Fantasy Farming – George Monbiot:
Chickens, the new romantics propose, should follow grazing cattle, eating the insects that feed on their dung. As in the children’s books, farm animals of different species interact. But the chicken is a non-native, omnivorous bird of the pheasant family. Just as we begin to recognise the damage caused by the release of pheasants into the countryside – they work through baby snakes, frogs, caterpillars, spiders, seedlings – the nostalgists seek to do the same with chickens. To the extent that chickens feed themselves in such systems, they mop up wildlife. In reality, they can’t survive this way, so they continue to be fed on soy, often produced on former rainforest and Cerrado savanna in Brazil.
This is what happens when people see the pictures and not the numbers. A scene that reminds us of our place of safety at the dawning of consciousness is used as the model for how we should be fed, regardless of whether it can scale. Bucolic romanticism might seem harmless. But it leads, if enacted, to hunger, ecological destruction or both, on a vast scale. Our arcadian fantasies devour the planet.
Much as it pains me to admit it, I think he’s got this right. The future does not have to be dreadful, but it will not look like the past and we should stop insisting that it should.