Ministries for the Future: Conversations on the Future of Agriculture with Kim Stanley Robinson and Donna Haraway

By Jessica Diggs 

The UC Davis Student Community Center recently hosted an event called, “Ministries for the Future,” featuring discussions between renowned science fiction author, Kim Stanley Robinson, and prominent humanities scholar and Distinguished Professor emerita at UC Santa Cruz, Donna Haraway. Coordinated in part by the UC Davis English Department, the event was held to celebrate the new Environmental Humanities Designated Emphasis graduate program. The conversation covered many topics concerning environmental issues, including regenerative agriculture. 

According to the National Resource Defense Council, regenerative agriculture is “a philosophy and approach to land management” that is focused on how “all aspects of agriculture are connected through a web—a network of entities who grow, enhance, exchange, distribute, and consume goods and services—instead of a linear supply chain.”

The event, which was open to the public, drew a significant crowd. By the time Robinson and Haraway took their places behind the microphones, no seats were left. Many attendees sat on the floor or stood in open doorways to listen. There were also many people watching the conversation over a live stream.

At one point in the discussion, Robinson, best known for his trilogy of Mars novels, recalled a talk he had recently given in that same room a few weeks prior addressing an agricultural student club. 

“The room was about as full as it is now of students interested in changing agriculture for the better.”  

As the speakers began to discuss sustainable agricultural practices and the role of universities like UC Davis to implement them, Robinson argued that UC Davis should be at the center of regenerative agriculture. He also mentioned that the scholars that argue on behalf of the merits of regenerative practices should not only be those in the Agricultural Department, but those in the Environmental Humanities as well. 

“[It will take] the humanities going to the administration and saying, ‘you have a moral obligation that’s philosophical, it’s historical, it’s political, it’s economic.’ All of the things that are not the actual agricultural professor’s [areas of focus] because they are stuck in a paradigm that needs to be transcended.”  

Roberta Millstein, a philosophy professor at UC Davis whose research has included environmental ethics, attended the event and praised the speakers for their contributions to the discussion of regenerative agriculture. 

Millstein also responded to a comment made by Robinson during the event, posting her thoughts to the Davisite blog. The comment in question was Robinson’s assertion that it is “UC Davis’ job to invent regenerative agriculture and push it out into the world.” 

Millstein replied to this by writing, “Regenerative agriculture is already happening, but if UC Davis’s researchers were to turn their skills to it in earnest, techniques could be developed to enhance its efficiency and practicality.” Despite the event’s conversations that focused on the worsening situation of the planet, both speakers offered views of optimism.  

Haraway said that “while we’re living at a moment of incredible damage and danger, we are also living at a time where the genuine possibility of a good life for the born ones, the genuine possibility of a life of flourishing without an ongoing escalation of extraction and extortion of the planet—that it actually is possible to build good lives for we 8-plus billions.” 

Robinson added, “We are not futureless,” indicating that practices like regenerative agriculture, as well as the increasingly interdisciplinary scholarship engaging with environmental issues, are good reasons to have hope for the survival of life on earth. 

The live-streamed recording of the event can be viewed here

To learn more about Robinson’s work, visit his website. Information about Haraway can be found on UC Santa Cruz’s website.

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