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5.0 out of 5 stars a revolutionary worldview and philosophy, 17 April 2013
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This review is from: Sowing Seeds in the Desert: Natural Farming, Global Restoration and Ultimate Food Security (Hardcover)
This was the third of 3 books (translated into English) by this amazing Japanese farmer and philosopher. This last work is probably his most important. Fukuoka shares more of his philosophy and writes - in the later part of the book - about his world travels (via government and university invitations) to revegetate the deserts of the world using natural farming. Comparatively little-known here, Fukuoka (RIP) is famous in India, where his techniques are being used to revive desert areas.

His communion with nature created, over the years, a natural farming technique requiring no machinery (no ploughing or digging, ever!) or fossil fuel, no chemicals, no prepared compost and very little weeding. Yields are comparable to the most productive farms. Natural farming creates no pollution and the fertility of the fields improves with each season. He calls it "do-nothing farming" but it is more like "do-little" (harvesting is the most laborious part of the year).

The author explains how modern agriculture, including organic farming, appears to be increasing yields but net productivity is actually decreasing - and how modern agricultural methods are actually creating new deserts. In his words "if we compare the energy required to produce a crop of grain with the energy harvested in the food itself, we find a disturbing trend. [Decades] ago in the US, each calorie of energy invested to grow grain resulted in a yield of about two calories of grain." A couple of decades later, the two figures became equal. By 1996, when this book was originally published in Japan, "the investment of two calories of energy produces only one calorie of grain. This is largely because of the shift from using such things as hand labour, draft animals, and cover crops to using machinery and chemicals, which also require factories to create the tractors and chemicals, and mining and drilling to produce the raw materials, and fossil fuels...As mechanisation was introduced...increased harvests became the overriding goal and efficiency declined sharply [the opposite of what we are continually being told, of course]."

Fukuoka points out that the emperor has no clothes. "Self-contradiction is most evident in the decline in energy efficiency. In his fascination with ever greater sources of energy, man has moved from the heat of the fireplace to electrical generation with a water wheel to thermal power generation to nuclear power. But he closes his eyes to the fact that the efficiency of these sources (ratio of total energy input to total energy output) has worsened exponentially in the same order. Because he refuses to acknowledge this, internal contradiction continues to accumulate and will soon reach explosive levels.

"Some scientists believe that, if nuclear energy dries up, we should turn to solar energy or wind power, which are non-polluting and do not engender contradictions. But these will only continue the decline in energy efficiency and, if anything, will accelerate the speed at which man heads toward destruction. Until man notices that scientific truth is not the same as absolute truth and turns his system of values on its head, he will continue to rush blindly onward towards self-destruction...Natural farming is the only future for man."

The author's ideal situation for raising cows and other farm animals would be in fields where "the flowers of clover and vegetables would bloom in an orchard of trees laden with fruit and nuts. Bees would fly among the barley and wild mustard that had been sown here and there and later reseeded by themselves. Chickens and rabbits would forage on whatever they could find. Ducks and geese would paddle about in the ponds with fish swimming below. At the foot of the hills and in the valleys, pigs and wild boars would fatten themselves on worms and crayfish, while goats would occasionally peek out from among the trees in the woods. Scenery like this can still be found in the poor villages of some countries not yet swallowed up by modern civilisation. The real question is whether we see this way of life as uneconomical and primitive, or as a superb organic community in which people, animals, and nature are one. A pleasant living environment for animals is also a utopia for human beings."
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