The Unsettling Of America:

Chapter One:  The Unsettling of America

            To be just, however, it is necessary to remember that there has been another tendency: the tendency to stay put, to say. “No farther. This is the place.” So far, this has been the weaker tendency, less glamorous, certainly less successful. It is also the older of these tendencies, having been the dominant one among Indians.

            To an extent this is true. In my understanding of the development of civilization, we started out as hunter/gathers.  As we developed better tools and saw that we would bred animals and grow crops we found we could survive in one place.  When a group of people have to take care of cows and chickens and tend corn and beans it makes it nearly impossible to move about the countryside because those organisms are intertwined with their people. Without the crop the people cannot live, without people the crop cannot live.  This relationship soon helped people become healthier which enabled them to have more children and for all of them to live longer.    

The land and the civilization could now support more life and that is where the problem lies.  As population grows people need their own space.   As a given space becomes scarce population control would be required or civilization spreads into the surrounding area.   

Can we live without spreading out ?

Are we doomed to cover the entire world?   

To what extent would we have to change our lives to stop this spread?  Would we all have to become hunter/gathers? 


Contour plowing, crop rotation, and other conservation measures seem to have gone out of favor or fashion in official circles and are practiced less and less on the farm.

Contour Plowing

Contour Plowing

Contour Plowing



This is a style of farming where the farmer would plow along a slope that would follow the elevation of the land. This allowed for a barrier for water to be stopped and help with erosion. This was a popular procedure that promoted by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. This is now the Natural Resources Conservation Service     and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.   This came out of the dust storms of the 30’s.

“Contour bunding has been widely adopted in Burkina Faso after it was suggested by British Oxfam worker Bill Hereford in the beginning of the 1980s” ~ Wikipedia


 Contour Plowing

Contour Plowing

Crop rotation  


This is still a common practice in many farms around the United States. The most common that comes to mind is a three field method. Corn, soy beans and allowing the field to go fallow.

“This principle is of particular use in organic farming, where pest control may be achieved without synthetic pesticides” ~ Wikipedia  


How helpful are these practies?

How could these practices be made better? 

Could we grow multiple crops at one time?   


Crop Rotation

Crop Rotation

Corn on Beans

Corn on Beans

The Three Sister Method

 of  farming that native american groups used.  The idea that these three plants all worked well together, living in a mutualism, could be something that we adopt now.  The beans help the corn and squash by having nitrogen fixing bacteria. The corn helps the beans by acting as a pole for the beans to grow up. The squash helps both the corn and the beans by spreading out along the ground stopping weeds from growing and reducing moisture loss. 


The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters










Chapter 2:

The Ecological Crisis as a Crisis of Character


The first, and the best known, hazard of the specialist system is that it produces specialists- people who are elaborately and expensively trained to do one thing. […] There are, for instance, educators who have nothing to teach, communicators who have nothing to say, medical doctors skilled at expensive cures for diseases that they have no skill, and no interest, in preventing. […] Specialization is thus seen to be a way of institutionalizing, justifying, and paying highly for a calamitous disintegration and scattering-out of the various functions of character: workmanship, care, conscience, responsibility.


This is both true and, in many ways, false.  First, yes people are specialized as you have to be for some things. Within science, you have to narrow down! How could anyone be the specialists of all the known disease. Or how could someone be a specialist in glacoma and glucoma and in tendonitis?  It does not work that way. There is just too much information for any one person to know! When my mother had cardiac  problems, I wanted her to go to a specialist.  There’s no way I would have felt comfortable with a general practitioner doing open heart surgery on my mother!   

Throughout my years in high school and college, I have been told constantly that I need to be well rounded. In high school I needed to be well-rounded for acceptance by colleges.  Now, in college, I need multiple abilities and talents that make me a good candidate for a job. Hiring people that have mutiple abilities give employers more for their money.  Why pay for three employees when you can hire one to do the job?  With the present economy it is reasonable to consolidate jobs.  But are these “abilities” specialities?  And doesn’t promotion more than likely mean specific specialization?   


Chapter 3:

The Ecological Crisis as Crisis of Agriculture

            “[…] our agriculture is for the best of reasons the envy of the Modern world.  American citizens are now eadey to believe without question that it is entirely good, a grand accomplishment, that each American farmer now ‘feeds himself and 56 others’ […] That one American Farmer can now feed himself and fifty-six other people may be, within the narrow view of the specialist, a triumph of agriculture or culture.”

            Not everyone would like to be a farmer, but it is something that we need to have.


What would we do without farmers?

How could we have other farms that produce less?

Could we suport the world if farms became smaller?

Is the process of farming a bad thing?

Are we distroying the land, or becoming one with it when we farm? You would know the land inside and out as a farmer, but is that knowing the lands true self?


Chapter Six:

The Use Of Energy

            If the soil is regarded as a machine, then its life, its involvement in living systems and cycles, must perforce be ignored, then so must be the natural sources of its fertility- and not only ignored, but scorned


Unless you have been taught, most people don’t know how alive dirt is. Anyone can take some dirt and place it under a microscope and find many organisms.  Little microinvertabrates, platyhelmiths (small worms) and bacteria. Elegans have been found to help with aerating the soil.

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