Over the last 150 years or so, the human race has advanced so quickly that for much of that time our ability to make advancements far outweighed our ability to understand them. However, that’s no longer the case, and some of the destruction bred by our “advancements” should be enough to show we should take a little more time building our understanding of them before making them widespread. Our next chance? Agriculture
While we’re so lucky to live in the time we do, it’d be unwise not to recognize some of the damage we’ve done by relentlessly pushing forward. Our being unprepared for these advancements has given us years of work to do in order to reverse or mitigate the damage. With industrialization and the internet, we’re fighting an uphill battle, but maybe science-driven agriculture can be different.
The Effects of the Internet and Industrialization
First, it was industrialization, which we took about 80-100 years to catch onto the effects of. Now, it’s the effects of the internet and all the media that comes with it that are becoming apparent. We now have years of work to do in order to reverse the damage of the first and educate people on the dangers of the latter.
With industrialization, by now most people are aware of some of the damage it has caused. Fossil fuels, one of our main drivers in industrialization, account for much of that damage. From burning them to spilling them and ingesting their particulates from our food and air, they leave a residue that’s all around us. Even if you for some reason believe that climate change isn’t induced by people, you can sometimes visibly see the environmental damage of industrialization. You may see mutated fish, waters run dry after becoming wastewater in industrial practices, and whole landscapes that have become barren from pollutants, deforestation, or some combination of the two.
The effects of the internet and all that comes with it is something people are less aware of and that we are even further from knowing the scope of. However, at this point, there’s a few things we know for sure that need to be addressed immediately in order to limit the damage.
The big cost with the internet, aside from what comes with the industries it connects, is socially. We’ve already gathered enough data to know that immersing yourself in the internet and social media can result in people isolating themselves and degrading social skills. The lack of face-to-face interaction combined with desensitizing us to certain stimuluses and introducing us to new, non-organic ones like “liking” a status or photo has essentially turned many of us into addicts who seek stimulation from the internet and can’t see the obvious ways we’re isolating ourselves or prioritizing those stimuluses.
What’s Coming and How We Avoid Similar Dangers in Agriculture
The reason this conversation is so relevant now is because we’re coming up on a new front of change. We need to make sure that GMOs, new breeds of livestock, bringing animals back from extinction (in the traditional or literal sense), and anything where man is directly, scientifically altering nature is thoroughly tested and researched.
While the scientific method dates back to around the 1600’s, for much of that time, that method has been more for creation than research. As it was lamented in Jurassic Park with creating dinosaurs, scientists spent so much time thinking about if they could do things, they didn’t stop to think if they should. There’s lots of amazing things that are going to be on the table in our agricultural future, but overstepping could lead to more natural destruction that we can’t know the scope of.
Just a few problems with introducing new genetics and altering existing ones include: destroying food chains, creating weaker versions of current wildlife, and changing ecosystems in a variety of interconnected ways. Especially with the damage we’ve already done, we can’t afford to lose control of living organisms after we create them. They literally have a life of their own, so we need to take everything into consideration before we move forward. Even if we start delaying “advancements” by twenty years just to study them, it’ll be worth it to avoid thousands of years of backtracking or destroying our quality of life in the present.
Taking Our Time With What Matters Starting Now
The idea of testing every single thing is a little laughable and naive with how fast our society moves and the way our economics run, but a lack of long-term testing on things that fundamentally change the world’s landscape will continue to haunt us if we don’t change our ways. With these major developments in agriculture, we still have the chance.