Gone Feral

[Image: John Constable, Seascape Study with Rain Cloud, 1824].

Almost exactly a year ago, the Guardian wrote that “huge tracts of Britain’s landscape should be reclaimed from farming and go back to nature to lock up carbon dioxide and counter global warming.”
This would mean, for instance, that “traditional farming would be wound down in marginal areas while some landscapes should be ‘re-wilded’ to absorb more water and reduce flooding downstream. Peat bogs, which can store carbon, must be conserved and restored.”
The change would not come quick, and it would be controversial, a government ecology expert adds; after all, “There’s a deep cultural resistance to the idea of land no longer being farmed,” even if that land does have “other values which are now probably much higher for society.”
Would similar strategies be useful here in the United States? Like some scene from a future, sci-fi-inflected John Steinbeck novel, we’d abandon entire corporate agribusiness complexes to leave those now-lost farms in a state of second nature, re-wilded, gone to seed, subject to a different kind of valuation.

7 thoughts on “Gone Feral”

  1. “Would similar strategies be useful here in the United States?”

    Similar strats would be even more insane. Think it through. 300 million. Disrupt and reduce food chain. Result. Blood.

    Get sane. Get real. Britain is over. No need to follow them into the grave.

    Oh, and it would make zip difference to the globe. Unless you think that the Chinese and India and billions of other people are as stupid as this idea.

  2. Ummm. Yeah. Maybe it’s the Libertarian in me coming out, but Society’s values seem more and more represented by a minority. Which means ..of course…that they are NOT the values of the society.

    Besides, if you value this idea, it is perfectly within your grasp to make it happen. You and your friends can pool their money and buy a farm and let it go wild. I just don’t think you should use the government (and their guns) to promote a “value” that does not necessarily represent the majority.

    I might believe in doing this, I mean Americans eat too much anyway (me included). But I think private citizens, with a green agenda can take care of wild areas better than the government and besides, in my opinion it is not really an appropriate use of the government.

    I am fanatical about civil discourse.

  3. Allowing some, not all, arable land to return to its native condition would improve the state of agriculture. Along with the adoption of permaculture on a wider scale farmers could feed a growing population with less land. One of the best examples of this is the 50% of corn grown in the U.S. that is fed to cows. If we allowed cows to graze on grass we would not need to grow as many acres of corn.

    The forests that would eventually return would harbor species that act as pest control in the form of birds and other predators, so if farmers would allow some of their land to go wild they could potentially relieve the land of pesticides by controlling pests and harmful insects naturally.

    This issue is obviously much more complicated than this and Michael Pollan does an excellent job explaining the nuances of the situation in ‘Omnivore’s Dilemma’.

    Everyone who eats should read this book.

  4. I haven’t read the comments around here in a pretty long time. These don’t seem like the BLDGBLOG commenters I remember. Have you guys read ever read this blog before?

  5. I believe this is an example of attempting to cure the symptom instead of the disease. Simply allowing some farmed land to go wild (think late night commercials for “Land Gone Wild” videos) does not reduce the demand for factory farms.

    There are a thousand ways the government could decrease the demand for production methods that damage the environment. This, obviously, is not one of them.

    Jeff – I don’t believe that the minority is dictating societal values. Quite the contrary. It is the majority’s demand for goods that are produced by these polluters that really drives their existence. It is the majority’s values that dictates the creation of corporate farms and the like. I agree that they’re an awful thing to live with. however, societies in general may be becoming more and more aware of the detriment this kind of practice is to their health and pocketbooks (where people notice most) as governments use taxpayer money to convert productive (well, sort of) land into “unused” (quotation marks indicating the acknowledgment that they could be parks or whatever)land.

  6. It seems to me that a good way to reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture in Britain would be to finally stop importing food from far-flung former colonies like New Zealand and start resourcing closer to home (perhaps from African markets who ironically cannot compete on a cost-basis with Western agricultors)

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