What we are about is not countercultural in the sense of the sixties counterculture. It is countercultural in terms of much broader historical forces—the forces that turned the Fertile Crescent into the Oil Patch, charted the Trail of Tears, led from plantation capital to Silicon Valley, and landed us in the world of a few thousand billionaires and few billion thousandaires. There has been social disruption galore at every turn, but circumstances in the 21st century are laced with a particular brand of global disorientation. We find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of going faster and faster, bigger and bigger, more and more cyber in response to the problems caused by going faster and faster, bigger and bigger, more and more cyber.
In food and agriculture, as in so much else, this translates into the push for more and more technology, more and more industrial efficiency. Which is why it is more important than ever that a good measure of intention also flows in a different direction. Keeping some of our eggs out of the baskets of technological adventurism, financial cleverness and global supply chains. Prioritizing Do No Harm over Buy Low/Sell High.
Poet Gary Snyder said it all in one sentence:
“Food is the field in which we daily explore our harming of the world.”
And while we’re listening to poets for a second, let’s remember T.S. Eliot’s admonition with respect to “dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.” No systemic reform, no technology can substitute for trust, soil fertility, diversity, community and culture.
So, in the era of moonshots, we are also called to imagine earthshots.
To go local … more collectively. To be patient … more urgently. To go slow … more quickly. To go small … in much bigger ways.
How many of us beetniks are out there? (That one little vowel makes all the difference, because this is not your grandfather’s counterculture.)