their population. As the species travelled out of Africa across five of the other six continents this wasn’t so great a problem. There was always more land, more resources and so on. Then in the years between the various points of domestication, The Fertile Crescent, Mesoamerica, East Asia and sub saharan Africa, the shortage of available resources was negotiated through power structures and work. Those in elite positions needed not to work and the great masses had to work or they starved. There were times when starvation came despite any amount of work but the general principle holds true.
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution this notion was solidified into reality. The need to work to justify an existence, to define masculinity, to not be a welcher on society became ingrained. This was reinforced through religion with statements like: “Idle hands do the devil’s work” and so on. This is the system which forced the notion of efficiency and productivity on the farmers of Masanobu Fukuoka’s part of Japan. They changed from farming for three seasons and contemplating for one to continuous production based upon oil derived fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides.
The system of Natural Farming developed by Fukuoka returns to a condition of continuously available food, minimal labour and community creation. On a technological level we are approaching a point where not just the drudgery of work but the highly paid work of solicitors, accountants and so on are about to be “roboticized”. That is the routine, the repeatable parts of all jobs are about to be replaced by machines who do not take holidays, become ill, strike or even demand wages.
Budweiser ran a proof of concept delivery across Colorado last month with a self driving truck. Think of how many people are employed in transport, think of the routine jobs in the admin in the transport sector which will also be replaced with artificial intelligence as the truck, cab and hire car drivers are removed from the roads by self driven vehicles.
We are moving from a world where scarcity defined our context. From this followed the “dignity” of work, the despising of the lazy and a questioning of the value of the creative. Once 90% of us don’t have a job, how do we eat? How do we define ourselves?
We are entering a new era. Fukuoka has shown us one way we can feed ourselves, be fully alive and labour with purpose and creativity. We are all heading into a world where the meaning of “work” is changing. We can and must ask ourselves how this world will function and what will be our purpose in this new environment.
We can all make preparation for the transition period coming. The transition from post industrial revolution to the Web 3.0 Revolution.
Change is upon us. The blog Agweek describes the struggle between organic egg production and factory farms. It’s particular focus is upon the factory like animal welfare status so many “organic”, in inverted commas, farms. A cage free organic egg farm still has low square footage per bird and access to sunlight and fresh air is designed for the birds to avoid. These conditions are not acceptable in an organic farm yet animal welfare, at least in the US, is not part of the organic certification process from what I can work out. This holds true for dairy farms as well. In these so called organic units cows are stall tied and conveyor fed as per industrial farms. The difference is the feed is from certified organic suppliers. This sort of misses the point.
It is not dissimilar to providing an open plan office for humans as opposed to cubicles. The humans are still tied to their desks even if the cage is now gilded.
But change, as I say is upon us. The blog Augusta Free Press posted a piece entitled: A Paradigm Project for the future – Location: Morocco. The post discusses the correct use of resources in a development project to achieve sustainability and longevity. It discusses a particular development project in Morocco. The point I draw from this is we have time to change our food production systems. The social changes coming will be seismic but we will still have to eat.
We can prepare for the change. The late Bill Mollison in a quote from my tribute episode summed up what we can and must do:
“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.”
Maybe this time, as a species, we can transition through change peacefully. It is indeed my hope.
And that brings us to the end of this week’s podcast.
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