Down the RIver with Edward Abbey and CAFOs

Following up on the question from the last post regarding the desirability of an ever-growing central Indiana, this post borrows three pertinent quips about the undesirability of unlimited growth from Edward Abbey’s Down the River:

“Unlimited growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”, and  

“Like fish, chickens, cows, pigs, and lambs, the rivers too are penned and domesticated and diverted through manifold ingenious ways– some which will not bear witnessing or thinking about– into the bottomless gut of the ever-expanding economy.” , and  

“We are slaves in the sense that we depend for our daily survival upon an expand-or-expire agro-industrial empire – a crackpot machine – that the specialists cannot comprehend and the managers cannot manage.  Which is, furthermore, devouring world resources at an exponential rate.”

Down the River was published in 1981— before the contemporary onslaught of ultra-hi-volume CAFOs— Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations which are now designed to confine many thousands of animals in deplorable and inhumane conditions.

There are a number of CAFOs located within the White River West Fork watershed and upstream of the planned reservoir.   It will be interesting to see to what extent, if at all, the Phase II feasibility study of the dam/reservoir will address the potential risks to water quality posed by CAFOs.

In its last session, the Indiana General Assembly came very close to passing a so-called “ag-gag” bill which would have criminalized watchdog reporting activities such as photographing potentially illegal, unsafe, or inhumane activities occurring in agricultural and other industrial operations.  That legislative and lobbying fiasco is reminiscent of Wendell Berry’s essay titled “Stupidity in Concentration” and his poignant criticism of animal confinement–

 “The principle of confinement in so-called animal science is derived from the industrial version of efficiency.  The designers of animal factories appear to have had in mind the example of concentration camps or prisons, the aim of which is to house and feed the greatest number in the in the smallest space at the least expense of money, labor and attention.  To subject innocent creatures to such treatment has long been recognized as heartless.  Animal factories make an economic virtue of heartlessness toward domestic animals, to which we humans owe instead a large debt of respect and gratitude.”

As quoted in CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations)— The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories,  Daniel Imhoff, editor, 2010

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