Here’s a link to the full review of my book, Deep Agroecology.
My wife Elizabeth and I are on our way out of Nebraska, work having summoned us once again to the southwest. In parting from this stalwart state, I want to share a vision.
The Lincoln Journal-Star, the paper of record for the state’s capital city, recently published an article about the intention of some local developers to establish an “iconic” building in Lincoln’s Haymarket district. That article prompted me to recall an iconic vision I had nearly a decade ago when I first moved to this Cornhusker State.
At that time my office window had a direct view of the Nebraska State Capitol, a 400-foot tall building graced at the top with an iconic image of The Sower—a universal and greathearted figure hard at work, purposefully sowing seeds across the land that we might have the food and fiber that sustains us all.
The Sower is an indisputably handsome and worthy icon for an agrarian state. I was always inspired looking out my window and up at his powerful figure. But then I began to think: Nebraska is The Cornhusker State, not The Cornsower State. Where was a statue depicting The Huskers: the people who husked, or harvested, the crops rising from the seeds?
With memory of that vision activated, I wrote a “comment”—basically a digital letter to the editor—and posted my comment at the end of the Journal Star story.
Here’s an updated version of my comment:
“Here’s my idea for an icon they can put on the roof of the proposed Haymarket building: a monumental statue of The Huskers. By that I mean a 20-25 foot high sculpture in the style of The Sower, using similar materials.
“Sculpt The Huskers as a man, woman, daughter, and son working their way (husking) through a field of sculptural corn 20′ or more high. Build the monument so that the four figures are universal human beings (as The Sower appears to be) bringing in the goodness of what The Sower has sown. Build the monument so that it’s facing The Sower, and is a pubic attraction with its own access and egress, so as not to disturb the businesses in the building.
“A monument like that would bring honest pride, dignity, and joy for all Nebraskans (and visitors) as they might walk among the sculptured people and their giant sculptural corn field. The two monuments (Sower and Huskers) would tell children and adults in a glance the story of the plains and the grains and the people. Such an epic sculpture of The Huskers would express the heart of the state, and thus would be ICONIC indeed.
“I’ve always felt that such a monument would be fitting for the north end of Lincoln’s Centennial Mall, but the Haymarket would also be fitting in many ways.
“The Cornhuskers” monument could complete what might be thought of as a sculptural yin and yang, bringing a visual and energetic dynamic into perpetual play. The moral lesson would be both implicit and explicit: you reap what you sow.”
A monument for The Huskers in combination with The Sower would distinguish Nebraska in a way the Gateway Arch marks St. Louis, the Statue of Liberty accents New York, and the Golden Gate Bridge signifies San Francisco.
by Steven McFadden
As yet another United Nations Code Red warning flashes around the world, I join with those who propose that ginawaydaganuc is an essential and realistic mind set, and who encourage general, wholehearted embrace of all that it denotes and connotes.
What in our vast, entangled cosmos is this thing called ginawaydaganuc? Suffice for the moment to say that it’s a word from one of the original languages of North America, Omàmiwininìmowin (Algonquin). That language has been extant on North America for many thousands of years–a vital vernacular.
This Algonquin word is easier to say than you might at first imagine. It’s pronounced with a soft ‘g’: gee-na-way-dag-a-nook. Try speaking the word aloud phonetically, and experience how the sound feels in your head, heart, and soul. Ginawaydaganuc denotes the fundamental reality that we are all related–with each other, with the natural world, with the cosmos.
There’s more to say. But before contemplating the ramifications of ginawaydaganuc, take a moment to breathe, and to absorb the full impact of one of the latest Code Red warnings. This one comes from the UN’s 2020 report, The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene.
Unprecedented Moment of Human History
“We are at an unprecedented moment in the history of humankind and in the history of our planet,” the report says. Under relentless pressure from climate chaos, species loss, inequality, natural destruction, and COVID-19, our planetary and social warning lights are “flashing red”…
My complete blog post is live now at Mother Earth News.
by Steven McFadden
Based on political talking points, many people kiss off the reality of climate change. They go on with their lives as if there is no threat to be concerned about at all.
But climate change (now more accurately spoken of as climate chaos) is severely real. with raging fires, roaring hurricanes, and parching drought, it’s impacting farms, food, and millions of lives. The population of environmental refugees is swelling around the globe. This is factual way beyond politics or propaganda.
A recent survey by Stanford University, however, found that when people are directly impacted by climate change, political divisions evaporate. The impacted people immediately begin to take the intensifying reality of climate change seriously. How could they do otherwise?
The USDA’s landmark report Climate Change, Global Food Security, and U.S. Food System concluded that climate change is going to impact global, regional, and local food security. It will drive an overall increase in food prices, and also disrupt food availability.
That’s a grim outlook. But the USDA report also states emphatically that adaptation can make a positive difference. That’s where households and communities of all sizes and constellations need to place their attention and their energy: effective adaptation. And that is one of the key reasons why I wrote Deep Agroecology: Farms, Food, and Our Future.
Climate chaos is here. It’s not coming at some future date. Embracing agroecological responses now, while it is possible, is wise, worthwhile, and essential.
Toward positive, proactive responses, I strongly recommend the new film Kiss the Ground. It’s available now on Netflix, and via DVD.
This five-star book review just in. The review is by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers’ Favorite:
If you’re interested in integrating modern sustainable agriculture with ancient native wisdom to meet our future food needs while regenerating our planet, Deep Agroecology: Farms, Food, and Our Future by Steven McFadden is for you.
The term “agroecology” has been used since 1928 to refer to the merger of agronomy and ecology, but it’s now a growing international movement with broader goals.
“Deep agroecology” is “our next natural, intelligent, and necessary evolutionary step” for a better, cleaner, healthier, more just world through the transformation of agriculture from an industrialized and chemicalized agribusiness model to a holistic approach which supports a culture of respect for the earth and all life on it; a culture in which farmers are our heroes. An extensive list of resources is included and a subject index is provided.
In Deep Agroecology, Steven McFadden gives us an impressive and impassioned in-depth treatment on one of the most important topics of our day: caring for our earth so we can feed the people who live on it. Add the issue of water resources management, which is interconnected with agriculture, and we survive or we perish on the direction we take.
While in today’s world we’re accustomed to turning to technology to find our solutions, McFadden reminds us that we have deep cultural roots which need to be brought to bear as well: the wisdom, clarity, integrity, and spirit-centeredness of indigenous peoples.
With the skill of a seasoned journalist, McFadden ties together topics of agrarian science, economics, and ancient spirituality in an approachable style that gives the reader not only food for thought but inspiration for action.
Harken – pay heed to the wisdom ways of agroecology and to our native roots. That’s my advice as climate and geopolitical whirlwinds intensify. Those wisdom ways mark the path to a sane and healthy future for us all.
Last year the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published a kick-in-the-gut report about the surging wave of extinction upon our local life-support system, Planet Earth.
Their report—based on the work of 450 researchers from around the world and 15,000 scientific and government reports—warned of immediate, grave danger. “The overwhelming evidence…from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture.”
The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating rapidly. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
…The late Algonquin elder Grandfather William Commanda was among the many native elders offering explicit, and enduring guidance on how to reckon with this…
…The rest of this blog post is available at Mother Earth News.
“Agroecology is the future of farming, and its principles cannot be practiced soon enough. Agroecology is a major global force or movement that’s going to be gaining recognition and increasing credibility.” —John Ikerd, agricultural economist
As I came to appreciate while learning about agroecology, the subject has depth, breadth, and sophistication. Agroecology offers a penetrating critique of the status quo for farms and food, and also a far-reaching, environmentally enlightened, justice-based vision of better ways to care for land, plants, animals, and people.
Rather than a mechanistic formula for domination of nature to produce profits for a small group of investors, the core ideas of agroecology arise naturally from living, rhythmic, biological appreciation of the world and the life that inhabits the world. Consequently, the global movement toward agroecology has the capacity to recognize and to employ systems that bring human needs into right relation with the needs of the natural world.
As University of Nebraska–Lincoln Professor Charles A Francis noted in Agroecology: The Ecology of Food Systems, food systems are vast and fragile. They exist in the multiple and interacting matrices of our increasingly complex national and global cultures.
Agroecology recognizes farms as ecosystems embedded in broader landscapes and social settings, with which they interact continually and significantly.
By way of introduction, Francis writes: “We define agroecology as the integrative study of the ecology of the entire food system, encompassing ecological, economic, and social dimensions.”
In consilience (or convergence) these many disciplines yield vantage points for studying the food system, for developing a broader set of criteria for evaluation beyond monetary profitability, and for transforming the farm and food system in a manifestly healthy way.
Agroecology is an umbrella concept that has been refined in recent decades, developed, and made ready for wide global implementation. Now is the time. Agroecology embraces organics, biodynamics, permaculture, urban ag, and a host of other sustainable, forward-looking initiatives grounded in justice for people, animals, and the land from which we all draw our sustenance.
This is new territory for many, but it’s natural territory. Farmers cannot enter this territory successfully alone, though. They must be accompanied in various purposeful ways by the communities and households who receive their bounty and who take it into their bodies.
My intention in writing a new book on the topic — Deep Agroecology: Farms, Food, and Our Future — is to explain to a general audience and to students what agroecology already is, and to embed the concepts and practices more purposefully in the public mind. At the same time I saw an opportunity in writing to reach deep into our native roots in the Americas, as well as to add emphasis to subtle dimensions of agroecology, realms of critical mystery.
Another motivation for writing Deep Agroecology was to again make available, as many communicators have done through the millennia, a reminder that inspiriting yourself and then caring actively for the Earth, the sustenance we derive from it, and the communities we are part of, is a high, noble, and heroic calling. It’s especially gallant at this juncture of time and circumstance.
The United Nations (UN) has declared the years 2019-2028 to be the “Decade of Family Farming.” With this declaration the UN intends to create opportunities for people to transform existing food systems around the world so they are clean, sustainable, and just both economically and socially.
In this manner the UN hopes our farms can be key actors in helping the world achieve the urgent markers of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Necessary goals, no debate about that. But at the end of the very first year of the special UN Decade (2019), here in America our family farms are swiftly swirling down the drain. It’s an economic, climate, environmental, and social catastrophe fast surpassing the tribulations of the 1980s farm crisis. This time, for America and for the world, the stakes are heaps higher.
While multitudes of America’s traditional family farms are swirling down the drain of oblivion, there are positive possibilities…
…Reality, not ideology, makes morphing of the family farm mandatory….
The rest of my blog post is at Mother Earth News.
Midwest Book Review has published a review of my new book, Deep Agroecology: Farms, Food, and Our Future. Here are some snippets, and a link to the full review written by senior reviewer Diane C. Donovan.
“…deep agroecology is more than the promotion of another growing system. It represents a fundamental change in the perceptions of humans about the choices they make in planting, harvesting, and eating food, incorporating an ecological perspective that has its foundations in the long history of agrarian idealism…
“Deep Agroecology goes beyond farming systems to probe the philosophical, spiritual, and moral roots of human relationships with the land.
“The result is a hard-hitting, powerful survey that takes the food system ideal a step further by interrelating it to pursuits of justice, freedom, and health for the entire planet…”
The complete review is here.