The Huffington Post ran an article yesterday citing a report by DC-based non-profit Friends of the Earth which challenges the notion that the industrial agriculture model is the only way to feed the world. If one evaluates organic farming by a broad range of metrics, the report says, one will find that organic farming is not only capable of feeding the world, but also much better at promoting better living for workers and the planet at large.

It’s exciting to hear about such broad-minded evaluations of classical industrial models and their alternatives. There is little doubt that industrialization does good. More and more people to live in greater and greater material abundance as a result, and there is little doubt we are on the threshold of a comparative explosion of societal change brought on by a coming second industrial revolution: the robotic one.

Also, though, there is little doubt that industrialization allows a society to write checks that it doesn’t have to cash for generations — and we are quite obviously to already “cashing” checks written against our health, powers of concentration, community and close relationships and, perhaps most importantly, the health and of the biosphere itself.

It seems to me that it’s hard to argue otherwise, and I don’t think that means that industrialism is bad. However, I do think it means that a vibrant 21st century unconditionally depends on the world getting wise about externalities.

It should be commonplace that we evaluate practices according to numerous metrics — as, here, farming is evaluated not only for yield but for environmental and social impact — and that the metrics be truly circumspect, and not attentive only to yield and profit, and certainly not done only by the people who are getting the profit.

It’s not a matter of choosing whether we want to pay attention to complainers or not. In this century, it will be a matter of whether we work to create a world that promotes the health of the beings in it, or we work to create a world that is harsher and harsher for more and more forms of life — and in which we act like there’s nothing we can really do about it.

We that build cities, alter rivers, land robots on other planets.

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