Ancient Sumerians vs. Modern Greens


One of the mantras of Greens and the Organics is how we have to work in harmony with nature instead of against it.  They also decry the idea of food as a commodity and industrial agriculture.  They would have hated the ancient Sumerians.

The Sumerians invented agriculture around 4,000 B.C.  They mono-cropped. They diverted water needed for  irrigation from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers by means of dams, dykes and canals.  They became, as we learned in school,  the Fertile Crescent.  They had a surplus of food.

The Sumerians practiced what modern day Greens despise,  industrial agriculture.  With this taming of nature, came an abundance of food which the Sumerians used in trade. Yes, they used food as a commodity.

Farmland was considered the private property of the farmer. If a farmer’s crop didn’t yield enough, he might borrow food and seed from a neighbor with the hope that the next year’s yield would be enough that he could pay his neighbor back. If that didn’t happen, the debtor farmer could lose his land to his lender or work for him as a sharecropper.

The large scale farming that led to the surplus of food meant that not everyone had to farm. This allowed time for people to develop new interests and invent new things, like the first written language and the  wheel.  

The modern day Organic/Green, (MGO) mindset is one that is at odds which the Sumerian culture. While the  Sumerians pursued modernization and progress, the MGOs want a return to some imaginary past, when nature was pristine. Nature hasn’t been pristine since humans first climbed from the slime.   They want everyone to farm. They want civilization to remain in a labor intensive pursuit.

With the advent of “modern” farming in the late 1800s to the present,  farmers have eagerly adopted new technology and methods to make their back breaking lives easier and enjoy more of the monetary fruits of their labor.  I’d be willing to bet dollars-to-doughnuts if you took a farmer from the late 1800s and brought him into the present, he would be aghast at the organic movement.  If he saw how organic farmers eschewed modern agricultural technology he couldn’t even have dreamed of in his day, he would think they were nuts.

Hell, even though they still farm by hand, the Amish use GMOs.

Ironically the loss of productivity they have due to farming entirely by hand is compensated for by the increased yield of the crop. The use of GM also allows them to not use pesticides, which they see advantageous. ”I myself like biotechnology,” said Amish farmer Daniel Dienner, “I feel it’s what the farmers will be using in the future.”

When you get “technolapped” by the Amish, as a friend on Twitter mused, it may be time to re-think your strategy.

Look at the history of farming. As modern farming started ramping up in the 1890s  it took 35-40 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels of corn.   By the 1980s it took 2-3/4 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels.

I looked for the same statistics for organic, but they were hard to come by. I did come across this article Economics of Organic Production.  The article admits that labor costs are higher, and yields lower, but those things are offset by the price commanded by the crops.

The study was done by an organization called SARE, Sutainable Agriculture Research & Education. They make a claim, which I doubt, that claims organic farming’s yields can be 90-95% of conventional farming.  An analysis of  USDA statistics by plant pathologist Steve Savage belies this claim. Anyway, the article is interesting since it looks strictly at the economics of organic farming.  Their conclusion is that although organic farming crop yields are lower than conventional, that deficit is made up in the prices organic crops command.

Yup. There it is. Organic agriculture may produce less, but the profits make up for it. So much for feeding the world.

So, back to the Sumerians.  What happened?  Until recently, the common thought was that it was their industrial agriculture methods that sealed their doom; that it created all kinds of bad environmental problems. It wasn’t. It was a drought; a drought that lasted 200 years.

Several geological records point to a long period of drier weather in the Middle East around 4,200 years ago, Konfirst said. The Red Sea and the Dead Sea had increased evaporation; water levels dropped at Lake Van in Turkey, and cores from marine sediments around that period indicate increased dust in the environment.

http://www.livescience.com/25221-drought-killed-sumerian-language.html

If the green/organic crowd had been in charge back then, we’d still be drawing pictures instead of having a written language. Oh, and no cars or the favorite of the Greens, bicycles, because there wouldn’t have been enough free time to invent the wheel.

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