Wendell Berry, the agrarian poet-activist, has long understood the human and natural interrelationships of the world. Berry’s rendering of human settlements in his essay, “Solving for Pattern,” takes a holistic view of the natural, technological and human interdependencies of our world. In it, Berry sharply criticizes the industrial view of agriculture that has harmed as much as helped. Berry’s essay moves us away from the instrumental vocabulary of efficiency and profit and pushes us to use a moral one.
For Berry, the blind rationalism of industrial agriculture that applies “solutions” often creates a chain of unforeseen set of future problems:
If, for example, beef cattle are fed in large feed lots, within the boundaries of the feeding operation itself a certain factory-like order and efficiency can be achieved. But even within those boundaries that mechanical order immediately produces a biological disorder, for we know that health problems and dependence on drugs will be greater among cattle so confined than among cattle on pasture. And beyond those boundaries, the problems multiply. Pen feeding of cattle in large numbers involves, first, a manure-removal problem, which becomes at some point a health problem for the animals themselves, for the local watershed, and for adjoining ecosystems and human communities.
Read the full article by Dallas Herndon at Broken Sidewalk