ENVT 200 03

Are We too Smart for Our Own Good?


This citation was taken from the article Digging deep: Harnessing the power of soil microbes for more sustainable farming posted on the Sciencedaily network. When reading these first few sentences of the article, most of the audience might feel astonished at this major breakthrough in technology and agriculture. “Powerful machines” that make soil microbes “genetically sequenced” and drones that fly over “taking hyper spectral images” of crops along with “supercomputers” collecting all this data, can all sound very attractive to most people. I say this because we live in a society, especially in the United States, where we closely correlate faster and efficient technology with economic growth. `

This project on this farm in Arkansas is being worked on by Berkeley Lab at the University of Arkansas and they claim they are revolutionizing agriculture and creating sustainable farming, benefiting the environment. This may be all true when you look at what the technology itself is doing, and I do like how this can potentially replace chemical fertilizers. The Berkeley lab also hopes this technology would “enhance soil carbon uptake” which also would be of a huge benefit to our environment and still increasing crop yields. Scientist Ben Brown quotes on microbes:  “By understanding how microbes work and modifying the environments where they function, we can eventually engineer microbial communities to enhance soil productivity.” Brown also explains how when soil is healthy it is resilient to effects like climate change, drought, and insects. My initial thought when reading this part of the article was, ‘wow we truly are in such a complex environmental problem’. We are so lucky to have an Earth that was created and went through so many geological phases that had to right in order for the environment not to go wrong. Each and every molecule, organism and ecosystem found a way to interact in order for species, like us, to survive here. It is so scary what is happening in the Anthropocene, but we see this greater intelligence as something good. It is good in many ways, but I believe humans have simply gotten to smart for our own good, and not wise enough. We wouldn’t need to modify our environments and engineer microbials in our soils if we had not caused a these system shocks such as climate change in the first place. And of course healthy soils are more resilient to these system shocks, so how do we make them healthy again? Our first solution always involves technology. But how we are building these equipment is not so environmentally friendly, due to all the harmful chemicals needed to make machines run in the first place. What do we do to recycle those machines when they stop working? But as we explored in discussion in this class, can we to backwards in time mentally and physically to when we nourished the earth more and had a more natural approach? I think this would be very difficult, considering we automatically rely on the experts and technology to solve our issues.

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