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Berry responds to Dyson's "Our Biotech Future"
Emily Gertz, 20 Sep 07

The debate between techno-utopians and more traditional community and farm advocates on how to achieve true agricultural sustainability is about as contentious as the one about whether meat-eaters can really be environmentalists. Freeman Dyson flew the banner of tech positivism in a recent issue of The New York Review Books with "Our Biotech Future," and now one of America's most respected and eloquent voices for respecting the land, Wendell Berry, has replied in the letters column. He writes in part,

...Mr. Dyson sees high technology as "marching from triumph to triumph with the advent of personal computers and GPS receivers and digital cameras," and he foretells the coming of a "domesticated" biotechnology that will become the plaything and art form of "housewives and children," that "will give us an explosion of diversity of new living creatures, rather than the monoculture crops that the big corporations prefer," and will solve "the problem of rural poverty."

This of course is only another item in a long wish list of techno-scientific panaceas that includes the "labor-saving" industrialization of virtually everything, eugenics (the ghost and possibility that haunts genetic engineering), chemistry (for "better living"), the "peaceful atom," the Green Revolution, television, the space program, and computers. All those have been boosted, by prophets like Mr. Dyson, as benefits essentially without costs, assets without debits, in spite of their drawdown of necessary material and cultural resources. Such prophecies are in fact only sales talk—and sales talk, moreover, by sellers under no pressure to guarantee their products.

Check out this exchange; it's an informative clashing of two top minds on issues central to creating more sustainable systems.

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