The global population has never been larger, and while global population growth is leveling off (https://www.ted.com/playlists/474/the_best_hans_rosling_talks_yo go educate yourself), humanity still faces multiple enormous challenges in feeding so many hungry mouths.
Credit to https://ourworldindata.org
Global agricultural yield is now high enough that nobody needs to starve, and the most problematic situation in terms of sheer volume is simply distribution. However, the massive improvements in yield volumes have brought with them a new set of ethical challenges. Just like designer babies and bio-medically augmented humans, speedy advances in crop yield and livestock poundage and growth require immediate considerations about where to draw lines and limits.
Biodynamic agriculture is one paradigm that provides partial aid in making those decisions. Today’s post is a discussion of the clash between biodynamic, holistic agriculture, and the perceived need for advancing yield and minimising effort.
To try out a new post format I’ve invited Mona Lund Hedeager to participate in an ad-hoc interview setting, a specialist in innovation and part of the Hedeager family agro-business – centred around biodynamic principles.
Check out her take on biodynamics, progress and whether there’s a conflict.
Hvad does “biodynamic” mean to you? Why is it worth working with?
For me, it represents a lifestyle. I know that when something is marked with the Demeter-symbol (editor’s comment: The Demeter symbol marks a product as biodynamic similarly to how organic goods are marked), extra care has been taken to ensure the wellbeing of animals, environment and climate. All things that benefit humans in the long run. That’s why I see biodynamics as a positive cycle. When we watch out for the “organism” of Earth, it reaps rewards for both animals and people.
In biodynamic agriculture there’s space for diversity – so we don’t use any pesticides to kill unwanted plants and animals, and we avoid artificially provoking enhanced growth rates of specific life forms. Instead we use general-purpose fertiliser.
When working with biodynamics, you get to take part in something greater, a social responsibility. You strengthen the bond between helath, food, and humans. Oh, and bio foods are not just healthier, they’re tastier – something largely achieved through slower growth rates, packing in more taste and nutrition.
Hedeagergaard switched to fully biodynamic in 2011. Until that time, I presume you did business with commendable respect for the animals. So why the change? What differences did you see?
In 1998 we switched from conventional to organic, and in 2011 we took the next step onwards and upwards to biodynamics. The change helped us to feel more balance at the farm. A lot of the tighter regulations required to meet the aforementioned Demeter standard were in line with the values of the farm and household anyway, so it was a natural step.
Animal welfare has always been one of the driving values at the farm. Requirements like “dehorning cattle is forbidden, as it impacts the quality of life as well as the quality of milk” are really easy for us to follow. Cows simply need enough space that their horns aren’t an issue, so we simply maintain a lower population.
That means less volume and less revenue, but it’s balanced by higher margins.
When farming biodynamically, or using biodynamic principles on top of organics, the yield is reduced as compared to “conventional” agriculture. That means less edible product, and keep in mind that some regions there’s still not enough food to go around. Without a vegetarian revolution it’s impossible to convert all agriculture to biodynamics, due to a lack of space. What are your thoughts on these challenges?
My answer would be “prioritisation”.
We have experimented with our meat and we agree that the biodynamic meat is both more nutritious and tastes of more. We’re hearing the same from our customers. So we’d say that the amount required falls and the quality rises. Often, supermarket meats are fatty, or pumped up with water to make them seem larger. We don’t want pull stunts like that, we just want to focus on selling real, clean, quality product.
Does being in contact with the earth and animals influence your creative work?
As a student, it’s limited how often I get to work on the farm with earth and animals. It makes me happier to work with sustainable projects. Sustainability is a personal value for me, that I enjoy working with.
Thanks to Mona Lund Hedeager for taking time out to answer these questions and shed some light on biodynamics from the inside. Check out http://hedeager.info/ for a look at what a biodynamic farm can do with online presence.
Since our issues with feeding the population are more related to distribution that yield, we still have the choice to prioritise how we run farmlands, even though it means less yield. Combined with a more plant based diet, this approach can take us far.
Also – check out Global Agro-Science and How We’re Not Killing The Planet for more takes on earth, growth, and future.
During conversation with a friend, it became apparent that we were misaligned in our understanding of where creativity flows from.
I presupposed that creativity is a skill to be trained. My friend pointed out that creativity could be viewed as an instinct, a natural force to be directed. The distinction sounds small, but has profound implications.
Viewing creativity as a skill, there is essentially no assumed base proficiency – no internal baseline that all humans have within them. Training creativity in itself would yield marvellous world-changing ability. Some people would be driven to pursue creativity, and others would not.
Thinking of creativity as an instinct really brought on a paradigm shift for me. If creativity is an instinct, then all humans are driven by a desire to create. I’ll let that stand as a block quote because it’s fantastic.
All humans are driven by a desire to create.
Creativity is not something to be trained in itself, rather, it is something people find an outlet for, a way to channel. Practicing the techniques you choose as an outlet for your creativity becomes the way you strengthen your creative expression in the world.
The mode of creation can vary wildly between individuals. Some folks want to create change, others want to create good concrete mixtures, some want to create the best music scores, and others want to create perfect soundproofing. We’re all architects and builders though, regardless of what it is we’re building.
Some consider creativity to derive from both instinct and skill, or take influence from even more parameters. Notably, Francis Bacon is attributed with the following:
The creative process is a cocktail of instinct, skill, culture and a highly creative feverishness. It is not like a drug; it is a particular state when everything happens very quickly, a mixture of consciousness and unconsciousness, of fear and pleasure; it’s a little like making love, the physical act of love.
But then, philosophers are generally odd types.
There is something inspiringly beautiful about thinking of creativity as this tempestuous force from within, just fighting to find an exit, a way to express itself upon the world. It’s a strong mental image to keep.
Effectuation principles, first introduced by this name in modern literature by Saras Sarasvathy, are powerful decision-making tools to employ when embarking on a quest of creation. Let us examine what we can glean through the lens of each principle
– which theories of truth are assumed?
– how objective can the creator be expected to be?
– from where does motivation spring?
This essay assumes a degree of free will and indeterminism.
The Bird In Hand Principle:
Start with what you have, and build what can be built. Do not attempt to reach an arbitrary goal, rather know that you would create, and look inwards for cues on how to proceed in your creation.
The very idea of synthesising a series of possible creative projects suggests a very variable view of truth. We can rule out correspondence truth theory immediately. It’s less important to find “the true” goal to work towards, and more important to start working towards *any* goal, thereby defining it as your own true goal. Starting with the creation of many possible paths and goals is, apart from rejecting the idea of a golden truth, also distinctly a-platonic in other ways. It suggests a disregard for the idea that we can model the world, and that instead we must create reality, not try to follow an inaccurate map of patently unknown territories.
Objectivity is non-existent in effectuation. Everything stems from the creator, including all of their bias.
So what motivates the creator to act? Considering that there is no tangible project goal in the beginning of the effectuation process, the answer lays beyond the framework. Possibly personal gain in the form of income, freedom, recognition, self-realisation or legacy, and possibly fulfilment of a responsibility towards humanity to move the species onwards and upwards. Since the motivations are extrinsic, the effectuation framework alone will never yield a single answer, and leaves room for many levels of motivation.
(On a separate note, the bird in hand principle is what makes this free business idea worth pursuing mainly for people who are super looped into the publishing business or book club business already!)
The Affordable Loss Principle:
What can *you* afford to lose? What are *you* willing to risk?
Any truth here is your own. Most people won’t be able to find any comfortable measure of willingness to lose.
Your motivations will play a major part in interpreting this principle. Are you in this world to ensure that future generations move on to bigger and better things? Is there any price too great to pay for that? Or are you just looking for some well-deserved recognition? In this case, the price you’re willing to pay would be a lot lower!
The Crazy Quilt Principle & The Lemonade principle:
Build trust, drive involvement. Find people who can be committed to your goals. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Not revolutionary concepts to be sure.
The principles don’t lend us much in the way of new information for our original question, either.
The Pilot-in-the-plane principle:
The future is not predictable (Taleb would be proud, screw models). However, some tools to alter the future are within the creator’s control. These tools are, of course, encompassed by the 4 other principles of effectuation. So, there is some correspondence-truth at play, since effectuation principles are defined as your absolute best tools for manipulating the outcomes of your creative venture.
Why you do all of this is still totally up to you. Your motivations are your own, as a creator. And objectivity? As pilot in your own plane, there is none 🙂