From GENE LOGSDON
Millions, yes millions, of Chinese rural people (by definition, small scale farmers) are being uprooted from their land and moved to high-rise apartments. The smallholders are being paid to move and supposedly provision is being made to supply them with jobs and security in future years but when I see pictures of the forests of high rises that are going up for these country people to live in, I am horrified. I can’t imagine how the government can afford the cost of such fast-paced, large-scale urbanization and I definitely don’t believe it is sustainable, trading in self-sufficiency for utter dependency on urban economics and fossil fuel energy.
I quote from the NYTimes of June 16: “If half of China’s population starts consuming, growth is inevitable,” said Li Xiangyang, vice director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics, part of a government research institute. “Right now they are living in rural areas where they do not consume.” To an old country boy, this is terrifyingly wrongheaded thinking. All the new high rises going up, and not just in China, are to me the modern version of the pyramids, an example of yet another society gone berserk with what it thinks is infinitely available cheap energy. The pyramids did it with cheap human labor, we do it today with cheap fossil fuel.
One can argue that the Chinese are only trying to do in a few years, what it took the United States to do in a century with so-called capitalism. We saw our population shift from 90% rural to 90% urban. We saw government, influenced by books like Wheeler MacMillan’s 1929 book, “Too Many Farmers,” embrace the kind of economics that supports the uprooting of small landholders. At least with so-called capitalism, the change came more gradually so that people had a generation or two to adjust. But more and more people are saying that what has happened as a result is not good. We are learning that a nation of consumers, which China seems so anxious to establish in a great big hurry, is not sustainable. What wonderful books will eventually be written about this great irony. While a revolution is going on to uproot independent farmers in China, a revolution is going on in the United States to root a viable local food and farmer society back in the ground again.
Why does rural society inevitably gravitate into the cities, either by force or by choice? It appears that in this case, some of the peasant farmers in China like the idea of moving into high rises. I can’t figure it out for sure. Can you? My best bet so far is that the lure of cash money is more powerful than the lure of independence when independence can only come with what seems to be unpleasant physical labor. Food independence means someone has to do the work and only a small portion of the human race seems genetically programmed to like that work. The rest choose money and the promises of ease that it seems to offer. By the time the laboring classes figure out that it just ain’t so, they are trapped, often in jobs far more uncomfortable than hoeing corn rows. Yet parents and teachers continue to educate children to go to the city “to make something of themselves.” That is an awful mistake especially now when electronics brings the whole world to our doors. A landscape of high rises will become the new ghettoes. Or, with just a slight drop in the amount of electricity available, they will turn into high rise mausoleums.