In the 1980s, I met a retired general at a Borders bookstore in northern Virginia. He used to buy tons of military history books. I used to buy environmental and classics books. We started talking about books. But, slowly, in our discussion of Latin America, I criticized American policies, especially the immoral support of landlords against landless peasants.
“If I knew you a few years ago, I would take you outside the town and shoot you,” he said to me.
I dismissed this vicious threat as a sign the old man was crazy. But the threat, nevertheless, mirrors the invisible war around farming, food, and the environment. I felt the tension of that ceaseless war for decades.
In January 28 – February 1, 1992, I was attending an international climate and development conference in Brazil. I was one of the speakers addressing agrarian reform.
I argued that it was necessary for governments and international institutions to protect peasant farmers from the violence of large industrialized farmers. Moreover, Brazil and many other countries, including the United States, should give land to peasants and very small family farmers because the farming they practice has had negligible impact on climate change. In contrast, agribusiness and, especially animal farms, are having significant effects on global warming.
Taking this position in 1992, apparently, was controversial. Once at the conference in the gorgeous city of Fortaleza, Ceara, Northeast Brazil, I learned I would not be delivering my paper. Instead, I joined a few professors in a small room wasting our time: debating agrarian reform and drawing recommendations destined to oblivion.
Fear in the countryside
This is just one example of what happens to unwelcomed ideas. Governments ignore or suppress them. Powerful media refuse to publish them. Advocates of those ideas often abandon them. Sometimes, they risk death.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…