Nature Denatured . . .
One of my favorite NYT writers, Veryln Klinkenborg, is residing in southern California this semester, and he recently wrote an article on industrial farming in the San Joaquin Valley, "Lost in the Geometry of California's Farms" (May 4, 2013), an unsettling literary piece depicting a complex agricultural monstrosity that leaves nature entirely artificial, utterly alien, boundlessly inhumane:
There is something stunning in the way the soil has been engineered into precision. Every human imperfection linked with the word "farming" has been erased. The rows are machined. The earth is molded. The angles are more rigid, and more accurate . . . . This is no longer soil. It is infrastructure . . . . The vast regiments of nut and fruit trees, casting sparse shade on bare earth, seem to defy the word "orchard" . . . . A kind of landscape that once seemed barely imaginable now seems inevitable and necessary: that's the logic and the illusion . . . . I can't help marveling and despairing at the transformation, the way agriculture, here and elsewhere, has created a landscape that is fundamentally inhuman, devoid of people.How different from Klinkenborg's own farm in upstate New York, a farm with a variety of animals, both domesticated and wild, that change with the changing seasons, undergoing the rhythms of life and death.
What Klinkenborg describes here is neither alive nor dead, but undead, a terrain "[t]ransformed but not entirely unrecognizable," a zombie landscape . . .