Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I have been reading quite a few books in the past month or so, mostly on academic research towards increasing agricultural sustainability. While most of these are probably not of interest to non-academicians, the general message is that making small scale changes, using appropriate technologies, and incorporating biodiversity to utilize and enrich local natural resources is the way forward.

One of the books that everyone should read is Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy Of Industrial Agriculture.

Written by world renowned scientists, activist, and thinkers, Fatal Harvest is a comprehensive and eye opening exploration of the biological, ecological, and social aspects of managing land for long term sustainability and productivity. Wendell Berry, Vandana Shiva, and Miguel Altieri are some of the contributing authors.

The individual essays are grouped in seven sections -

  1. Farming as if Nature Mattered: Breaking the Industrial Paradigm
  2. Corporate Lies: Busting the Myths of Industrial Agriculture
  3. Diversity, Scale, and Beauty: Contrasting Agrarian and Industrial Agriculture
  4. Industrial Agriculture: The Toxic Trail from Seed to Table
  5. Biodiversity and Wildlife: The Overappropriation of Wildlife Habitat by Agriculture
  6. A Crisis of Culture: Social and Economic Impacts of Industrial Agriculture
  7. Organic and Beyond: Revisioning Agriculture for the 21st Century
Sections two and seven are probably the most important ones from the point of view of raising awareness. 'Corporate Lies' methodically disproves the common propaganda about the benefits and inevitability of industrial agriculture, while 'Organic and Beyond' reviews the current and future efforts required for feeding the growing global population in a sustainable manner. (In the next few posts, I'll summarize the 'Seven Deadly Myths of Industrial Agriculture'.)

Along with the highly readable, informative, and thought-provoking text, the many beautiful photographs (often contrasting industrial and sustainable approaches) in Fatal Harvest get the point across. All these articles and photos do make the book quite large (15 x 12 inches!) and heavy though.

If you want a more mobile version, try the The Fatal Harvest Reader, which is a condensed version of the book, (and sans many of the photographs), as well as the Fatal Harvest website.



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