Part 1: The Next 10,000 Years of Agriculture

When Jeff Bezos came on the news this week after his purchase of the Washington Post, my interest in him piqued. I’ve been an admirer of Amazon’s business for a long time, but I have read everything I could find about Bezos this week.

The most interesting project he is working on is not his space company, but rather the 10,000 year clock bring built into a mountain in West Texas. (Where he owns hundreds of thousands of acres) The clock will chime every 1000 years. The $40 million project’s goal is to show the importance of long term thinking. So this got me thinking, what will the next 10,000 years of agriculture be like. A good thought experiment because it was invented about 10,000 years ago.

We’re on an unsustainable path, no type of mining can last forever. Political parties will disagree over the time frame, but it is inevitable. The earth contains finite resources. The troubling part is that our food production depends on these finite resources. Oil, natural gas, potassium, phosphorus, fossil aquifers, and topsoil. We may have enough extractable resources for the next century or five centuries. But what if humans would have had our mentality at the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago. We probably wouldn’t be around today to talk about it.

Like the 10,000 year clock, we must change our food system to focus on long term planning. We must take to heart the Native American proverb “we did not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” and the Greek proverb “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in” How far off are we from this today?

There is a video on YouTube of a 1000 year old food forest that the same family has tended in Vietnam. We must take ideas like that, spread them, and improve on them. We must plant fruit trees to feed our children and grandchildren. We must create ecosystems that will feed our ancestors in a millennium.

How do we do this? More on building a long term system tomorrow with part two: Antifragile Agriculture: creating a food system that gains from disorder

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