Prelude to a Eutopian History
This chapter imagines a revolutionary shift in agriculture, told from the point of view of a narrator living in the mid-twenty-first century. Given that the twentieth century’s “Green Revolution” led to thirty million acres of land being degraded through soil erosion each year, and given that agriculture is the second largest source of greenhouse gases, this narrator presents agriculture as the top threat to biodiversity on the planet. The chapter thus calls upon future generations to “awaken a new and … creative, diverse, complex, and equally wild human place within that ecosphere.” This shift is based on the development of “new hardware,” in the form of a variety of herbaceous perennial crops. Such crops restore the function of the prairies while providing food and fuel to humans. This shifts the focus of agriculture from fossil fuel intensive industrial farming to the “ecological intensification” of biodiversity. This intensification results in “a soil alive with wildness,” as well as extensive carbon sequestration in these renewed prairie soils. Moreover, this new era of ecological intensification breaks down the “human/nature” split, connecting “all organisms, including ourselves, as enclosed within a ‘miraculous skin’”—what the author refers to as the ecosphere.
Keywords: Green Revolution, perennial polyculture, ecological intensification, ecosphere, Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, eutopia, agricultural revolution