To catch the 7:04 sunrise, we left in the early dark. Along the forty minute drive, we savored hot coffee and morning stillness while alert for deer. As the cityscape unraveled into countryside, we felt ourselves expand. The dawn revealed sheer white sheets of mist over fields of late soybean, speckled golden brown. At times skunk peppered the cold air.
As we approached the fields we sought a path, not wanting to disturb or trample vegetation underfoot. But the ground was hard soil without mulch or weeds. Maybe a stray morning glory vine or bindweed, but it was mostly barren. This field of gorgeous sunflowers typified industrial farming. This was monoculture. Of course it was. What did I expect?
Monoculture is destructive. It hinders beings from living where and how they're naturally inclined to, as multi-species ecosystems. Healthy ecosystems present a pluralistic population that cohabitate in mutually beneficial, self-sustaining ways. A mono-crop field, in this case for sunflowers, requires intensive chemical intervention. Because the inputs to maintain an artificial habitat for a target species compromise that habitat, more chemicals are required to support the species, which degrades water, air and soil.
Our ecological collapse and extinction crisis are driven in large part by monoculture. How can I celebrate this albeit stunning instance of it, knowing it is the brainchild of practices that ruin habitats for living beings?
I stood on the cracked bald ground, a haze obscuring the sunrise. I felt sad. What is monoculture but the elevation or separation of a species, breed or genetic strain at the expense of others? At the expense of the collective good? I know this seems a stretch, but glorification of monoculture is connected to ethnic cleansing, racial profiling and race based subjugation that have devastated people the world over. Besides, there is little life for these sunflowers shivering in the morning cool when you think about what life could have been if they existed in a prairie or plains ecosystem with the other plants, critters and insects that make up their natural family. Were they lonely?