Agriculture, if used in a “commonsensical way” confuses more than it illuminates. This is why Jason Godesky wrote “Why Words Matter”. Here it is again:
Daniel Quinn did not use this anthropological definition of agriculture. In order to have a common language to discuss sustainable subsistence strategies, we use this definition. In order to have a conversation here that is on the same page, you need to use our common definition. Because anthropologists use this same definition, and we are inextricably linked to anthropological study, we use it too.
To post on here saying that agriculture is not inherently destructive makes for some serious confusion because you are redefining agriculture for your own purposes and not starting out by saying that. You’re using agriculture as a synonym for cultivation and that makes it very confusing to me, since I’ve never seen a rewilder say that cultivation is, in your words, “Bad”.
However, we have seen many kinds of cultivation and their long term effects on the environment and created a common language to describe these methods: agriculture, horticulture, silvaculture, permaculture, etc. This is where the conversations about subsistence have led us as an anthropological culture. Agriculture, in our rewilding language, does not mean cultivation. It means a specific kind of cultivation.
You seem to imply that intensification is “bad” not “agriculture” or cultivation. Intensification of food production does not always lead to collapse of ecosystems. Population growth does not always lead to collapse of social order. But they tend to. Agriculture (using the anthropological definition here) is different then the other cultivation strategies because, when used as the main cultivation technique of a culture, when intensifying agriculture, you destroy the soil which is the base of an ecosystem.
If you were to intensify horticulture on the other hand, you would end up with old growth forests. Because it’s succession based, not field based like agri (field) culture (cultivation).
There are many more modern factors to agriculture or field cultivation that make it worse. For example, if you were to use fire to maintain fields as natives have did in the prairie, that would be a form of agriculture. However, the plants growing in the field wasn’t their main staple of food, it was the buffalo, deer and elk. So they didn’t have to be too specific about the plants or rather, too controlling. The other thing that really drove our civilization’s agricultural methods over board was the plow. the invention of the plow really fucked things up, and then even more with the intention of the steel plow.
Agriculture is just another method of cultivation, but when intensified to “full time” or “full blown” agriculturalism, you’ve got a serious problem for a zillion different reasons.
It seems like there are three premises behind what you are saying:
Agriculture is a synonym for cultivation
Agriculture (cultivation) is not inherently ‘bad’
“bad” means destructive to the land
Intensification is “bad”
Agriculture, anthropologically speaking, is not a synonym for cultivation. It is inherently destructive to the soil. If used all the time in the same spots, without leaving it to replenish itself, it will destroy the soil. I rarely hear rewilders say cultivation is destructive. Intensification is not inherently destructive. For example, you might intensify the growth of old growth trees.