This week we had some great discussion around a video I posted from TEDTalks to my Facebook wall–Peter Diamandis’ Abundance is Our Future. I’m a fan of ‘abundance thinking‘ and of the potential of technology and the incredible possibilities of our combined efforts to solve a problem. In his presentation Diamondis says, “I’m not saying that we don’t have our share of problems – climate change, species extinction, resource shortage – but ultimately we have the ability to see problems way in advance and knock them down.”
My post spawned some insightful comments that I wanted to share from Tony Mannetta, a local foods activist. Tony is an agricultural consultant living in Dutchess County. He has been working to preserve farming in the New York region since 1980. He has served as Director of Greenmarket farmers market, local agriculture liaison for Baldor Foods and consultant to Pespsico’s Local Food Sustainability initiative.
In response to the “Abundance is Our Future” Tony commented:
“A Revival meeting for Tech Fix. I think he’s correct in some ways, but a few ideas very wrong. First off, he has the brain/danger concept wrong. We don’t handle long term crises well at all. Second, he, like many, simply dismisses human politics and change. Yeah, we got climate change to deal with, species extinction, but check out the Singularity! Finally, agriculture? Hello?! Guess our robot successors will figure all that out.”
“The world is full. It is full of us. It is full of our stuff, full of our waste, and full of our demands,” Gilding said. “We have created too much stuff. This is not a philosophical statement, this is just science. Our approach is simply unsustainable.” Mr. Gilding is the former director of Greenpeace International. “Thanks to those pesky laws of physics, it will stop. The system will break.”
Tony commented: “Amen! The crux is to get people to see this as a crisis NOW without immobilization or dismissal. Fear can do both. He discusses this, and we all know the quite powerful forces that are at work to make sure people stay lulled until it’s too late. I am hopeful, but not convinced we’re going to make it through this bottleneck as a civilization (though I agree, it’s time we became civilized). As I always tell doomsayers, the future is not yet written, today is a day to act.”
Tony continues: “One story and I’m off:
In the early 1980s, I attended an annual dinner for NYC farmers markets. The audience was composed of local farmers and city officials, the dinner speaker a Chinese economist/agronomist. After regaling us with some pretty interesting stories of the failures of command agriculture and the rise of agricultural entrepreneurs (China wanted to create 10,000 farmers markets in five years), someone asked what we as Americans could do to help the Chinese in their mission to change their economy. I will never forget his response: “Change what you dream.” Puzzled faces across the room.
“We in China look to the American dream as the success story, everyone wants to have what you have. But there isn’t enough in the world to make that dream come true for China. So I ask you, I implore you: Change what you dream.”
Tony added some details about Chinese agriculture at the time stating that: “The command economy meant the government figured out how much consumers would demand, and farmers were charged with producing x amount of products for the region/nation, the only system more inefficient than an open market. He joked that over-production of Chinese cabbage would mean apartment building hallways would be lined with walls of cabbage at times. Obviously 30 years later, that story stuck with me.”
Thank you, Tony, for sharing your thoughts and insights and this great story.
Tony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.