Yves here. Wise may address the question of soil quality in his longer form work on small-scale farming. He acknowledges it as important…but does it map onto labor distribution? And more generally, I am concerned that optimism about theoretical approaches to feeding the planet that are some way away from being implemented will feed complacency about the importance of reducing the size of the human population…which will happen involuntarily if we don’t tackle the problem on our own.
By Timothy A. Wise, who directs the Land and Food Rights Program at the Small Planet Institute in Cambridge, Mass. He is the author of the recently released Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food(New Press, 2019). Originally published at TripleCrisis
One version of an old joke features a shipwrecked economist on a deserted island who, when asked by his fellow survivors what expertise he can offer on how they can be rescued, replies, “Assume we have a boat.” Economists have a well-deserved reputation for making their theories work only by making unrealistic assumptions about how the real world operates.
I was reminded of the joke often in the five years I traveled the world researching my book,Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food. Policy-makers from Mexico to Malawi, India to Mozambique, routinely advocated large-scale, capital-intensive agricultural projects as the solution to widespread hunger and low agricultural productivity, oblivious to the reality that such initiatives generally displace more farmers than they employ.
Where are the displaced supposed to go?