This Sustainable Life


270: Extinctions: Agriculture isn't so peaceful

Ep. 270

I've read and thought about animals going extinct. My friend and guest Lorna Davis in her TED talk talks about her love for rhinos and passion to save them.

I reviewed Poached by Rachel Nuwer and I've spoken to her about poaching. I see poaching as horrific and hope it ends.

But I read about how we lose wildlife. Some poaching, but even if we ended it, another greater force will keep destroying them until we deliberately act on it globally.

Threat to wildlife is a little poachers, but mainly farms.

History seems to treat civilization as pitting peaceful agrarian parts of humanity against violent fighting ones. But our rules and hierarchies grow more and threaten more.

War and violence aren't separate from agriculture. Agriculture has led to growth and systems of ownership, rights, and organizing people to keep growing in number and using land, water, and resources.

Our armies serve our expansion, creating war when we expand into other people's territory. Our colonies expand into new territories. We junk them too.

People ask why I don't live in the country. I don't want to augment the pattern we've done for millennia:

  1. People find an area overcrowded
  2. They move to get away from it all
  3. They become a beacon for others, effectively becoming a colonist
  4. We pave over what was once beautiful

Necessarily to protect species, we have to lower our population. Not settle to a higher number like 10 billion when we're already over capacity.

We have to lower our population, meaning, if we don't want nature to do it for us with famine, disease, and other ways involving suffering, lowering our birth rate.

I couldn't talk about lowering birth rate before learning about nations doing it successfully, as I described in my episodes on Alan Weisman's books (episodes 248, 250, 251, and 258), especially Countdown.

These nations lowered their populations not with coercion or forced abortion like China's one child policy, nor racism like eugenics, but voluntarily, producing prosperity and stability.

Rhinoceroses, great barrier reefs, and maybe a million other species may lose numbers for proximal reasons like poaching or sea temperature, but ultimately human overpopulation does it.

With rhinos, we use the land they would live on. They aren't on a given plot the moment we fence it off, but they lose land they need to live off

Artificial fertilizer and other technologies enable us to fence off more and more land.

I love the farm my CSA vegetables come from and the food I buy directly from farmers at farmers markets I shopped at when I crossed the country last fall in LA, Ventura, Houston, and almost Atlanta.

I consider them the best way to shop for food.

But we have to see unchecked farming and the laws, militaries, colonial practices, finance, and growth unchecked agriculture produces as the source of extinctions.

I'm not saying stop farming. I'm saying not to look at agriculture as a system as peaceful and agrarian.

I'll come back more and more to lowering our population. It's not just poaching. We can't farm more without causing more extinctions.

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534: Mom, part 2: Opportunity and oppression: race and religion in my childhood

Ep. 534
I recorded my second conversation with my mom about my childhood and before during the pandemic, in the spring of 2020. Shortly after recording our first conversation, which covered race, George Floyd was murdered. You know the rest. I knew we had spent years as white minorities in India and in a black neighborhood in Philadelphia, at least part time.I was curious to learn more of the time she would have remembered better. In this episode we talk about being redlined, being the victim of race-based violence and objectifying, as well as the access to opportunity to resources for our skin color. Also friends who narrowly escaped Hitler, why my mom converted from Lutheran to Judaism, and bringing classes of her black students from Chicago in the 1960s to where she grew up in South Dakota, where the students declared the Native Americans had it worse.I've never understood the world people describe me coming from. I'm curious to hear the white experience from suburbs, never having lived as a minority, little crime or violence, never mugged, or whatever it's like. I presume it's no easier for them than anyone else, but it's foreign to me. I think if I learned it, I'd understand what people see in me.Anyway, my mom took a long time to agree to post this episode. I'm not sure her reasons, but I think America has so polarized talking about race that non-partisan mainstream people fear the consequences from those who benefit from polarizing from even simply sharing their personal experiences. I hope this episode helps defuse.