06w21:1 Forgeting the Soil

by timothy. 0 Comments


Last night I caught the CBC1 Ideas re-broadcast of the 2004 symposium held to discuss Jane Jacobs’ last book, Dark Age Ahead. Toward the end of the program Nobel-winning economist Robert Lucas presented a picture of things being great just as they are. According to Lucas, the movement away from ‘the idiocy of rural life’ (a phrase he credited to Marx) was a good thing and nothing to be concerned about. I was dumbfounded to hear this, questioning the limits of his imagination. If everyone moved to cities, where would our food come from?

What then followed was a presentation by Norman Wirzba, who brought up my concerns with an eloquent speech on this basic problem, which is one of ignorance about the cycles of life. This ignorance is encouraged by city-living and tempts us to believe that we live in a post-agrarian age. His point is that we do not, nor could we realistically.

His talk was so good that I contacted him after the broadcast to request a copy of his paper to post on Goodreads. He got back to me this morning and it can now be found at the link below. – Timothy

The Forgetting of Soil: A Response to Dark Age Ahead | Norman Wirzba
“The steady migration of people from farms or rural areas to cities or suburbs, a migration pattern now being replicated across the globe, means that very few of us have any realistic or honest idea of where food comes from, and under what conditions it can be expected to be safely and reliably produced. Food is conveniently and cheaply purchased at the store. […] Given the important insight that culture is not primarily transmitted through the written page or computer screen but rather that ‘cultures live through word of mouth and example,’ (5) a fundamental question emerges: does the victory of urbanization over agrarian life nonetheless signal a long-term defeat if it means the loss of living, concrete examples of sustainable engagement with the land? Who in our society, what face-to-face apprenticeships, will pass on the wisdom we need to live well in bodies that are themselves dependent on the health and vitality of other biological bodies and systems?”

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emailed by Timothy on Wednesday 24 May 2006 @ 2:45 PM

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