By Tito Sasaki
Survival is the very basic drive in our life, both individually and collectively. To survive we need food; for human species to continue we need sex. So, we are doomed to grapple with food and sex. Luckily we are expert in both subjects.
Our expertise in food production is well accepted. That in sex, however, may not. True, our expertise there is primarily in pollination or, at best, AI. (Not to be confused with Artificial Intelligence. We don’t want to breed too clever a cow.) We apply such expertise to species other than our own.
Agriculture is the only major industry devoted to propagation of non-human species. We are unique in having abundant experience, accumulated knowledge, and proven skills in protecting and nurturing other species.
You might think it is rather unnatural to take care of other species. In a sense it is. Most species are designed to protect only their own.
There are, however, many cases of two species benefiting from each other, known as symbiosis. The most familiar example is that of the bee and the fruit flower: bees get nectar, and flowers get pollination service. Less known is the leafcutter ant’s life. These ants cultivate fungus for their food. The fungus lives on the leaf mulch that the ants spread on their fungal farms. Some ants go out to collect leaves and transport them to the colony. There, other ants process them into tiny pieces; then another group spreads them and monitors the growth of fungi. If certain leaves turn out detrimental to fungal growth, they order different leaves. They take good care of the fungus in exchange for food security.
So, agriculture is natural, and it is natural to take care of other species when there are mutual benefits. Unlike some lucky species such as tiger salamander and lamprey, we don’t have other species going out of their way to protect us. We must first protect the human species’ survival. We do it by protecting and raising other species that help our survival. You may call it our way of performing the sex duty.
As for food, despite a shrinking supply of land and water and an increasing supply of onerous regulations and lawsuits, we are managing to produce enough food for everyone on earth. We still have malnutrition problems, but their causes are non-agricultural.
In this nation, the top food-related issue is obesity. Nearly a third of the adult population is obese, costing our society some $200-B a year.
At the other end of the spectrum, one in six Americans is said to be struggling with hunger. This figure hasn’t changed much over the past half century because of the economic cycles and uneven social welfare programs.
One steady development in recent decades is the rise of private hunger relief services such as food banks, their distribution outlets, and Meals on Wheels. For regulatory concerns, food banks are moving away from fresh food and depending more on preserved food. Ag Against Hunger, a joint program by the Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito county growers and Farm Bureaus, provides gleaned fresh produce to fill the void.
These voluntary activities are now an important part of our society. The political left accuses such private actions as undermining the power of government to provide for the poor. But food banks etc. surged precisely when social welfare programs faltered. When there is hunger, it is everyone’s moral duty to help the needy by putting the turf war aside.