Understanding Agroecology (pro/academic version)

POSITIVE FOOTPRINTNote: a short intro to the concept can be found HERE

Understanding Agroecology:

What it is, isn’t, and what it brings to the table

  1. INTRO:

The broad angle of Agroecology

Agroecology is a scientific paradigm shift. It is the exit from the predominance of a synthetic and partial reality that subtly deceives the hard sciences and subsequent policy. Chemistry, biology, ecology, physics, geology, agronomy, environmental science, and industrialization create inevitable silos of knowledge and perceptions that cloud human understanding of holistic reality. Agroecology is the re-emersion of human understanding and connection back into the whole. We are talking about the science of the reconnection of social humanity to functional ecosystem, the cycles of life, water, air, and geology on earth. Agroecology is the holistic reality that we are nature and our appropriate systems of existence should be naturally integrated.
Agroecology is the marriage of the humanities and social sciences with the hard sciences in context. It represents guidance for global soft revolution, the beginnings of a large scale human awakening, and the long awaited upgrade to renaissance and old school enlightenment. It is an evolution of the “science of life”.

Basic Definition: Agroecology is the locally specific meshing of humanity in cultural and functional integration with natural diverse ecology, to amplify the holistic standard of living and future prosperity of local society.


What Agroecology is and is not

  1. Not divisive or picky about the things people like to argue about…

Agroecology is a total win for agrarian and rural society without contentious burs. It is not affected by religion, secularism, gender roles, sexuality, debates about evolutionary and intelligent design, pre-historic geological and biological timeframes, spiritual perspectives, marriage norms, or form of politic. Agroecology bolsters governance of whatever form from monarchy to republic and adapts to the realities of economic system. It is not a soapbox for divisive social issues or agendas.

  1. Progressive and contributory rather than static observe and conserve…

Agroecology is progressive and innovative agrarian driven stewardship and husbandry in appropriate needs based productive form. It is more progressive and grassroots connected than old school environmental conservation.  Like agronomy and modern day permaculture, and in stark contrast to biology and ecology, agroecology is not primarily an observatory science. Natural systems are not often static, either they are losing vibrancy, fertility, and Carbon content per land area, as in desertification, being degraded by extractionist industrial and societal choices, or they are gaining overall fertility, diversity, and Carbon. Examples of the latter are: Old growth forests of the North American Pacific Northwest, many of the former natural prairie systems of the world, the better organic agricultural systems, permaculture systems, and various food forest ecosystems. Agroecology intentionally pushes positive ecological effects toward greater ecological vibrancy, cleaner more functional hydrology, and more diverse well rounded fertility including the build-up of terrestrial living, transitory, and stable Carbon content per acre. Agroecology is an active adventure of old, new, and yet to be discovered productive systems, actions, and activities that fit local realities and that work in local context. So, it is not primarily observatory or conservation oriented but rather it is progressive innovative stewardship and husbandry in complete regional context accompanied by increasing socially-embodied-knowledge and savvy.

  1. Naturally local, not global or national…

 Agroecology is not a global science to observe the complete or random interaction of the systems of the earth. Neither is it a national science fitting artificial boundaries and borders. Agroecology is a pointed local science, complete within an eco-region.  An agroecological-region is an interconnected regional ecology with human community. Some will be small, and others much larger, while some may be customized to fit felt-needs and interested groups of people. They should be large enough to be self-determinative and sufficient for survival and prosperity, and small enough to develop a distinctive evolution of culture. In a different perspective, agroecological regions should be both small enough and large enough to yield a population of people capable of becoming a self sustained productive adventure-team with comradery in pride and purpose toward meeting of human, ecological, hydrological, and geological imperatives in regional stewardship of land and community.

  1. Decisively win/win as apposed to the current win/lose norm…

 Agroecology is positively impactful toward environment and society. It is a productive, stewardship-oriented, resource-regenerative methodology for accomplishing long term human health and prosperity in ecological context. By design there must be a cascade of secondary deliverables such as growingly vibrant ecology, cleaner water, richer and more vibrant soils, and increasingly thoughtful care of regional geology. If the cascade of ecological contributions and pay-backs is lacking, or worse, if there is harmful waste or polluting effect, the system is not achieving agroecology. There is thus a clear way to measure appropriate and inappropriate technologies in agroecological systems. Some of today’s more contentious debates are easily placed: Cross-species-genetic-modification, synthetic new-to-nature pesticidal-chemistries—including most prominent herbicides, large scale application of concentrated fertilizers direct to soil, and ‘business-as-usual’ win/lose style technologies categorically fall short. In their place, win/win innovations, knowledge, and methods are ready for discovery in an infinitely broad locally-system-specific agrarian palette to paint a picture that is a productive win for native and human ecology, together sustainable. Industrially; nuclear, fossil fuels, and other extractionary waste-driven energy-for-pollution/geo-degradation trade-offs were similar win/lose temporary solutions that are now failing to reach the ecological bar of zero waste/circular economy. In the ecologically inclusive paradigm, solar energy capture driven innovations fit ecological style and close energy-flow open-loops.  Direct-solar, biomass—‘bio-solar’, wind—‘indirect-solar’, Hydro—‘indirect-solar’-including falling rain and heat-driven evaporative movement cycles, are generally appropriate but similarly challenged to surpass mediocre design toward “cradle-to-cradle” circular-economy achievements. Geothermal and various associated heat transfer innovations are of similar tone. In old school terms: Agroecology is clearly guided by nature’s law that all of our systems must holistically form a balanced and symbiotic ecology and all waste must cycle in beneficially somewhere in the system. Agroecology is the appropriate upgrade of quality and achievement marked by a win for local humanity in tandem with a win for the native creature community, environment, and the total ecology. It is biomimicry, based on the laws of nature. Any technology, activity, or achievement that misses the mark is inappropriate and unacceptable, be it for ecological, geological, hydrological, or socio/zoological failings. Agroecology is a team sport that we all win together as we harmonize with our diverse ecological community.

  1. It is about the “normal” making good sense, not about contingencies, alternatives, or outliers…

Agroecology is not about niche or alternative markets, nor is it about the odd happenings or emergencies. It specializes on refinement and evolution of the basic productive norms within the bio-region. The general and routine use of chemicals and technologies, be it by industry, agriculture, or society, are addressed squarely by agroecology. Conversely, urgent and emergent crisis related chemicals, medicine, and procedures are not. This is because agroecology is the community’s design of a strategic and customized ‘normal’ tailored to fit the ecological and environmental realities in ways that build regional health and resilience. It creates increasing resilience to disaster but it is not about the extreme outliers, oddities, or emergent care. It is about a better, more appropriate and ethical normal in line with natural flows, systems, and natural law. Synthetic new-to-nature chemicals, cross-species-genetic-modification, and nuclear-splitting technologies, by example, clearly miss the mark for routine or broad-scale use in sustainable communities, as agroecology seeks to establish a ‘normal’ baseline of natural, toxic-waste free, win/win technologies. Appropriate medicinal uses and being reserved for urgent crisis/emergencies, their use is a non-agroecologically guided dynamic, provided it does not produce pollutant out-flows which are systemic anti-factors of societal and environmental health. Measurable environmental outflows affect the environmental and societal norm, and in such, conflict with basic agroecological ideals, while treatments of oddities address non-ecologically related dynamics of quality of life.

Summary of what it is and what it is not:

Agroecology, then, is not socially confrontational, observatory, or conservation oriented. It is not global, or national while it is instead, regionally defined by the socio-ecological situation on the ground. Finally, it is not about statistical outliers but rather about designing the productive ‘normal’ to build-up, rather than tear-down or simply preserve the regional community, ecology, hydrology, and geology.


  1. Over-domesticated, disconnected, and causing harm…

Scientifically and socially we have disconnected or extracted humanity from the whole, and seen ourselves as if looking into ecology from the outside.  Our population numbers have been considered emphatically as anti-factors of sustainability and environment. Population is realistically defined, not only by the number of people, but also by the associated domestic creatures and pets and the greater productive infrastructure of human society. The productive infrastructure and social conscience of modern humanity has been extractionist rather than contributory, and we are led to assume that this is human nature. Paradoxically, we study indigenous peoples, past and present, as a part of nature and, sadly, exclude them from participation in the cataloging of science and development. Indigenous peoples are commonly observed to be balanced into the productive flow of ecology, while “domesticated” humanity maintains productive capacity by extraction from ecology, hydrology, and geology. Capital is product gained from extractionist success and represented aptly by money. Indigenous capital is far more complex while money and product are simple tools of trade. Rational capital is of prime importance to agroecological transformation.

  1. Agroecology re-aligns values and effects indigenization…

Agroecology squarely addresses “footprint” and extractionism, turning things full circle. It changes the paradigm of rural humanity. It transitions resident agrarian populations into a vital ecological asset to a diverse community of life and natural processes of which they are prime benefactors. In that sense agroecology drives “re-wilding” and society’s reconnection to nature that is, in a very real sense, the beginnings of indigenization. The community transition from extractionist-to-contributory, and footprint-to-beneficial begins by opening in-roads and clarifying purpose, potential, and a viable route to proceed. Modern agroecology is rapidly becoming the roadmap to such a paradigm shift. Knowledge and the consequent evolving social conscience are its prime forms of capital.

  1. Agroecology brings social and emotional healing…

Agroecology keeps things real and brings people back down to earth, home, and community. It can catalyze hope and progress in struggling communities and rewire joy-in-life, deep set purpose, and a sensible contentment. Agroecology is the natural healing for those victimized by the confusion and disconnect of the current system. It turns the drivers of poverty into assets and opportunities and effects a revaluation of the things that matter most with success showing in the build-up of local knowledge and an evolving resource, stewardship, and community oriented social conscience.

  1. Agroecology comes natural when enabled, and is driven and built by vested local people over time…

Agroecology is our bridge to an ecologically reconnected humanity. It is an actionable science and methodology, it is locally specific, indigenously discovered, and socially catalogued over time by the local grassroots population. It distinctly differs from former strategic development in that it is enabled rather than imposed, authored locally over time, and is text-book biomimicry. It assumes that humanity can prosper in most environments if ecology, hydrology, and geology also prosper, and that humanity can find the multitudes of local-slant and savvy to benefit and effect such ecological progress. This fits the natural propensity for stewardship in social teams called communities. It is self-energized and self-fulfilled. It requires only freedom, a push in the right direction, and an infrastructure for support and guidance in the building phase. Freedom of local people from anti-ecological and anti-mindful entanglements is a necessary enablement as is a strong degree of local control of resources, which can be—in policy—success driven. Academics and scientists can support and guide while creating basic infrastructure and clearing in-roads, but they cannot author agroecology or drive its development. It can only be driven by vested rural dwellers and agrarian societies, cultivators husbanding the land, on site and over the long term.

  1. It drives an evolution of culture to fit environment…

Finally, agroecology is cultural anthropology in embryonic form. It is the spore of a guided re-indigenization by humanity. Just as there are rules of the road embedded in chemistry and physics, such are holistically discovered in nature, conveniently in the proper context. The ability for rural communities to contextualize and ‘place’ science in their farms, industry, rivers, forests, fishing grounds, and grasslands and to develop deep seated understanding embedded in evolving culture is why agroecology is “the peoples’ science”. It is the adventure-zone ‘grey area’ beyond a certain level of commonality that will tend to play out in the evolution of diverse local ecologically tied culture.

  1. Agroecology has “social gravity” working for it…
  1. The freedom to discover
  2. The innate primordial drive to stewardship
  3. The innate drive to teamwork, comradery, and community
  4. The innate survivalist instinct
  5. The imperative for change from obvious human and environmental degradation to which we have become self-destructive anti-factors entitled “footprint”
  6.  The need and desire for relevant and meaningful purpose
  7. The potential to create a very high holistic standard of living customized to local preference that is sustainable and secure in the region

Agroecology is arguably a theoretical science and methodology. It is not one of the hard sciences, like some of its contributors, which thrive on delimitation and artificially constricted forms of reality for study and controlled observation. It is the citizens’ science and the appropriate vehicle of the often un-noticed knowledge and conscience revolution that is now a global phenomenon. Knowledge and conscience, in fact, are the prime amplifiers of agroecology and keystone forms of capital.

Agroecology is already proving its relevance ahead of our political and academic definition and advancement. Movements are diverse and variously called permaculture, zaï, regenerative-agriculture, “regen-ag” beyond-organic, Ecologically-Intensive-Agriculture, open-source-ecology, fair-trade, aquaponics, and the-commons. Imbedded terms like ‘appropriate technology’ and ‘open-source’, suggest that high tech is a welcome part of agroecology. Other happenings are seed saving and local and on-farm breeding, thoughtfully contributory perma-scapes designed into farms, communities, and even industrial and institutional layouts. We are seeing efforts to re-establish local land-race seed composites of broad and varied genetic profile and with lower single component yield potential but with zero outside input needs and higher average season to season food and fiber yield.  Resurgence of intensive and mob grazing, digging hoes (eye hoes), sickles and scythes, bicycles, blacksmithing, hide tanning, fiber arts, basketry, wild-foraging, herbalism, bushcraft, naturally cleaning swimming ponds, and even horse logging to facilitate selective-cutting of timber without severe damage to forest roots and soil, all suggest that simple and low tech is equal in consideration. Sea-farming-innovations, to reverse long-time imbalance of nutrient flows, is another critical component. Gasification techniques used a century ago and extensively in times of need a half century ago are being pulled from the shelf, upgraded and fielded to produce 100% deliverables with zero waste and biochar to build up soil and remediate atmospheric imbalances. Ancient soil amendments and irrigation techniques are re-emerging blended with ultra-modern innovations and even precision agriculture where appropriate. The peoples’ science is the old, the new, and the yet to be discovered in custom blends according to mindful connection and wide angle perspectives, and it is our greatest reason to hope for the future and to personally and communally dive into the adventure.

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