Guest post: We need a new narrative and a new agriculture

Originally a comment by Laurent on Hurtling down the path to extinction.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where that would go well.

That’s because the idea that only intensive agriculture is working is deeply ingrained in our collective psyche. It would be good to assess what good it does to us all, actually, and start questioning it and look at what the data is actually telling us. It may have been necessary to step into this narrative post-war in order to increase food safety, but we are now in need of a new narrative and a new agriculture.

It’s only partially true, thus. There are workable scenarios within reach with only partial intensive agriculture and remaining environment friendlier agriculture can work out both a green sustainable future and a socially integrated society.

We should first realise more food is produced from small scale agriculture, which is also friendlier to both environment and social. We should note that there’s an ever going debate as to try to understand why small farms are actually more productive than the bigger ones. (The debate is known as the “inverse farm size-productivity relationship”, it is not trivial, and it is a very counter-intuitive fact, but fact nonetheless). There are several competing explanations for this, but clearly the work surface ratio is an interesting factor in the equation.

We should then realise the unleveled effect of very basic agroecology and agroforestery management at the many scales involved (not just primary productivity). It is certainly not a huge loss to accept small scale decreases in productivity if that means huge gains in coexisting biodiversity. (Amazingly, this debate is framed in reverse too in North America: we should intensify more to save space for full wilderness).

Last, it is important to realise that relying on a handful of crops, even with a very heavy knowledge and technology around them, is not a safe bet at all. Conversely, increasing agrodiversity and food diversity is known to lead to a much greater resilience in the face of both coming climate challenges and diversity challenges. We should not do it by the dime, rather, we should focus on increasing our efforts toward increased agrodiversity stewardship, both in our science and in our daily citizen life.

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