Sunday, May 11, 2014

On human beans

The beans are in the ground now.

In a week or so, they'll be churning carbon dioxide and water into sugar using the long light of late spring days.

For all the chatter about preparing children for the global economy and markets and growth, what ultimately matters in economics gets measured in bushels and bellies.

From the New York Times Business Section

Every day, a handful of young adults tend to their beans, basil, and pumpkin seedlings in our classroom, grown from seeds planted with their hands, in what used to be a rite of passage in elementary school, now lost as schools chase data points as abstract as the ether, and about as useful.

Matt Ridley is a member of the British House of Lords, no doubt considered a learned man, educated at Eton and Oxford, but somewhere along the way, he forgot how to grow a bean, a common deficit among the elite folks bred to believe that it's possible to separate the body from the earth while we still breathe. (I have no idea what happens after death, but figure we got enough on our to-do list  in the herenow to keep us busy until the therelater.)

In his essay "The World's Resources Aren't Running Out" published in the Wall Street Journal a week ago, Mr. Ridley says he  "lean[s] to the view that there are no limits because we can invent new ways of doing more with less," a remarkable view for a man who was once an academic ecologist.

Most of the essay is the usual biffle of the abstract sort promulgated by those who stand to gain from such biffle, but Ridley makes an extraordinary claim that somehow slipped by the WSJ editors.

"Economists point out that we keep improving the productivity of each acre of land by applying fertilizer, mechanization, pesticides and irrigation. Further innovation is bound to shift the ceiling upward." 

We have limited windowsill space in our room. My lambs learn quickly that light matters, and if a riot ever breaks out in my room, it's going to be over a plant, not a Nike. (Kids get real passionate about these things.)

Lord Ridley of the Abstract Class neglects a basic limiting factor: sunlight.

All the bean counters in the world aren't worth a hill of them if they forget our connection to the dirt beneath our feet and the sun above our heads. 

If I ever meat Arne, I'm giving him a handful of purple trionfo violetto pole beans
Yes, I know what "biffle" means in slang, but it's the right sound for what I mean, so it stays.


Susan Eckert said...

Matt Ridley is first and foremost a journalist and secondly a businessman.

His essays on how climate change is really not that big of a deal have been debunked by scientists who actually study/research climate change.

You can never trust anything a libertarian (no matter how learned he/she is) says about the environment. Well at least I don't. I think they are guided not by science but by their ideals/dogma, specifically property rights.

doyle said...

Dear Susan,

I'd put businessman ahead of journalism--he's running his own little cottage industry.

The editors at the WSJ are more problematic. I am not sure Lord Ridley believes his own shite--but the WSJ folks do, and that's problematic.

Susan Eckert said...

I see your point. But I think that we can agree that despite his PhD, the last thing Dr. Ridley is acting like is a scientist--he has a predetermined opinion. An opinion that aligns nicely with the WSJ's philosophy. No surprise there.