Object of Concern: Agriculture Introduction:Within a capitalistic society, this logical sense that says producing in large quantities is the most productive and efficient way to produce goods is prominent and has been applied to the way that food is being produced. Gifford Pinchot, a well known figure within environmental conservation who was appointed to the federal Division of Forestry in the 40’s was famous for the phrase; “greatest good for the greatest number.” (Robbins 70) This phrase exemplifies the capitalistic ideals associated with environmental ethics. Agriculture lies in the heart of society and the sustainability of agriculture is therefore extremely important for the well-being of society. Societies motivation to sustainably produce is directly related to perspectives involving environmental ethics and ecology; our relationship to the environment around us. A capitalist society has led us to believe that the mass production of goods is the most efficient way to produce goods. The validity of this idea has been put to question through its counterproductive effects on the environment and society. A Short History: Since World War II, agricultural practices have changed dramatically due to the introduction of technology, mechanics, specialization, increased use of chemicals, and government policies that favor mass production. These changes have decreased the number of farms and labor demand. (Doval) The National Agricultural Library posted a comparison chart of farms in 1860 to farms in 2010. The chart shows that the number of farms has remained relatively the same while the acreage per farm has increased by 110%. The labor force within agriculture has gone down by 86%. Modern day agriculture involves the use of chemicals, genetically modified organisms, producing monoculture crops, overproducing, clearing natural vegetation, buying manufactured fertilizers, and using unsustainable technology. These agricultural practices have led to the depletion of the soil and its biodiversity. Social Construction of Nature:Capitalism has not provided an incentive to preserve the environment, instead capitalism has promotedprofit-maximization motif which provides incentives for entrepreneurs to increase productivity on a large scale to optimize profit. (Movahed) The most prevalent form of farming is through the use of plantations whichare large scale farms that primarily grow perennial crops in a one crop system. (Kuhnen) This capitalistic idea has caused massive deforestation, water scarcities, biodiversity loss, soil depletion and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Large scale farmers practicing unsustainable agriculture are driving small local farmers practicing sustainable agriculture out of business. Traditional scientific understanding of nature has prided itself on objectivity and an external relationship to nature. (Robbins) Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction discusses this idea of the ‘wilderness’ which is a word or construct that we have invented to describe nature that implies that it is separate from us and savage at that. The wilderness is a construct that we invented and the word in and of itself shows what our relationship to nature is like. This social construction of our perspectives on nature has been created through this separation of ourselves from nature.We see nature as a different entity than humans which has created a major boundary between us and our environment. Globalization which has been promoted by capitalism has contributed to this separation from our environment by creating physical distance between us and our food. Over 1000 Americans were surveyed revealing that 48% of Americans do not seek to find out where their food comes from or how it is produced. (Kirshenbaum) Being so separated from our food makes it more difficult to care about how it’s being produced and how that production is affecting the world around us. Agroecology is in emergence and represents a form of agriculture that brings humans closer to the land. Agroecology is “an integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of food and agricultural systems.” (The 10 elements of Agroecology) The goal of agroecology is essentially the opposite of capitalist ecology; it essentially says that increasing diversity within the soil provides nutrients without human intervention. This idea is known as intercropping which combines complementary species to increase spatial diversity. Modern day farming techniques involve clearing natural vegetation to make room to plant one single crop which strips the soil of nutrients and promotes erosion. These farming practices show that the social construct of nature that we have created has convinced us that we have to intervene in order to produce in a productive manner. Our social construct of nature tells us to turn toward human intervention before turning to the land. Agroecology thinks about agriculture in a way that analyzes ways that we can use natural processes to create ecosystems that conveniently work together to achieve productivity. On a similar note, In Our Hands: A Documentary Series about People Regenerating Their Lives & The Earth (2020) discusses the need for a shift back into ecological agriculture; a movement. Ecological farming involves protecting the soil, water and climate while promoting biodiversity and avoiding chemical inputs or genetic engineering. The documentary explains that ecological farming is hard work but that nurturing Mother Earth provides benefits that make the work well worth it. As Juan Manuel Martinez Valdez said in the documentary, “We shouldn’t take from Mother Earth without giving in return.” Something as simple as turning the soil to prompt more organic matter to develop is considered giving back to the environment. Environmental Ethics:Western philosophies have studied questions of right and wrong that have been largely centered around actions of people toward other people. (Robbins) Ethics has only recently been taken into consideration when discussing the environment. According to John Locke and many other political libertarians, the government should play a limited role that functions only to protect the natural rights of citizens. (Robbins) This meant protecting property which was defined to be land that was made useful through human adjustments. This is an example of the perspective that forces people to believe that the land is only valuable if we give it value. One of the most defining environmental debates over the building of a reservoir in the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite by San Francisco in order to create a permanent water source for the city. John Muir argued that the area should be preserved as “it was a storehouse of scenic wonder, a place of weary for modern humans to witness the spiritual grandeur of the natural world, a place not dedicated to human progress.” (Robbins 71) For Gifford Pinchot, on the other hand, there was no thought required; building the reservoir provided the greatest benefit for the most people and for him that was all that needed to be considered. Pinchot’s most famous aphorism, “greatest good for the greatest number” exemplifies the ideals that many hold which is that human benefit is the top priority.These ethics regarding the environment that are held by many have a direct effect on the way that we choose to use the land around us. The article Tasting Sunlight by Kalyanee Mam discusses the “bountiful food this rich land” of Areng Valley produces. The people of this land respect and revere the land and forests, but during the Khmer Rouge period an influx of new people interested in exploiting the land for timber and farmland arrived. Trees near the village were cut down and replaced by pastures where cows polluted the land with their dung taking away from the sacred richness of the land. This forced Cambodia into a free market economy based on exploitation of the land and as the article put it, “once the land and forests are no longer respected and revered, it became possible to cut down more trees and destroy more lands and forests.” This is an example of how environmental ethics affects agriculture and therefore affects the economy which is what makes a society. Ethics is in large part a contributing factor to the way that we have chosen to view the environment. We have made the choice to separate ourselves from the environment and think in a way that shows us what the environment can do for us but not what we can do for the environment. Ethics should most definitely be considered when discussing agricultural practices for the sake of both humans and the environment. A quote from Leopold in 1949, “a thing is right if it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.” Conclusion:A capitalist society has built the framework for production and has shaped our environment and economy. Mass production gained popularity after World War II where it became the chief way to produce. Over the years we have exploited and abused the world’s resources, taking for granted all that it gives to us and as a result are in a position where reform is absolutely necessary for our survival. Society’s perspective and expectations regarding agriculture are beginning to shift toward concerns about protecting the soil and its biodiversity, mitigating climate change, and producing alternative energy sources. Our perspectives involving nature and our role as contributing members within nature has shifted into a more ecological approach. We are beginning a shift toward natural remedies which has become necessary.