May 17, 2019

Book Review: The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukouka

This book was recommended to me by so many people. I purchased a copy last year but didn't make the time to read it. While reading Mansoor Khan's "The third curve", I noticed that he has mentioned this book in his list of recommendations. That was the "last straw" for me to pick up this brilliant book, which I managed to finish it in 3 days.

I'm starting to believe this statement - "When the reader is ready, the book appears."

Coming to this book, Masanobu Fukuoka talks about the perils of modern agriculture and why return to "do-nothing" / natural farming is the need of the hour. Simplistic, easy to relate, hard-hitting and brilliant writing that I was totally hooked onto this book for the past 3 days. Having been reading up about food and nutrition for the past 7 years, it is a natural transition for me to invest efforts in understanding where and how our food comes from. 

The author starts off with talking about his personal experiences in transitioning to natural farming, growing rice, clover and other grains in his farm. He diligently follows four principles of farming - no cultivation (no plowing of the soil), no chemical fertilizer or prepared compost, no weeding by using herbicides and no dependence on chemicals. For someone with no exposure to farming like me, the chapters that elaborate on these principles would be fascinating to read. 

The second half of the book emphasizes a lot about living in harmony with nature, growing crops according to the season and eating habits that focus on eating simple, local and wholesome foods. The questions the author keeps raising throughout the book related to food, industrial growth, ambition, education, sustainability etc are so impactful that your mind expands to see new horizons. 

Here are a few passages from the book that I liked:

"The consumer's willingness to pay high prices for food produced out of season has also contributed to the increased usage of artificial growing methods and chemicals"
"Until there is a reversal of the sense of values which cares more for size and appearance than for quality, there will be no solving the problem of food pollution."
"Produce grown in an unnatural way satisfies people's fleeting desires but weakens the human body and alters the body chemistry so that is dependent upon such foods."

Until a few years back, cauliflower used to be only available for 3-4 months in winter but it is now available throughout the year. There's hardly any taste whatsoever, but people continue to buy cauliflower as it is being considered a "low calorie" vegetable. The same applies to various fruits and vegetables these days.

The chapter on pricing natural foods was a revelation to me. I had always thought that growing natural foods is expensive and that's the reason for the premium pricing of organic foods. But the author provides a different view:

"Growing fruit without applying chemicals, using fertilizer or cultivating the soil involves less expense and the farmer's net profit is therefore higher."
"As for the consumer, the common belief has been that natural food should be expensive. If it is not expensive, people suspect that it is not natural food."

The lines I absolutely loved:

"If we do have a food crisis it will not be caused by the insufficiency of nature's productive power but by the extravagance of human desire."

"When a naive scientific knowledge becomes the basis of living, people come to live as if they are dependent only on starch, fats and protein, and plants on nitrogen, phosphorus and potash."

I'll stop here, as there are so many such powerful lines/phrases that I have underlined throughout the book.

If food interests you, then this is one book you shouldn't miss out.

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