A conversation with Charles Eisenstein, writer of Sacred Economics and Climate: A new story, about his fascination for soil and regenerative agriculture, his advice to investors as well as the role of animals in regeneration, his thoughts on our fascination for quick technology fixes, vertical farms and clean lab-grown meat.
LISTEN TO THE CONVERSATION ON:
Charles also talked about he role of tech in regen ag and food, why most research on yields and productions is flawed, and what returns we can expect when we truly engage with regeneration at its core.
SOIL AS AN ORGANISM. THE CENTRE ROLE OF SOIL IN LIFE
What can be more fundamental to the human relationship to the world than how we grown and get our food? Coming into relation with soil means participating in a process larger than ourselves. The word organic also connotes origins. Understanding soil as an organism with organs, but also understanding soil as an organ itself, and humans as another organ, and the various species that live in an ecosystem as others. True organic agriculture understands this organismic principle and the one of participation instead of full control.
“Understanding that the more alive the soil is, the more alive we are, and the richer the soil, the richer the human being’” – Charles Eisenstein
REGENERATION AND RETURNS
If you really stay true to the purpose, you’re not going to make 20% returns in this field for very long. If you care about the Earth, at some point, you’re going to have to make a choice and decide which master to serve, what to care about the most and you are willing to sacrifice for. Financial or ecological return? Sometimes you can have some of both. Using a magic wand, Charles would internalize some of the costs that are externalized onto the ecosystem. Depleting groundwater or causing soil erosion has to get expensive. That way regenerative practices will become a lot more lucrative.
“If you want to really get high returns from agriculture, you have to do what Bill Gates is doing, you have to consolidate vast mosaics of independent small subsistence farms, like in Africa […], you have to consolidate them into gigantic plantations, mechanized plantations, and get rid of all the people and use GMO seeds and insecticides, herbicides, pesticides, etcetera. And then you can actually make a lot higher return”. – Charles Eisenstein
KEEP ANIMALS INTO THE SYSTEM
Talking about the role of animals generally brings out a very strong reaction. According to Charles we need to integrate animals into a regenerative system. There’s this idea that if only we didn’t practice animal agriculture, suffering of animals can be avoided. There are so many people using animals to heal land instead.
‘Generally speaking, animals are really important to make the land into a whole organism. I don’t know of any ecosystem that doesn’t have animals on earth. So the question then is, what are the right animals? And how to incorporate them? And that requires deep familiarity with the land”. – Charles Eisenstein
“If we’re really going to rejoin nature, that’s what we can look to as a goal: it’s not that we will banish death in animals or ourselves, but it’s that their lives should be good lives. They should live well, they should not live a life of confinement. And they should be able to contribute their gifts to the other beings around them’” – Charles Eisenstein
TECHNOLOGY WILL NOT SAVE US
There are trends toward more and more technology. We have a long history of technology, creating new and unanticipated problems, unintended consequences, that must be met with even more and more technology. It becomes an addiction. Once you go down that path you become dependent on the technology. Once you start fertilizing crops with synthetic fertilizers, once you start relying on weed killers, once the soil is degraded, then you depend on those inputs, even to maintain what had been normal. Any important thing that we don’t measure causes problems in the future biodiversity.
“Technology and the scientific reductionistic approach to anything, especially agriculture, always leave something out because science is based on only the things we can measure”. – Charles Eisenstein
“It would be very convenient, and comforting if technology was the answer, because then we wouldn’t really have to change our ways”. – Charles Eisenstein
HOW CHARLES WOULD PUT 1 B TO WORK
One of Charles’s focuses is on getting more people on and engaged with the land, creating a community of regenerative farmers with the perspective of helping one another to become better farmers, and generating a network of trust. It is needed to invest so farmers are not under as much pressure to convert soil into money. Some actions would be philanthropic, and some might be investments, others might be up to governments.
“If I had a billion dollars, […] I would invest in young farmers, get them on the land, buy the land, then maybe give it to them with a below market rate mortgage conditioned on them, doing regenerative practices, and have some kind of accountability, that is not only based on metrics, but is based on some community functions”. – Charles Eisenstein
“We’re going to support you for $20,000 a year for the next five years for you to learn your trade. And we’re gonna maybe support apprenticeship programs at regenerative farms, there’s like so many things that we could do if we turned our our money that way”. – Charles Eisenstein
OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED:
- Feeding the world with regenerative agriculture;
- Replacing human labor with robots as solution;
- Technological programs and the denial of death and exit the cycle of nature;
- Veganism and where does the body guide you toward;
- Putting value on nature.
- Charles Eisenstein’s books
- How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change | Allan Savory Ted talk
- Savory Institute Website
- Wendell Berry
- Can we actually feed the planet regeneratevely – Charles Einsestein Random Podcast on Spotify
- Korean natural farming
- Viktor Schauberger
- Satish Kumar – Be humble, you can’t outsmart nature
- Mark Lewis, hunting for unicorns in regenerative agriculture and food
- Thomas Rippel, checking in on land ownership, stable coins, pensions for farmers and city folks
- Thomas Rippel, using a blockchain to help Farmland Stewardship Organisations grow
- Allan Savory @ Groundswell – On what impact investors should focus on in regenerative agriculture
Feedback, comments, suggestions? Reach me via Twitter @KoenvanSeijen, in the comments below or through Get in Touch on this website.
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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.