Brown Stuff

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at
Fri Aug 6 09:33:16 PDT 1999

-----Original Message----- From: Doug Henwood <dhenwood at>

Michael Perelman wrote:
>The key to modern farming is the squandering of
>resources -- pesticides that destroy resources, wasteful fuel consumption,
>destruction of the soil, pollution of all sorts.
-Michael, when you & Lou Proyect say things like this, I wonder what -you'd prefer.More stoop labor, less fuel consumption? -De-mechanization and de-urbanization and 20% of the labor force -employed in agriculture? 50%? A different kind of technology?

I am generally not a luddite on farming issues, but Michael is just emphasizing that it is not greater "productivity" by the individual farmer but many other inputs (with their own labor and economic costs that should be measured in lost GNP- ie. lost producity) which account for more food per farm.

As for the tradeoff between labor and fuel consumption, I would look at the issue globally versus the depopulation of our farm states. Wouldn't it be better to allow many third world subsistence farmers to immigrate to the US to perform labor-intensive work here, if they can indeed be more productive with improved technology that is less fuel-intensive?

Fossil fuelds used today are lost forever and contribute to environmental degredation. Using the global agricultural labor force more efficiently and possibly cutting down on global unemployment seems like a net gain for resource use in a more holistic measurement of productivity.

South Dakota is an awfully underpopulated state. Fewer pesticides and more immigrants seems like a better balance for both economics and ecology.

--Nathan Newman

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