Knowledge Informing Affection

I’ve been doing research, readings, and some meetings in search of an approach that respects scientific knowledge, knowledge development, historical agricultural intuition, agro-ecology…and affection, love, and reasonable compassion.

It has been driven out of a dissatisfaction with much of current industrial agriculture as well as some current agricultural jargon…. organic, sustainable, bio-dynamic, resilience, externalities….. and a few other terms I find troublesome cliches.

Also, I simply don’t like ‘fancy’ language.

A few of the previous weblog posts begin to address this concern.

Recently I’ve concentrated on a few sources/conversations that begin to identify a path:

  1. The writings and sermons of Dr. Russell Moore, whom I’ve previously mentioned…and, by extension, the Bible.
  2. Review of past writings by Wendell Berry…particularly Life is a Miracle.
  3. Conversations and an exchange of writings with the new President of my undergraduate engineering school concerning the engineering curriculum and engineering ethics….and the straightforward recognition that perhaps the best method to improve an ‘industrial’ engineering curriculum is through the student’s food services.
  4. Some research in the fields of psychiatry and psychology.

Three comments:

  1. Scientific knowledge, although extremely important, is severely limited.
  2. Love and affection are sound pillars for human action.
  3. Humans are deeply flawed moral beings.

An agriculture based upon ‘knowledge informing affection’…and acknowledging that science, truth, data, etc. are best utilized as information for affection…seems worth pursuing.

Playing the Long Game of Cultural Renewal

I first became aware of Dr. Russell Moore two months ago….saw a link to a speech he gave in October titled Can the Religious Right be Saved?

He is Southern Baptist and holds the position of ethicist…President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

It was a bit before the Presidential Election and I was morally appalled at the discourse of our Presidential candidates. I also was appalled by seeing evangelicals and other religious conservatives actively supporting (and apologizing for) morally reprehensible behavior.

The speech was about 45 minutes and – by the end – I was riveted to every word. He was knowledgeable, intelligent, caring. He also spoke to my beliefs about culture and character.

His speech contained the following vision on the future institutional needs of religions:

It will mean institutions that have the vision, and the financial resources, to play a long game of cultural renewal, rather than allowing themselves to be driven by the populist passions of the moment. More than that, it will mean a religious conservatism that sees the Church as more important than the state, the conscience as more important than the culture, and one that knows the difference between the temporal and the eternal. We will make mistakes. We will need course corrections. We must remind ourselves that we are not inquisitors but missionaries, that we can be Americans best when we are not Americans first.

The Proper Farmer is about genuine behavior – specifically in care of the land, preparation of food, and awareness of nutrition. It also represents a long game.

We are interested in small, direct, neighborly economic development.

We believe farm and food enterprises represent the most integral economic connections between land/people/living things.

I agree with Dr. Moore’s vision.

In the form he eloquently defines, I do not see the culture and character transformation as limited to conservative religions.

It Takes How Much Water to Grow an Almond ?


California, supplier of nearly half of all US fruits, veggies, and nuts, is on track to experience the driest year in the past half millennium. Farms use about 80 percent of the state’s “developed water,” or water that’s moved from its natural source to other areas via pipes and aqueducts.

As the maps above show, much of California’s agriculture is concentrated in the parts of the state that the drought has hit the hardest. For example: Monterey County, which is currently enduring an “exceptional drought,” according to the US Drought Monitor, grew nearly half of America’s lettuce and broccoli in 2012.

The Mother Jones Article

Mapping the Seven Deadly Sins in America

At a time when I’m feeling less than positive about my community and American society, I also notice a LOT of anecdotal information on sin:

1) Pope Francis is encouraging his flock to be more pious in a major church document.
2) Michael Soule, a rigorous scientist and the ‘father’ of conservation biology, is writing a book about sin. He is sincerely distressed at the new thinking in ecology represented by Peter Karieva (TNCs Chief Scientist) and efforts like the Natural Capital Project.
3) This clever (but not very deep) mapping of the seven deadly sins in America.

The Maps

I can’t help but notice that the Mid-Atantic East Coast (DC area) seems to have a corner on the deadly sin market.

Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

November 19th is the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Ken Burns is asking people to read and recite his short, but eloquent speech….

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Political ‘Shock Wave’

Just a few weeks ago, McInturff had characterized the high negative ratings for Congress and the president as “ripples that will take a long time to resolve.” But McInturff is revising and extending his remarks.

“Ripple,” he says, was way too careful.

The word he’s using today is “shock wave.” He says his new polls have broken all records for a generation of NBC/WSJ polling data. He found:

The lowest rating for Obama of his presidency;
The lowest positive rating for the Republican Party;
And for the first time ever, a majority of people choosing not to identify with either political party.

A majority of people choosing not to identify with either political party!

The NPR Report