The circles of life (7) We cannot eat words
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CTA. 1999. The circles of life (7) We cannot eat words. Spore 2000 (Supplement to Spore 84). CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/46646
The circles of life (7) We cannot eat wordsGet digital? At the dawn of the new millennium there will be countless speeches and calls for action about The Shame that (almost) half the world is malnourished; they will urge that there is a need,...
Get digital? At the dawn of the new millennium there will be countless speeches and calls for action about The Shame that (almost) half the world is malnourished; they will urge that there is a need, despite the amazing progress made by mankind in recent decades, to redouble efforts and seek new breakthroughs. Such speeches began several decades ago, and will continue, hopefully less shrilly and more optimistically, for several decades to come. Much of that challenge lies in ensuring universal access to the means of production for sustainable food security. There will also be speeches they started several years ago about the apparent shame that half the world has never made a phone call and that the new divide is between the information haves and have-nots. Such speeches come from people who have a vision of the world in which every village and community can have at least a computer, solar-powered if need be, linked to the world s Internet of all computers by satellite. Part of the process of globalisation means that more people want to share information and exchange knowledge with unseen partners elsewhere in the world, and in so doing, enhance their own societies and survival. There are many who nurture dreams of a world linked by communication networks, dreams ranging from dollars to democracy to decentralisation. Indeed there are some who firmly believe that the world has already reached this stage, though many are not aware of it, nor are they able to be part of the emerging Information Society. Most of the individuals, families, villages and communities who are described as these half-the-worlds , are the same in each half. No sustainable level of adequate, proper, decent nutrition and no access to the world s information which is symbolised by a telephone call. In the Caribbean and the Pacific, thanks in part to their being islands, several ACP countries have reasonably decent levels of nutrition and rather good communications networks. In many African countries, there are large swathes of hope and islands of despair or doom, from the points of view of nutrition and of rural sustainability. And there are firm plans, reaffirmed by Africa s leaders at the close of the century, to ensure that every community and every village will have access to an African Information Society by 2010. Our speechwriters, visionaries, and historians all seem to walk through the landscape of poetic ideas and notions as if they were practising shifting cultivation and moving on to new lands every once in a while. Some seem to see the world and wish to explain it to us simpler folk as if we were entering the Information Age or the Digital Millennium and leaving the Industrial, or Agroindustrial, and Agricultural Ages behind us. For those countries and societies that are still largely agricultural and not yet industrial, such visionaries even talk of leap-frogging (an ungainly expression if ever there was one) straight from the Agricultural to the Information Age. Our lives in the new millennium will be dominated by many forces, most of which we cannot even predict today. Some talk of mainly disaster, others of reaching or fleeing to other planets, and still others of a more spiritual being. Two forces, at least two, we can predict will be with us, and us with them. One is information technology, advances in computing and digital logic. There is a logic in the digital calculations that are used to make computers work for us; it uses a system of 0 and 1, zeroes and ones, offs and ons. It has its uses, this logic, a great many uses, not least for enhancing agricultural production and rural life. But its stark, on off thinking does not apply everywhere, not in a world where many think of a constant continuum, progress, change, whether it is in circles, in circles of life, or, as you may think, in spirals. We do not, as people, really jump from age to age, idea to idea, as if they were lands to be left behind and lands to be conquered. We combine, blend, and fuse our pasts, presents, and futures. The other, enduring, logic that will surely stay with us is agricultural. We all need to eat. For what we are about to receive, for what we are about to grow, let us be thankful, for it is agriculture which makes us what we are. Half the world is waiting for a dialtone President Thabo Mbeki, South Africa