Certainly I’ve not been trained as an agroecologist, and from what I recall of the agroecology papers I’ve read, and I’ve read quite a few, many of those folks were trained first from an agricultural perspective, and then from an ecological one, or at least that was the case back in the day, and so they were those who first broke ground in understanding the ecology of agriculture and all that was wrong with it, but also the first to start thinking about how to produce food working with, instead of against, the landscape.
Working against it is what industrial agriculture does.
At any rate, I was trained in ecology, and systems ecology, and then horticulture, and then I stumbled across permaculture while teaching unsustainability, because again, back in the day and maybe even still right now, an awful lot of folks still don’t know nuthin’ about unsustainability, and I didn’t know nearly as much of it as I do now, and man, sometimes I kind of think I know too much, but at any rate, one of the things that gets me is how seldom folks consider things like soils, and their development, and the whys or by what mechanisms they are what they are.
Tropical soils suck. At least for agriculture. For the most part, desert soils do, too. There's no such thing as a bad soil, in nature. Unless of course it's one that's been degraded by agriculture.
That’s one of those things students always kind of intuitively got wrong, not so much about the desert but about the tropics, because they figured that green, moist, wet, alive, well, that had to mean super duper soils, right, but no, the thing is, in most tropical regions almost all of the nutrients are tied up in the biomass, those wonking big trees and the understory and such, and since it is so wet and hot, anything that falls to the ground that’s not eaten right away decomposes really freaking fast, the microbes just tear that shit up, and the nutrients that get back into the soil are immediately taken up by all that big biomass, and it rains so much that lots of the soil nutrients just drain right through, not much retention, so the idea that tropical soils are good for agriculture is just totally wrong.
That’s why tropical peoples tend to eat fruits, yeah, there are lots of fruits on those wonking big trees, and insects, yup, lots of insects, too, but also fishes and frogs and birds and small mammals, and big ones, too, when they can get them. They don’t tend to be wheat farmers. Vegetarianism did not evolve in the tropics, at all.
It didn’t evolve in the North American Arctic, or Northern Europe, nor in Siberia or Mongolia. The tribesmen of who drink the blood of their cattle are not vicious beasts, any more than I am one when I have bacon in the morning.
Vegetarianism evolved in regions of the world that produced natural grains, and leafy vegetables, lands with soils that supported such flora. Some of them were arid lands, good for legumes, and C4 grains, protein rich plant foods. Some had a wide variety of choices, depending on season. The Inuits, not so much.
Ah, but evolution describes the past! Surely, as we move into a sustainable future, we must all become vegetarian, or better yet, vegan, it is the only way to feed humanity!
No. The only way to feed humanity is to do so the way humanity had been feeding itself for most of its existence, before we decided we could conquer the world. Humanity fed itself by working with the land where they were, with the plants and animals they found there.
In some places, humanity failed, and moved on. Trying to transform tropical or desert soils into something they’re not, at least on a grand scale, is pretty darned futile. Sure, you can build local soils anywhere, but there's a limit.
Besides, roasted pig and mangos? I sure wouldn’t argue with that just because I didn’t get a piece of bread to go with it, ya know?