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Chris Smaje

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Chris Smaje credit Cordelia Rowlatt.jpg
Chris Smaje credit Cordelia Rowlatt.jpg
Chris Smaje
Agroecologist. Author

Chris Smaje has co-worked on a small farm in Somerset, southwest England, since 2007. Smaje is the author of A Small Farm Future, writes the blog at www.smallfarmfuture.org.uk and is a featured author at resilience.org.

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Chris Smaje has co-worked on a small farm in Somerset, southwest England, since 2007. Smaje is the author of A Small Farm Future, writes the blog at www.smallfarmfuture.org.uk and is a featured author at Resilience.org.

Previously, he was a university-based social scientist, working in the department of sociology at the University of Surrey and the department of anthropology at Goldsmiths College on social policy, social identities, and the environment.

Since switching focus to the practice and politics of agroecology, Smaje has written for publications such as The Land, Dark Mountain, Permaculture magazine and Statistics Views, as well as academic journals such as Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems and the Journal of Consumer Culture.

Climate breakdown is driven by and threatens our current food production systems. So how can we feed the world?
The Ecologist | 2023

My book Saying NO to a Farm-Free Future involves a critique of George Monbiot’s recent book about the future of the food and farming system, Regenesis. George responded with his essay, The cruel fantasies of well-fed people. In this brief reply, I’ll try to characterise some of the main issues of substance dividing us.

But let’s begin with three points of agreement I believe I have with George. First, we face potentially catastrophic global heating, largely caused by the use of fossil fuels, which demands immediate radical action. Second, a human-caused collapse of biodiversity and natural ecosystems is underway. And third, changing the food and farming sector is critical to addressing the first two problems.

On this third point, George and I diverge sharply over the nature of the necessary changes. In Saying NO, I argue for low-energy input, job-rich, local agricultures – what I call ‘agrarian localism’, and others refer to as ‘the peasant food web’. Ultimately, this goes hand in hand with a less urbanised world than now. I see this not as cruel fantasy but the most benign reality now achievable.

Publications by this author
Making the Case for a Society Built Around Local Economies, Self-Provisioning, Agricultural Diversity and a Shared Earth
Chelsea Green Publishing | October 2020

A modern classic of the new agrarianism

“Chris Smaje…shows that the choice is clear. Either we have a small farm future, or we face collapse and extinction.”—Vandana Shiva

“Every young person should read this book.”—Richard Heinberg

In a groundbreaking debut, farmer and social scientist Chris Smaje argues that organizing society around small-scale farming offers the soundest, sanest and most reasonable response to climate change and other crises of civilisation—and will yield humanity’s best chance at survival.

Drawing on a vast range of sources from across a multitude of disciplines, A Small Farm Future analyses the complex forces that make societal change inevitable; explains how low-carbon, locally self-reliant agrarian communities can empower us to successfully confront these changes head on; and explores the pathways for delivering this vision politically.

Challenging both conventional wisdom and utopian blueprints, A Small Farm Future offers rigorous original analysis of wicked problems and hidden opportunities in a way that illuminates the path toward functional local economies, effective self-provisioning, agricultural diversity and a shared earth.

Perfect for readers of both Wendell Berry and Thomas Piketty, A Small Farm Future is a refreshing, new outlook on a way forward for society—and a vital resource for activists, students, policy makers, and anyone looking to enact change.

Interview | 2024

As impending climate calamity looms and we approach the limits of our industrial agriculture system, all sorts of food production interventions are percolating. Supposedly, they'll help pull us back from the brink of environmental destruction. From the rewilding of the earth to hedge fund-backed food simulacra start-ups, the production and consumption of food have never been more philosophically fraught. Chris Smaje wrote Saying NO to a Farm-Free Future: The Case for an Ecological Food System and Against Manufactured Foods as a direct response to George Monbiot's 2022 book, Regenesis, because he believes small-scale farms, not biotech food solutions, are critical to our survival.

Interview | December 2023

DO podcast alumnus Chris Smaje (@csmaje) returns to deflect eco-modernist criticisms of his agrarian vision laid out in “A Small Farm Future” and most recent book “Saying NO to a Farm-Free Future.”

Specifically, we examine evidence for the claim that traditional/territorial food webs supply 70-80% of the nutrition people intake globally, and discuss what this means for the potential of small biodiverse farming to “feed the world.”

Reasons for dispute of this claim include that much food production in traditional local food webs is “invisibilized” to top-down technocrats using data collected of commodity crops produced for the industrial food chain. This is one of several blind spots we discuss that characterize elites’ and technocrats’ worldviews, and partially explains why their prescriptions fail to deliver on promised sustainability and “equity” goals.

In this episode, Chris, Jason and Josh ponder whether it’s worth it trying to persuade technocratic elites of their errors, or instead turn our attention and efforts to different natural constituencies better oriented to implementing diverse approaches to agrarian bioregionalism. We consider what barriers people may face to getting involved and how to overcome those barriers.

The whole conversation pivots on the notion of Bioregional Self-Provision as a method for securing resilience for affluent-but-fragile “developed” regions while alleviating ecosystem degradation and impoverishing exploitation on poor peripheral “underdeveloped” regions, facilitating their own self-provision from local resources.

Chris’ website, blog, and links to books:

https://chrissmaje.com

ETC Group report: “Small-scale farmers and peasants still feed the world

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