Your Garden in the Year 2000

From 1966, Robert Rodale speculates about the future of gardening and food production.

By Robert Rodale

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Mr. Ellul's big worry about this inevitable march of progress is that it lacks guidance and purpose. Our present commercial technique of fruit growing in effect dominates most fruit growers, who must follow the system worked out by so many other people.  That is just one example of technique. The individual has become a cog in the wheel. Our future world will be shaped, says Ellul, by many people advancing the art of many techniques, with no one person or group having the power to steer developments in directions that will truly benefit mankind. Anything technical that is possible to do will be done. A supersonic transport plane will be built and used, even though it is doubtful whether the added speed of travel will compensate mankind sufficiently for the damage done to everyone's lives by continual sonic booms. Man will go to the moon, if only to make sure that he gets there before someone else. No person alive has the power to decide whether the cost of that trip might have been better spent in purifying our environment or in other ways to make our lives more pleasant. Technique is in the driver's seat.

Political or religious boundaries mean little to the force of technique. Under communism or capitalism, it is at work. People everywhere are learning that the routine of their lives is being molded by new systems and devices. Television holds people in thraldom around the world, returning little in the way of education or outstanding entertainment. The advantages of modern city life are being submerged in noise, crowding and dirt. "Man is gradually losing his illusions about technique and his bedazzlement with it," says Ellul. "He is becoming aware that he has not created an instrument of freedom but a new set of chains."

What hope is there for a future life of emancipation from technique? Only a massive uprising of the people in revolt against "the system" will do the trick, believes Jacques Ellul, although he does not predict that it will happen. Everyone would have to set out on a deliberate nonconformist course, a highly unlikely occurrence. Movements of reform and technical revolution—such as the organic gardening and farming movement—reflect the disenchantment of a segment of the public with a portion of "the system." You and I are building a shelter against technique on our own homesteads, where we strive to use natural methods to the greatest extent, I but unless we could get everyone to do likewise in a free and unconstrained manner we would not be altering the course of the whole technical system of gardening and farming.

Let's return to our original subject—your garden in the year 2000. What will it be like? Although synthetic food may be made in large amounts and many people will use it, man won’t lose his taste for a fresh tomato or a sweet ear of corn-on-the-cob in the next 35 years. If anything, he will be hungrier for them than he is today. And he will cherish a lush, green lawn and beds of flowers even more than today as visual relief from the starkness of the city. But whether he will be really free enough in spirit to enjoy those pleasures depends on the extent to which we can keep our lives from being dominated by technique, if Jacques Ellul is to be believed. 

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