Recently an interesting title went through linkedin: “Why 40-Year-Old Technology Can Sometimes Beat the Cutting Edge” By Dylan Tweney. I was intrigued by the idea being brought forth that I have found true time and time again in appropriate technology. In Agriculture it is specifically interesting in a way more particular than most know.
The value of shelved old tech is a good concept with resounding importance in much of my research. Even organic and sustainable agriculture, which have to do with very thoughtful buildup of the living soil over time, plant breeding for resilient and diversely adaptable genetics, and the diversification of the natural local environment to moderate extremes from pests, weather and disease was a hot topic in 1920 just before the invention of chemical agriculture that we now call “conventional agriculture”. It was the invention of a medicine base agricultural healthcare system as apposed to the then modern theory of a robust and durable healthy natural system.. People had pillaged the soils trying to keep profit high and costs low to the point where many of the prime soils were no longer strong enough to feed profitable parasitic agriculture without a steady supply of medicine. The medicine route was finagled at the expense of a different type of extraction… fossil fuel, and sustainable and organic ag was all but forgotten about at the university level until recently when agroecology has again surfaced as the solution to what has become an environmental disaster to a large part caused by chemical/conventional ag and fossil fuel overuse. Old tech can be found in 1920’s text books to be nearly identical to what is being rediscovered today. Contrary to popular belief this type of ag is not the default however, nor is it the agriculture practiced by typical American farmers since pioneer times. The default is extract and move on or settle large enough lands to extract and develop over a lifetime. Agroecology is about intelligent and contributory agriculture that adds something beneficial to the whole system bigger and more important than that which was taken away. It is also about a balance of natural to intenesively managed environment. Agroecology is a term whose time is back upon us. Will we embrace it this time around and find the niche for every local humanity that creates good by their presence instead of trying to mitigate their harm.
Let us now learn to localize and become a new and even better indiginous even than those we admire and let us meld the old, the new and the locally unique in the adventure and dance of life!