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Being an Agrarian in a Digital World

Is the information age coming to an end? This is what I'm wondering, as I spend another long night struggling with building a website. I started this process many years ago, with a different set of tools, and at that time, everything made sense to me .. sure, I had to do some html coding, but it seemed much easier to create in the way that I wanted. Page after page could be created and linked, designed any way I wanted, with no apparent boundaries or restrictions. I wonder if perhaps that is how early settlers and pioneers felt as they made their way through the as-of-yet unspoiled landscape of the North American continent - they had to build everything themselves, but the space was wide open, and the possibilities must have seemed endless.


Now, the vistas seem to be cramped, like one has come out to the prairie at last, only to find every path blocked with fences and gates, "No Trespassing" signs, and skyscrapers everywhere. There are plenty of options .. too many options, really. a bewildering array of digital fluff - you can create any way you want, just so long as you use these templates, these color schemes, and these plug ins. Working out how to set up shipping costs has been a headache, let me tell you. I'm seriously contemplating hiring a website designer, but we're barefoot here, and working on a shoestring budget.


I find myself feeling nostalgia for "The Good Old Days" more often. Everywhere i look now, people are spending more time bent over their electronic devices. "I love nature" someone will tweet, and share a dizzying barrage of lovely photos depicting scenes of natural beauty .. without ever venturing beyond the concrete, asphalt, glass and steel of their own particular environment. What do we call people who tweet .. 'Twits'? I wish these twits would just put their devices down, especially when driving. I really don't feel safe on the road with some of these people out there. "I care about the environment, we have to save the planet" is another tired old line. I want to grab some of these folks and give them a good shake.


Talk is cheap, copypasta is cheap, but what would really be helpful is if you would put the phone down, pick up a shovel, and plant a tree .. its not hard, I do it all the time, and am happy to show you how. Trees aren't too expensive, either: If you skip going to the overpriced coffee shop three days out of the week, you can afford to plant 52 trees every year. Shoot - get a coffeepot and a thermos, and you can stop going to the coffee shop altogether (you know what they pay the farmers for those beans, even the so-called "fair Trade" prices? Its an obscenity. Stop supporting that) Now you can afford to plant 104 trees every year.


The potential of technology has offered us the promise of greater connectivity with our fellow humans, and yet - search engine parameters, algorithms, little boxes for chat with hashtags sort and filter everything, trapping us in little digital worlds. Instead of bringing us together, the digital world has pulled us farther and farther apart, isolated in our own little echo chambers. Political masters come along to each subdivision, offering solutions to problems so long as the inhabitants will surrender their free will to the whims of the masters .. but they don't have solutions at all, and never did. Boxes for chat begin to look like boxes for thought, and hashtags begin to resemble bars .. too far down this path, and the boxes and bars may become physical as well.


As of February, 2019, there were more than 55 trees for every person on planet earth, according to satellite data. As few as one dozen of the right trees can provide all of an individual human's needs for food, shelter, fuel and medicine. The implications here are staggering: by abandoning the concrete and asphalt paradises and moving out into the countryside, by deliberately and thoughtfully planting perennial systems, a great number of the problems facing humanity can be solved - but the political class will never offer this sort of solution; decentralization weakens their power. They don't want humanity to be free and independent beings upon the land - they would rather keep us in our little boxes, where we are easy to manage and control.


The information age does not necessarily have to devolve into a dystopian nightmare where mega farms practice their mechanized monoculture, exporting their low-nutrient products to the cities, where helpless people grovel before their masters, begging for table scraps as they sit out their days in tiny boxes, until the entire system finally suffers it's inevitable demise. There is real reason to be hopeful for the future. That promised connectivity could be used to link small scale producers directly to their customer base, or to regional aggregators so that it is not necessary to grow one full truckload of one particular crop in order to remain competitive. Social media networks might be employed to bring together people of like mindsets, to form cooperative ventures in agroforestry .. a member without the financial means to contribute to the cost of land or equipment might pay for their shares of the corporation with labor, for example.


So, is the information age coming to an end? Maybe not .. maybe what we are seeing now is a transition of sorts. It could be maturation, or it could just be rotten - but decomposition always presents the opportunity for new life. Perhaps a vision of the future is of mankind with a computer in one hand, and a sapling in the other - a blending of the new technology and the old. No matter how this works out, we will be eating from the trees in the future - whether we do it as primative foragers following the collapse of industrial civilization, or as conscious, deliberate users of digital technology is the choice before us. If you will excuse me, I am supposed to be setting up an online nursery here, and that means that I have racks of grow lights to set up, and some seedlings to get started. With any luck, I'll have this website building thing taken care of by the time they are ready to ship.

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