Mad Farmer Sascha #68 - Guardians of Diversity

The Guardians of Diversity
    The same way that my friends and I create stronger, more unique, beautiful forms of culture in our little subcultures -- music, art, community models -- small farming communities create strong agriculture -- strong seeds, strong soil, healthy ecosystems. And the same way that the dominant culture -- the music and fashion industries -- steals our creations and commodifies them into uniform products which can be sold to watered down mass markets, the agribusiness chemical “Life Science” industry steals indigenous seeds, sucks the diversity out of them, and creates uniform mono-products. In a healthy system, whether it be a social system or an agriculture system, it stands to reason that an integral, healthy part of the system are the subcultures and the small farmers, living outside the clutches of the dominant monoculture: the guardians of diversity.
    Let them steal our art and our seeds -- copyright and patent them. Just leave us alone and we’ll keep making more. But there are a lot lessons to be learned from what happened during the Green Revolution. A skewed agricultural development model was propagated across the world by people who had more interest in turning people into passive
consumers than in feeding them. The cooperative social structure of autonomous agrarian communities all over the world was purposely destabilized in order to integrate people into the market economy. Where a thousand varieties of rice had been growing they tried to find
one “miracle seed’ which would grow better than all the rest.  One “miracle seed” which all the farmers could use.  One “miracle seed” which only grew if the correct chemicals were added.  One “miracle seed” which couldn’t be saved and re-planted, but had to be bought again every year. At the time they said it was because they wanted to feed the world. Does this sound familiar?
    And I ask you this question, my friend: can you see the parallels between a white man with a goatee standing next to his genetically engineered plants of the cover of TIME magazine with a caption reading: THIS RICE COULD SAVE A MILLION KIDS A YEAR, and rock stars on the cover of magazines selling us a shallow glossy image of rebellion? They  steal our collective knowledge, suck the meaning and beauty out of our souls, patent our seeds and sell it all back to us as products. They break our legs and we’re trained to say thank you when they offer us crutches.
    There will always be small patches of subculture thriving beneath the surface of monolithic dominions. The trick, I believe, is how to unite them, how to filter their ideas and art and seeds into the public consciousness and agri-culture without letting them get watered down too much. I think native farmers have the answer -- regionalism. The same way we need local breeding systems to create locally adapted seeds, we also need strong local cultures. And this, of course, is one of the dangers of the global economy.
    It’s not that we don’t want everyone talking to each other -- of course we do. We just don’t want everyone integrated into the market economy. We don’t want everyone speaking the same language and eating the same foods and watching the same TV shows and reading the same magazines and living in houses that all look the same. It’s easier to control people that way. And that is very dangerous.
    Remember that the architects of the global economy see diversity as a disease and a deficiency. They see regionally based economies as less profit for their money making schemes. The logic would follow that if we are going to fight them on a global level, we have to create diverse, regionally based economies. Local seeds. Local currencies. Local culture.
    The same way me and my people covet and trade those underground tapes and CD’s, 5th generation staticy bootlegs of live shows or scam xeroxed urban manifestos from friends in other cultural microclimates, we should be trading seeds and learning the skills necessary to grow them out, characterize them, select and rogue them, adapt them to our local areas. We need a new culture of breeders and there is every reason in the world that this should be an urban movement.
    The same way that plants have centers of origin where their weedy relatives were cultivated by indigenous farmers into the precursors of our modern crops, plants also have centers of diversity where those crops were propagated under many diverse conditions. These are usually tropical mountainous regions which have lots of edge space, little micro climates, and a abundance of indigenous farmers to work and coevolve with the seeds over many many generations.
    Here in the city, we might not have very much land to work with, but we have an incredible amount of cultural edge space. There is mad diversity in these parts: we speak a mix of slang from all over the world, we live really close to each other and exchange music and art and ideas, we are all mixed up in our blood and our cultures. The cities are where people learn how to talk to each other, where people get together to dance and sing and
    Let our movements for food democracy be inspired by both the wisdom that comes with living close to land and growing sustainable food, and the wisdom that comes from living in the middle of the city and being surrounded by a diversity of people and art and music and ideas. Let us unite the tattered fabric of our cultures and seeds, bridge the chasm
between the rural and the urban, heal the parts of ourselves and our communities that have been damaged from being forced to live under a monocult, and take this movement to the next level.
—Sascha