Food and Revolution

David Harvey in his 2010 book, the Enigma of Capital, lists down seven activity spheres. These arenas of human interaction are relevant to Harvey’s analysis of systems and processes and serves as guideposts for analyzing systems. These seven spheres of activity are: relations to nature, technology and organizational forms, mental conceptions of the world, reproduction of daily life and of the species, production and labour processes, institutional and administrative arrangements, and social relations. These seven spheres perpetually are co-evolving and co-present. Constantly they are in a state of dynamic flux and change when one sphere places stress upon all the others.

In the book, one example is how new breed of monoculture crops (a technological innovation in the 1960s) effectively impacts other spheres. With the advent of single breed crops entire governments were able to raise the total production of food. In the Philippines, the introduction of “miracle rice” during Marcos era gave the regime greater political capital. Though the productive impact of the new agricultural technology is undeniably substantial – effectively doubling the number of cavans that is produced per year – there are also similar movements across the other spheres, not all of them positive or egalitarian. What radically differentiate the age-old methods with the up-to-now utilized methods for mono-cropping are the total costs of inputs; fertilizers, pesticides and seeds are used at a faster rate which raises the barrier for farmers to begin planting. Farmers become indebted peons to often usurious lenders, or their landlords who provide them with the initial start-up funding (production and labour processes). Not to mention the entire agricultural industries and products, unsurprisingly originating from First World countries, that spring up to answer the demand for greater farm inputs and constantly increasing demand for even more sustenance from a growing population. All the while this revolutionary process is damaging the environment in unseen and irreversible ways when run-off from excessive use of chemicals needed to grow crops alters the surrounding environment. (relations to nature)

Fortunately for us there is a renaissance of consciousness for alternatives to the industrial – in every connotation of the word – method of farming. One alternative that is proposed is through organic farming. Seeing as how the very concept is already popularized in the mainstream and government institutions (institutional and administrative arrangements) there is no need to expound on how organic works. From urban micro- gardens, mushroom farms (which I’ve tried) to plots dedicated to the organic “fad”, the growing consciousness of market demand to choose a healthy lifestyle, with food that is not pumped with unhealthy chemicals, is increasingly answered with more producers filling in the need to be with Mother Nature. Rewarded handsomely, as they are when there is a premium on the healthy options brand. As they naturally should when the total output of their production cannot yet hope to match the scalability, costs and near universality of “conventional” agriculture.

Ingenuinty and Counter-movement for urban farming

While all of these are positive developments in the field of Philippine agriculture, like with all things it is still subject to change thanks to the ceaseless flow of contradictions. Returning to Enigma, where the text identifies technology as the fundamental pivot in historical change, we can then expect to see more changes as the years pass. Perhaps this change will come from creative ways to utilize urban spaces and materials. It is more likely that any technological development is going to come from the research of Monsanto, Bayer and their kin. Most probably these companies are going to peddle their new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) despite fierce (and warranted) opposition from activist and environmental pressure groups to prevent the spread; a political-economic nexus so similar to the classical superstructure-infrastructure model but which eloquently David Harvey improves.


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