I'd like to respond to Stu Rose's concerns in his letter of
July 13, 2006.
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I'm sure we share similar concerns, but my nature is to have
an optimistic outlook.
Rather than a point-for-point reply, I think the biggest
single factor to realize is that much of the world never learned
or adopted best practices in agriculture, before the Green
Revolution short-circuited them to tractors and pesticides.
What areas today still dependent on human power could not
benefit greatly by the introduction of horses, allowing for
more timely and proper cultivation (not to mention fertility)?
What areas today reliant on tractors and/or pesticides could
not benefit from a more sustainable approach, building soil
health to achieve not temporary maximum yields but long-term,
stable and predictable yields?
The U.S. moved to tractors partially as a response to continuing
loss of manpower available for agriculture. It's my impression
that this is not an issue in much of the developing world
- manpower is available, and matching that to horsepower should
allow them to dramatically improve their output for relatively
Of course, this all takes developing stable politics in some
areas. It requires developing best practices for horse-powered
farming in non-temperate areas, and it requires developing
extension services for developing countries. It probably also
requires micro-banking oriented towards developing these farms.
But in response to climate change and increasing energy costs,
I see the potential not for a world-wide collapse but doing
what humans have for millennia—use their heads to adapt
their actions to a changing world. And in this case, expanding
draft animal husbandry may hold the key for developing nations.