"There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings." So begins the excerpt in Pojman from Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. Carson asks us to envision the human ecological harmony that may be the ultimate fantasy of most environmentalists. This allows us to refresh our vision and strengthen our inspiration to fight for this ideal, as she then describes the possibilities of destruction which may await this community. Her imagery reminds us why our struggle for a better life is important, ethical and justified. The writers of the articles that follow dismiss this envisioning as "lyrical hysteria" (Ray and Guzzo) and try to persuade us that our well-reasoned goals are emotional, unfounded preferences. They distract us with the uncertainty of statistical studies, without taking a deep look at the roots of the misdirected technologies that are modern agriculture. Carson, on the other hand, like Japanese ex-microbiologist and farmer Masanobu Fukuoka, seeks more sophisticated analyses of the present need for technology like pesticides, and a truly better alternative. Fukuoka has well shown that natural farming is better than modern farming, not because it measures up in scientific tests of productivity (which it does), but because its basis is ethical, non-violent, and desirable for humans and our environment.
Why are we faced with the painful tradeoffs between the harmful and useful effects of pesticides, rather than the question of why we depend on them so much in the first place? We need to question the culture that directs the science we use to develop our technology. Both Carson and Pimentel describe how scientific farming, that is...
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...sion may be trying to prevent us from exploring the peoples' underlying motivation for action, as Fumento tries when he ridicules those "besiegers" who challenge modern science.
In combating these simplified dialogues that silence innovation, I think our discussion of ethics is on the right track. We must approach the development and use of agricultural production technology with our well-reasoned decisions why working with nature is better than dominating it. There is more to ethical decisions than proving that Alar does not poison children. We must find a way to incorporate into the sciences that create our technologies the ethical intentions that drive parents to fight against agricultural chemicals.
Boserup, Ester. 1966. The conditions of agricultural growth: economics of agrarian change under population pressure. Chicago, Aldine Pub. Co.
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