i recently gave a little talk at washington university

posted November 14, 2009

Its a university in St. Louis Missouri.
I visited a history of agriculture class.
The professor was making a lot of assertions about sustainability, and the obsolescence of various simple yet sophisticated farming practices/equipment. It was quite infuriating.

Luckily I had a tiny chance for rebuttal. The Long Now Foundation in San Francisco recently sponsored a talk about the Balinese Rice Paddies, and the complex voodoo and social practices that govern the flow of the irrigation waters through these super-concentrateed highly productive topographies of paddies.

Basically. There are temples and yearly rituals and shamanist practices that govern the flow and timing of the waterways– but there are also cultural needs of the rice plants, planting lapses for pest control, nurseries for baby rice plants etc. to be considered.

The fellow who gave the talk (from harvard business school) went to the trouble of modeling all the possible variations for the waterflow management–with a computer algorythm of some kind–(its in the talk) basically what he discovered was that the voodoo worked– the rice communiies had chosen the most effective order. Amazing.

Anyway, our friend, hero and advisor Rick Prelinger is giving his famous landscapes talk at the Long Now’s favorite venue, Herbst Theatre, in San Francisco.

I only wish that the students at Washington LeeĀ  had their imaginations set free by the anarchist achivists, instead of taught how to dismiss indigenous farming traditions as archaic, charming and hopeless by tall, handsome and quite flusterfull young professors.

Long Now’s seminar series (SALT – Seminars About Long-Term Thinking) is available in podcast form here