Sexual/Gender Identity and Agriculture

Through some research and reading I’ve been doing on moral, ethical, and religious thought related to agriculture I have come across a number of discussions on sexual/gender identity…and a language system that is evolving to discuss sex in politics.

From a sexual human rights website:

Sexual orientation

An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people.

Gender identity

One’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

Gender expression

External appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.

Transgender

An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.

Gender dysphoria

Clinically significant distress caused when a person’s assigned birth gender is not the same as the one with which they identify. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the term – which replaces Gender Identity Disorder – “is intended to better characterize the experiences of affected children, adolescents, and adults.”

Citations of the term dysphoria in Google books database.

Dysphoria is a state of unease or general dissatisfaction with life.

I also find that there is an increasing amount of academic writing redefining the meaning of gender. Traditionally, gender has been described as the state of being male or female…in essence a direct link to human sexual biology. Currently, you can find discussions of the definition of gender that are extensive and take the position that gender is a social construct.

I grew up spending a great deal of time in horse country Kentucky. Long before dysphoria came into use folks have been ‘genetically modifying’ horses (and many other animals) to suit their human needs/desires/social constructs.

Agriculture has also genetically modified seeds to an enormous extent to suit their human needs/desires/social constructs.

How do we, as a society and a community, evolve ethically, morally, and religiously given our current willingness to profoundly alter the biological characteristics of plants, animals, and ourselves?

How can we know with any certainty what we are creating?

How do we evaluate the risks we are taking?

Do we know with certainty that we are not creating catastrophic biological conditions for Earth?

Tilth Association

David DeFrancesco just sent an interesting note about the term ’tilth’ and the northwest Tilth Association.

First of all, tilth gets us ‘along the path’ to renewing the cultural nature of agriculture.

From the Tilth Association website:
The people who started the Tilth Association first met on July 1st, 1974, at a symposium in Spokane entitled “Agriculture for a Small Planet.” One of the featured panelists was Kentucky farmer, poet and writer Wendell Berry, who spoke forcefully about the culture of agriculture. 

In his speech Berry described the loss of the traditional farm economy and the destruction of rural communities. He was blunt in detailing the impending collapse of rural America, and he linked the “drastic decline in the farm population” with “the growth of a vast, uprooted, dependent and unhappy urban population.”

“Our urban and rural problems have largely caused each other,” he said. “My point is that food is a cultural, not a technological product. A culture is not a collection of relics or ornaments, but a practical necessity, and its destruction invites calamity.”

“If we allow another generation to pass without doing what is necessary to enhance and embolden the possibility of strong agricultural communities, we will lose it altogether. And then” he concluded, “we will not only invoke calamity, we will deserve it.”

The ‘now complete’ moral and economic collapse of rural America and the traditional middle class has been starkly evident in the recent American election.

How morally and religiously responsible people act to restore what has collapsed will set the course of Earth.

Mystery, Original Sin, Agriculture

I’ve been reading a new work by an old friend, Wendell Berry, titled A Small Porch.

Also…have been reading from the writings of Russell Moore, ethicist for the Southern Baptist congregations.

Both writers are concerned about our societal loss of soul.

Industrial animal agriculture and the treatment of soil by industrial grain farming are unfortunate and enormous examples of a loss of soul.

Mr. Berry points out the inherent mystery in our universe…how, whatever new knowledge we gain, there ALWAYS remains great mystery. From that realization he infers the need to act humbly.

Mr. Moore points out that, as humans, we are profoundly flawed…thus the religious concept of original sin. He also infers from that original sin a need to act humbly.

I too am concerned about our souls.

Both writers believe careful scale, humility, and reasonable compassion are central to good work.

Vaclav Havel’s Critique of the West

An interesting essay by Philip Howard.

Western governments, Havel said, are organized on a flawed premise not far removed from the Soviet system that had just collapsed. “The modern era has been dominated by the culminating belief,” he said, “that the world … is a wholly knowable system governed by finite number of universal laws that man can grasp and rationally direct … objectively describing, explaining, and controlling everything.”

These bureaucratic structures are profoundly dehumanizing, Havel believed, striving to control choices that should be left to human judgment and values. This “era of systems, institutions, mechanisms and statistical averages” is doomed to failure because “there is too much to know” and it cannot “be fully grasped.” The drive towards standardization is fatally flawed, Havel believed: “life is nonstandard.”

The heavy hand of centralized bureaucracy, Havel observed, makes everyone first powerless, then listless. “We have lost sense that there is a way out, lost the will to do anything,” he said. “The more we know about dangers like global warming, the less we seem able to deal with them.” These systems also marginalize community and leave people with a “fundamental sense of nonbelonging.”

Think of Havel’s statement:

“Politicians seem to have turned into puppets that only look human and move in a giant, rather inhuman theatre; they appear to have become merely cogs in a huge machine, objects of a major automatism of civilization which has gotten out of control and for which no one is responsible.”

Our Congressional politicians, and sadly our very well-meaning President, often look like puppets in an inhuman theatre.

U.S Population

The U.S. population grew by 9.7 percent to 308.7 million between 2000 and 2010.

Here is a link to an interactive mapping.

When I look at the population change statistics, Americans are settling the southeast, the west, and Texas…with some smartly going to Oregon and Washington state. Our environmental decisionmaking is suspect.

The Amish

I’ve always respected many of the ethical and environmental practices of the Amish (and find it strange that their nutritional practices don’t seem to follow their other environmental ethic).

A recent Chicago Tribune article finds they are expanding:

The Amish are expanding their presence in states far beyond Pennsylvania Dutch country as they search for affordable farmland to accommodate a population that has nearly doubled in the past 16 years, a new study found.

States such as Missouri, Kentucky and Minnesota have seen increases of more than 130 percent in their Amish populations. The Amish now number an estimated 227,000 nationwide, up from 123,000 in 1992, according to Elizabethtown College researchers.

“When we think they might be dying out or merely surviving, they are actually thriving,” said professor Don Kraybill, who shared data from an upcoming book with The Associated Press.

The Amish are Christians who reject most modern conveniences. They began arriving in Pennsylvania around 1730. Amish couples typically have five or more children. With more than four out of every five deciding in young adulthood to remain in the church, their population has grown. More than half the population is younger than 21. A small portion of the increase is also due to conversions to the faith.

What is the Future of Suburbia?

A few weeks ago I posted the cost-of-services economic analysis done in Rhode Island. It related the nine-fold increase in the State’s budget since 1950 to the ‘cost of suburbanization’.

From an infrastructure perspective, the suburb and the suburban subdivision are socially expensive. They have also used environmental services randomly and, until recently, without much ‘ecosystem service’ planning. Current energy costs put these already strained techo-social systems in more financial stress.

The New York Times did a forum addressing the ‘future of suburbia’. I recommend it…to start thinking of how ecosystem service perspectives can solve suburbia’s dilemma.

What is the Future of Suburbia?