Agriculture is rooted in human relationship to nature. It is quite potently, the universal thread of our evolution of species and the continuation of our global economies, our relationship to each other. One of the many and drastic effects of how modernity has shaped agriculture and therefore shaped us, is that we have been alienated from our most fundamental human skill, to grow food.
Joachim von Braum explains that in eliminating the wild places of earth as a means to serve our ever increasing demands we have essentially created a ‘a new kind of nature’. The wild earth that we once new has been for the most part, completely eliminated by industrialist development. As this sad truth goes, we cannot dwell in the grieving shadow of unchangeable past actions, we can only respond to the present landscapes and listen what they are telling us. Learning to listen, listen to the land.
Agriculture is the epicentre of our economies and those economies are moved by demand. As we open our consciousness, march in the streets, vocalise of our needs & shift our buying habits, we change the world, by changing the demand. Demanding the reclamation basic rights, to a healthy ecology and a (dreamed) stable, flourishing earth. As we already consume more natural resources today than what is available for sustainable use on earth (Steffen et al. 2015), going back to the simple most essential aspects of our existence couldn’t be more apparent.
Yet understanding the evolution of agriculture, harvesting the lessons it has taught us and moving towards a complete shift in food design, is absolutely imperative to this global shift in consciousness. Through one way or the other, we are being brought back to basic simplicity and primal skills. In times of climate change we must re-learn basic farming skills so that we may survive, so that we may re-learn a language and connection with the land. Growing food, I can say from experience, absolutely shifts perception of value, of time, of meaning and of identity.
Growing food brings people together.
And more than that, the education of agriculture is a pathway of healing the intergenerational wounds born of false truths of land ownership, particularly in Australia where the lie of ‘Terra Nullius’ (no mans land) was justified for the colonialist perspective of ‘intelligence’ in their record of the Aboriginal Australians. Whereas the truth remains largely unacknowledged by the Australian government and nation,
‘Indigenous Australians farmed their land, lived in villages, built houses, harvested cereals, built complex aquaculture systems — possibly the earliest stone structures in human history — and led the kind of sedentary agricultural lives that were meant only to have arrived with Europeans in 1788.’
Agriculture originated as a desire to better meet our basic needs yet it evolved to a practice that now greatly threatens those basic needs. Today agriculture is one of the biggest causes of destruction on earth. When our need became greed, we lost so much more than our wild places, we lost ourselves.
Now with the climate and economies in collapse, the need to re-learn the language of the land, is both our means of survival and spiritual revival.
We have to take a step back from the non-fundamentals of our work lives and create space to become skilled, capable and connected to our local communities. Reverentially understanding ancestral skills of sustainable hunting (for some) and foraging as well as growing food, choosing what is best for the local environments, the body and one another. Tapping into our roots is a deep remembrance and revival of ancestral wisdom, respect and belonging.
Agriculture is about food security, yet is is embedded with so much more meaning than what most people understand.
In the neolithic periods, there was a deep spiritual relationship with the land, a heightened awareness of the importance of regeneration, taking what is needed and giving back in gratitude. We were a living and conscious part of the cycles, the seasons and the emotional, psychological, spiritual rhythms of those cycles.
The neolithic revolutions are assumed the first transitional phases of wild foraging, hunting gathering, to the the development of first agricultural practices. This was only possible after the stabilisation of the environments post ice age extreme climate hostility. These changes in climate, i.e. climate change, are resurfacing to remind us of our most primal nature, our interconnectedness and interdependence with the land.
For centuries both hunter/gather and farming (agriculture) existed simultaneously in different regions of the earth. However where the hunter/gatherer lifestyle was predominantly nomadic, agriculture became the origins of villages. Instead of tribes moving around in order to find food and for the land to wildly regenerate, cultivating food allowed tribes to settle throughout the seasons. And whilst the trade of food sources was already occurring between tribes, agriculture allowed for trade to become a greater source of security, essentially creating the first foundations of economy. Everything that we know, the very epicentre of our lives, comes back to food and water source. Our ancestors began to change the landscapes to meet human needs, yet that evolved so drastically that we can count the handful of naturally wild places on one hand. We have urbanised our entire existence and that journey runs parallel to the a massive spiritual dissolution and disconnect, we lost our sense of being a part of the land and in the pain, isolation and alienation of our sense of self we stopped feeling, feeling the destruction of the earth as the destruction of ourselves.
Agriculture has shaped and been shaped by our philosophical, moral, ethical and spiritual ideas. The loss of quality soil, quality connection, quality of life is all deeply interwoven with the same physical and spiritual degradation.
Methods used in farming become reflective of social constructs, farm factory systems are mirrored by our school systems. Curriculums that leave no room for learning difference, or interdependence, structured only to create a production line of certificates, university diplomas and capitalist workplace structures. These systems of food cultivation are also systems of thought, they are deeply tied to land ownership and the vast prejudices of sex, status and race that our current global community is built upon. Toxic agriculture is embedded with the toxic masculine, for when our ancestors lost their connection to the land, they simultaneously stopped worshipping the goddess.
"The farmer began to see the world in terms of the balance between mother and father gods, the earth’s fertility being paramount.
At the same time, the pastoralist, still a nomad, developed a more patriarchal form of spirituality. God, already gendered, became exclusively male. These two forms of spirituality remained embedded in the axial religions that would later become our primary world religions. The monotheists would look to the sky for their father god; the Taoists, for example, would add layers of philosophical complexity and interiorization to the dialectic of mother and father gods. In Hinduism these elements were integrated—the Aryans bringing with them their father god in the Vedas, but the indigenous Great Mother remaining part of the complex and pluralistic world that gave rise, in the axial age, to Vedanta."
There are 570 million farms worldwide, 72% of which are small scale on less than one hectare. This is where the majority of the population is concentrated. They are natural pockets of community, congregating around local food sources. Re-connecting with the land, re-wilding our souls and re-imagining a new spirituality is the path of healing that is without borders, or separative human ideologies; food connects us all.
This is deeply centred in the vision of permaculture, a conscious design system, the revolutionary approach to our interdependence based on plant food. Brian Barth refers to it as ‘sustainable agriculture's underground cousin.’ It is the revolution of consciousness in food, a truer and more holistic reflection of our complex web of life.
“In Permaculture we look at how energy is captured, used and re-used in our efforts to feed, clothe, transport and educate our society. We optimise the use of natural energies, engage and empower people to meet their own needs and ensure that the waste is well used and re-used.
Essentially, we search for a way to close the system.”
What would we do without food? And what is more important than our health? Purifying our food and water sources, is the direct mirror of our own deep cultural, social and self purification. It is a path of knowledge we must all embrace in some form. A new food system, is a new vision, a new way of life.
Bruce Pasco, Dark Emu
Theodore Richards, The Farming Revolution and the New Spirituality
Joachin von Braun, Nature & Agriculture