I’ve said many times, probably more than a couple of times in this blog, “Who is this guy?” referring to myself. For the first third (?) of my life, I was a sullen, cynical couch animal, whose only blazed trail was the triangle connecting refrigerator, television, and misshapen seat on the sofa.
That guy could never have envisioned this one, the one who glowingly quotes the Georgian farmer featured in a film by Maryn McKenna on The Plate, National Geographic’s food-focused website:
“In my mind, monocultures are the hallmark of what’s wrong in agriculture today. I learned in college physics that nature abhors a vacuum. I learned out here that what nature really abhors is a monoculture. Nature loves the symbiosis of many different species — microbial, plant, animal — all living together, one benefitting from the other.” ~ Farmer Will Harris, White Oak Pastures
Exactly! (Just to be clear, he knew it first, and I’m celebrating his words.)
I would add just a little perspective implied in his comments: Harris implies that what nature “thinks” is important, which is a point I make at the podium. By what evidence? Nature has been sustaining life on earth for 3.8 billion years. Humans arose out of nature, and are a subset of nature, just live all the other lives, and as such, should be trying to fit in, instead of trying to subvert the realm we sprang from.
Does nature practice monoculture? No, everything interacts. When think-we-know-better humans try to impose monoculture, nature tries to return the *natural* order, and we have to try harder and harder — via poisons, and the genetic modifications that allow more intense poisonings — to overcome it.
Not just in agriculture but in every phase of our lives, we're best off when we follow nature, rather than trying to overcome it. We are inextricably, intimately related to all other life on the planet, not because we agreed to it, but because it was that way before we arrived, and it will be that way after we're gone, as individuals and collectively.
This isn’t some starry-eyed romanticism, it’s cold, hard reason. If we want to thrive, don’t we want to follow the authority on thriving? Therein lies the best application of human ingenuity.