Brown Stuff

Brian Small bjsmalld at
Fri Aug 13 00:20:46 PDT 1999

Jim Heartfield wrote something about the farmer not getting his products sold due to the good will of consumers. Bankers and Plumbers buy the cheapest goods available and he doesn't care if farmers enjoy producing our food.

(Sorry for the innaccurate quote. THings take a while to percolate through my brain and I'm having trouble keeping up with the volume on LBO. I'm getting the Digest version, am I paging down to quick or do some messages slip through the cracks. I thought 2 of my half-assed mails might have been bounced but then Carrol Cox was nice enough to respond to a comment about perception of leftists on the construction site.... I'll think and ask around about whether Nixon had anything to do with it.)

How do you go about socializing the world market if you don't expect people to care about each other's working conditions?

Maybe Jim Heartfield is underestimating people. I know a plumber that listens to NPR and got out of his truck disgusted that Congress decided Employers didn't need to be burdened with the costs of metacarpal syndrome (more a bank-employee problem that a construction worker problem), I imagine a lot of consumers would take farmer's agri-chemical induced illnesses into account if it was straightforward enough. Although maybe the toxic effects on the consumer would be more galvanizing.

Anybody know the title of that book Upton Sinclair wrote a couple years after _The Jungle_ . That book triggered a big outcry and led to some reofrms. HE came to the conclusion it wasn't so much the worker's exploitation as the fear that some of them were falling into vats and becoming part of the breakfast sausage.

What's the point of socializing the world market if you don't care if workers enjoy (find worthwhile, or at least more bearable than under a capitalist system) the work that goes into products. I must be missing something. Shouldn't socializing the world lead to a better standard of living on and off the job? Or will it just lessen the amount of time we spend at miserable jobs, destroying the environment?

Here's a slice of David Barsamian interviewing Winona LaDuke, she mentions biodiversity

DB-Perhaps a program of decolonization?

WL-I’m big on that decolonization program. That’s the way to go. It’s not only for native people. I think the challenge for American people is decolonizing your mind. Letting go of the imagery you have of how you relate to native people, of how to relate to the land, the idea of a frontier mentality. The Great Plains is a perfect example. We have this whole mythology of the Great Plains based on the yeoman farmer out there tilling the soil that should never have been tilled. You had 50 million buffalo out there and you had 250 species of plants and a totally different biodiversity. Today you’ve got 45 million cattle out there and the single largest loss of life of any biome in North America. You have loss of topsoil. The Oglala Aquifer, the great freshwater area that underlies the Great Plains is drying up. That’s going to be gone in 30 years. Then what are they going to do with all that agriculture they’ve got on the Great Plains? That Great Plains, that farmer facing the wind, that is the mythology on which America is based. The idea that the rights of cattlemen are sacred. Jeremy Rifkin talks about that in his book Beyond Beef. Beyond sacred is what it is. The rights of cattlepeople and the rights of the beef industry and the rights of corporations to federal rangeland in the West. The chal-lenge in America is decolonizing. Not just native people, but decolonizing federal policy, decolonizing the assumptions of what is America. Deconstructing America from patriotism to a flag to patriotism to a land.

DB-When you said the Great Plains was the site of the greatest single loss of life, you meant the buffalo herds?

WL-I meant the whole thing. You have no biodiversity left on the Great Plains. You go from 250 different species of grass in the natural Great Plains that existed in the indigenous prairie grass patch, not to mention all those other critters that were out there. You go down to a Nebraska wheat field and you’ve got one variety. One seed on there, mono-crop-ped. That is what the problem is. If the winter of 1996 didn’t teach Americans that you lose, I think they lost over 400,000 cattle. In October 1997 they lost 15,000 cattle right outside of Denver. Why is that? Because cattle do not belong in this ecosystem. Frank and Debra Popper, demographers from Rutgers University, have a proposal called the “Buffalo Commons Proposal.” They talk about the fact that what occurred in the Great Plains in terms of the whole rise and fall of the farming culture in the Great Plains is the result of the largest economic and ecological miscalculation in American history. Interesting phrase, but it’s true. The fact is that the Dust Bowl was only about the fourth decade of that problem. You had a continuing crisis on the Great Plains that is not going to get solved until you deal with the fact that what America has done to the Great Plains is what America has done to the continent. That is not ecologically sustainable and is never going to sustain American agri-culture.

I'll look around for some information about biodiversity and productivity per acre. I think there's a study on the Zapoteca Indians and their mixed, corn, bean, and squash fields compared to monoculture approaches. THere's also the Mayan method that actually increases the amount of top soil. All this is mentioned in James Weatherford's _Indian Givers_.


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list