by John Zerzan
WORTH NOTING IS A CONCISE ARTICLE IN THE March 4 issue the British journal Nature. Almost 4,000 years of agriculture in central Mexico yield a dramatic picture to the research efforts of archaeologists O’Hara, Street-Perrot, and Burt. Conclusively debunked is the notion that traditional farming methods were more benign than more modern methods.
SEVERE soil erosion and other forms of environmental degradation commenced, in fact, with agriculture itself. By the time of the Spanish conquest (1521 A.D.), contrary to widespread belief, Mesoamerica presented anything but a pristine landscape. “Erosion caused by the Spanish introduction of plough agriculture,” the authors observe from exhaustive soil samples, “was apparently no more severe than that associated with traditional agricultural methods.” As they explain later in the article, “it is hard to distinguish any specific impact of the introduction of plough agriculture and draught animals by the Spanish after A.D. 1521.
THE POINT is plain: domestication is domestication, and embodies a qualitatively negative logic for the natural world. Agriculture per se brings a ruinous, unidirectional impact, despite the wishful thinking of those who envision a coexistence with domestication, consisting of benign, ‘green’ methods that would reverse the global destruction of the land.
THE DEVASTATION exists on a much more basic level, whose reality must be faced. As the article concludes, “There is a move by many environmental agencies both in Mexico and elsewhere for a return to traditional forms of agriculture, as they are considered to be better for the environment. As our findings indicate that traditional farming techniques cause significant erosion, it is unlikely that a return to prehistoric farming methods would solve the problem of environmental degradation.”