“It’s a wonderful place for an orchard, but a terrible place for growing fruit.”
LIKE all good horror stories we start out slowly, the John Carpenter cruise around the suburban neighbourhood, albeit in this case we are digging in George’s back garden or what he calls his orchard. The title does not do this book justice. It might have been The Shit We Are In.
Monbiot’s arguments are elegant and polite and beautifully constructed, but just to ram home his message, let us write it out in tablod neon: The Global Food Machine, fed by the Global Agriculture Machine fed by the Global Drugs Machine fed by the Global Banking Machine supported by The Global Property Owners Club Ltd is destroying the planet.…Agriculture is not about farmers anymore, but it is about anonymous global corporative interest. It is capitalism gone bonkers.
You only need to read the labels on the supermarket packaging to see the influence of a small number of ingredients – principally soy and corn – to find the evidence. Worse than that, as Monbiot illustrates, is that we now grow more food to feed to the cattle, pigs and even chickens than we do to feed ourselves. All so the industry can support the likes of Kentucky Fried Chicken and other Global Food Brands. And these chickens are leaving a dirtier footprint on the planet than we do.
In this context government is impotent. Politicians and civil servants misunderstand what is going on, and as Monbiot illustrates again with stunning examples, where governments have tried to intervene it has usually been disastrous.
What this book lays on the line is if you want mass cheap fast food, this is what you get…erosion and destruction of the soil we depend on, a one way ticket to Armageddon, something that has already arrived for many species, like the brown trout, the barbell, the Wye salmon. All those pretty sheep grazing on the Welsh hills, have unfortunately also turned the pasture into a dead zone, paid for by the EC grants.
The brilliant Diane Purkiss – whose English Food I reviewed last – categorized ’s historic misunderstandings of how the food chain works (or does not) but here here we have the other side of the same coin, the up to date inventory of destruction. Do I believe Monbiot? Yes I do because I have written about it for 40 years.
His great achievement here – and this is a book with very nearly 100 pages of notes and references to back it up – is to harness all these Big Thoughts and put forward what is a Global Argument – the importance of diversity, the importance of weaning ourselves off an agriculture that is meat dependent, that is grant dependent, that is grubbing up not just the UK countryside but the Amazon, the rain forest, chunks of Argentina, more forest in Poland etc etc. These guys are out of control. Big agriculture is very bad news for everybody. We need to go back to local and small holdings. Before it is too late. But maybe it already is too late…
The truth, as he accurately diagnoses, is:
“Long distance trade and mass production favour transnational corporations and accelerate the homogenization of the Global Standard farm.”
The answer for Monboit lies in the soil.