Over a year ago I started writing a potentially long post that I didn’t get very far with. It had to with money and economics and what not. Yesterday I got fired up about it again (you’ll have to read on to find out what got me started) and so here I am getting this off my chest. I will try to brief but this will probably be long … it goes around a long path …. but it does come around.
This started almost two years ago with a thought that if I would change one thing about banking for the future it would be changing fractional reserve banking the ubiquitious and unquestioned practice in which banks holds onto a small percentage of deposits and reinvest the rest. This in turn leads to the money multiplier which enables banks to “create money”. It may sound complicated but it isn’t.
Imagine a world where there are 10 people who each have 100 dollars (or whatever currency tickles your fancy) and they deposit that money into a bank. The bank now has 1000 dollars but only holds on to part of the money – let’s say 20% or 200 dollars. The rest of the money – 800 dollars it loans back to the people who now hold a less tangible and more imaginative 1800 dollars (minus of course bank fees). Ironically most of that money will be deposited back into the bank (which is where you keep your money – right?) … and this cycles goes on and on … and so the money multiplies and there seems to be much more of it then there was at first. Now imagine that world with billions of people and trillions of dollars. Hmmmmm.
So I imagined a bank where there was no fractional reserve (however there were other very interesting alternatives that do not fit in the scope of this post) . The bank would simply, hold on to your seats, hold on to the money I deposited. I was driving as this thought emerged and a kilometer or two later I realized the fantastic and devastating effects this would have on modern day economics. Spectacular. So I began a lengthy process of research (online only) into the history of banking. I had tens of web pages open and came upon fascinating facts and insights. My overall impression was that the history of banking was a combination of (a) true problem solving enabling finance and social progress and (b) occassional abuses that projected far and strong. I got as far as arraging all the URL’s into a story telling order, got a few paragraphs written and then lost the motivation to continue it.
What follows are just a few of those milestones – they depict a path through the story, filtered through the context of yesterdays trigger.
The Middle East
The story begins in a place called The Fertile Crescent – you’ll probably recognize it by it’s modern name The Middle East – it included Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. As someone who lived in Israel most of my life I scratched my head when I acme across this. Fertile? Really? You gotta be kidding me. This area is a desolate desert,harsh and anything but fertile.
Yet there is the history in my face – thousands of years ago this place was so fertile that they were able to grow stuff – mostly grains – throughout the entire year. They had more food then they needed and began to fill and store sacks of it. Those sacks accumulated and evolved into currency – coins from precious metals replaced the sacks which were kinda heavy to carry around. This abundance was so great that this place also became known in history as The Cradle of Civilization – this is where social organization was born and it was based on economics (not as you know it).
Now I am thinking “No fucking way” … not only it this place harsh and dry it is also war-infested. It is one of the most extremity-diverse placed in the world where nothing but life-threatening conflict seems to be able so survive.
How is this possible?
We (Andreea and I) do not yet have practical agrifulcultural experience yet (we will start making our own mistakes in a few months) but we are doing tons of research into it. This brought us to Permaculture. You’ll have to do your own inquiry into permaculture to “get it”. To me it seems like a powerful and growing movement towards sustainable living including but not limited to growing food. My main take (so far) from permaculture is that the primary product (though you don’t eat it) of sustainable agriculture is fertile soil – everything (and I do mean Everything!!) else depends on soil fertility and is secondary to that.
If there is one thing that modern day agriculture does with extreme prejudice is destruction of soil fertility. This is achieved by (1) destroying natural landscape – usually woodland which anchors topsoil; (2) plowing and turning the land; (3) growing demanding (grains are energy intensive foods and that intensity comes from and at the expense of the soils in which they grow) industrial monoculture crops; (4) compensating for lack of natural fertility with chemicals.
Now consider that when I say “modern agriculture” I am actually referring to practices that have been in place for thousands of years. Practices that were most probably established in The Fertile Crescent. In the last century the intensity escalated when farming machines scaled up from one or two horse power to hundreds of horse-power under the hoods of fuel-hungry machines.
1 + 1 = ?
What if …
- What if indeed what we now call the Middle East was once a fantastically fertile area of the world where abundant food gave birth to civilization as we know it?
- What if this abundance was rooted in a potentially destructive form of industrial agriculture?
- What if this industrial agriculture also carried with it seeds of destructive social behaviors?
- What if this industrial agriculture, projected thousands of years into a future (our present) transformed a vast fertile land into a vast desert?
- what if this industrial agriculture, projected thousands of years into a future (our present) transformed a forward thinking society into a war-infested one?
- What if this very process is now taking place in the most modern and so called advanced western world?
- What if today’s “rich” countries are on a destructive path that leads to a reality that looks like the Middle East does today?
Israel has a good reputation in the world of industrialized agriculture. It has been forced to develop diverse technologies to deal with the desolate land that it is and sustain its people. Irrigation and watering technologies to make efficient use of water. Genetic engineering to make hardy and efficient plants. Hormones to transform cows into super-efficient milk machines. Biological pest control to support industrial scale monocultures.
The subtext of it all seems to be a struggle with nature … pushing the limits … squeezing … manipulating … forcing. With struggle being a core quality of Israeli society it is in every drop of water that feeds every genetically modified seed planted in chemically engineered and biologically defended soils … and eventually it is consumed by the people who consume the products of this industry.
Yesterday I came across this headline in an online Israeli newspaper: 133 States support Israeli proposal at UN which reads:
A majority comprised of 133 states voted at the United Nations General Assembly Friday in favor of an Israeli proposal to make farming technology more accessible to developing African nations … The measure proposed by the Jewish state is expected to aid the Arab world among other regions, and is in line with the UN policy to eradiate hunger and poverty.
This is what got me started on this post. I currently believe that Israeli agriculture technologies are a direct result and continuation of of thousands of years of destructive agriculture. It is also a direct manifestation of abusive economics so prevalent in our times – it is a business venture masked in altruism. Like all “good” business plans it highlights a “real” problem which can be leveraged into a “succesfull” business – as demonstrated near the end of the article:
Some 75% of the world population lives in poverty and depends on agriculture for survival.
I lived most of my life in Israel. I left of my own free will and now live in a part of the world where people are relatively poor and depend on agriculture for survival. These are people that know how to get along on their own. They don’t need plant genetics – they need to reacquiant themselves wth traditional seeds and to move away from monocultures towards plant diversity. They don’t need drip irrigation – they need raised beds, swales and ditches. There’s an abundance of milk (no shortage – nor is one expected) because every other household raises cows. They don’t need foreign business interests that will (further) debilitate them, especially not from a part of the world that has been and continues to be abused into destruction.
These people may not have spacious homes or fancy cars (despite urelenting ongoing efforts by banks and global corporations) but they are also not mortgaged for life or weighed down by monthly bills and they ALWAYS have food on the table (enough to share generously with “rich” western guests). It is the “rich” 25% of the world that does not “depend” on agriculture (what a ridiculous notion) that is and should be worried.