Friday, June 23, 2006

Long term agricultural policy mistakes seem to have permanent effect

Civilization, fertilization and taxation

The heated debate over local agricultural lands in Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and now famously Barnston Island, a close neighbour to these two districts is far from being a 'local interest' story.
A forensic study of the agriculture versus urban sprawl debate would, one suggests, lead the detective down a long road to many other parts of the world, through a tormented and conflicted labyrinth involving so much human history and socio-economic turmoil that it may leave the investigator breathless and stooped over with exhaustion. His only question may be: 'what were we thinking?'
From the time when humans first set out to plant food and herd animals for food production and then slowly organize this activity to the point where it reshaped our natural environment through industrialization, colonialism, capitalism, socialism, terrorism (any war should be considered terrorism - exemplified by the behaviour of the USSR, the US and the UK. If you have a "U" in front of your name it is almost certain that you are a bad guy; take the United Nations for instance?); and now we have urbanism versus agriculturism.
Generally, we find it hard to accept past mistakes and the result is that we look to every solution other than those which appear to own up to a previous error. In the case of agriculture we as a global community are now questioning the benefits of farm subsidies. The drivers for farm subsidies in the early days seem to have come partially from the need of the farmer himself, partially from the demands of the consumer, but also, from all appearances, the need for the right to appease the left by demonstrating a charitable nature.
As is often the case, charity in the instance of agriculture policy has left a deep and gaping wound around the world. While it is understandable that Britain, the US, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Denmark are held up as the devils incarnate when it comes to aspirations of abusing the human and natural resources of the third world, they are clearly not alone. Being nasty to one's neighbour has a much longer history; we simply find it more convenient to point to recent history rather than ancient history.
Christianity, the Trojan Horse of Colonization

Recognized as an abysmal failure, the period of European thoughts of dominating Africa, the two easts and South America, had to be re-thought. Europeans, armed with guns, Christianity and an eye for a cheap deal, set back the natural livability of the host regions quite severely. Christianity with its all its mumbo-jumbo, as it were, stands out as the ever-present Trojan Horse of colonization.

None the less, and even though the attacks by Europe on the third world lasted many centuries, the onslaught ended in abject discord and disappointment for the colinizers. We are reminded daily of Europe's failed work as the tragedy of modern-day Africa unfolds before us in the pages of our press, on our monitors, on TV networks and over the airwaves 24 hours a day.

Who might pay for this mess?
In a second and less hostile attack on the third world we in the west offered to pay for fixing what we had destroyed. The only catch was that repayment with interest would form part of the arrangement; a loan sharking scheme that even the Hells Angels or Mafia would balk at. Where physical colonization failed, fiscal colonization, in the form of international loans and subsidies, became the solution. And here we are in 2006, scratching our heads and wondering where it all went wrong. The effects are felt across the world, even on the fringes of the Greater Vancouver Regional District in a small town called Maple Ridge.

As a subject for a thesis the question ‘how has the policy of agricultural subsidization and its implementation by developed countries affected the ability for local farmers to survive?’ is only part one of a more serious question. More serious issues are those where such policies show up decades later in the form of urban sprawl, climate change and of course the effects on health, obesity among the young and the middle-aged being just the most obvious.

With a certain degree of cynicism politicians and government staff reach out to communities when the issues begin to look like reaching crisis points. Academics pile into the fray with celebrities not far behind. It is not always a waste of time. Charitable funds are established along with associations and community groups to fend off the pre-ceived or real threats.
What might a ‘pre-ceived’ threat be? That would be the kind of threat that you think is coming, but which may never come. Then there are the conceived ones which we deliver on the populace in a hallelujahing crescendo of the benign chorus and devise quick fixes such as farm subsidies to protect old life styles and perhaps healthier ways of living, loving and leaving the planet intact.
Now, all these many years on, we have failed to protect agriculture through spending and will doubtless be asked to spend more in order to fix farming so that we can spend less in the future. As long as governments concern themselves with perpetuating the myths of their role in society and fail to do more than career build for themselves, it will be some time before planet's future looks any brighter than it does today.