OVERRIDE

Against the Grain

How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization

Richard Manning

North Point Press

In this important study, Richard Manning narrates a fascinating revisionist history of agriculture, from the domestication of plants and animals ten thousand years ago to today's corporate megafarms. Instead of a bucolic Ur-myth, Manning portrays an enterprise that was from its inception expansionist, and that did not so much accompany colonialism as drive it. Drawing on the work of anthropologists, biologists, archaeologists, and historians, as well as on his own extensive research, Manning traces a commodification of grain that has reached its apex in contemporary agribusiness, and that has helped build some of the most familiar—and dysfunctional—features of today's political and economic landscape.

In the process, Manning shows here, agriculture not only overran native peoples and species but also pushed past the limits of land itself—and finally into the water, where we now farm fish. At the same time, it served up—for the masses of poor people it produced—a high-carb, sugar-laden, monotonous diet, and in doing so undermined the mental and physical fitness, sensory alertness, and egalitarianism that characterized our species in the 290,000 years before agriculture, when we were, Manning believes, at our most human.

It would be fair to say, as the author bravely asserts, that agriculture has actually domesticated—enslaved—us. Thus he offers thoughts in how we might recontour our path, personally and collectively, to resurrect what is most sustaining to both our own nature and the planet's.

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Against the Grain
AROUSALIt is high summer at my mountainside home in Montana, when days are long at this latitude. The season is, if not yet desperate, at least frenzied, because we who live in the northern Rockies know that the climate makes life difficult when winter comes. The cold comes fast, so flora and fauna grab for photosynthesis or its various derivatives while they can, in a constant buzz and bustle. The observer of all this sees a race for a more prominent seat in the sun: set seed sooner, get taller faster to shade a rival, learn to grow in a bare spot no other can tolerate, secrete
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REVIEWS

Praise for Against the Grain

"An exhilarating and provocative questioning of our most ingrained beliefs about how we get our food and why. A must read for anyone concerned about the intimate couplings of man, plant, and beast." --Betty Fussell, author of The Story of Corn

"Against the Grain is a brilliant, provocative book. Where environmental journalism is concerned, Richard Manning is at the head of the class." --Larry McMurtry

"Richard Manning's important new book is radical in the very best sense, taking agriculture by the roots to make a bracing case that unless we manage to tame this environmental juggernaut it will ruin our health and the health of the planet." --Michael Pollan

"Against The Grain is both fascinating and frightening. But Manning reports more than bad news--he also suggests solutions. This is an important book. Let's hope it's widely read, and that its urgent message reaches our leaders. As it will, if we insist loudly enough." --William Kittredge, author of The Nature of Generosity

"Against the Grain is an important book. It effectively upends the assumption that domesticating agriculture thousands of years ago improved lives then and now. Instead agriculture domesticated people. Manning brings the concentration of the hunter-gatherer to his subject. The writing is taut and powerful. He shows how with agriculture diets deteriorated, workload increased, and social inequities soared. We have become distanced from our very natures as sensual human beings. Agriculture's quest is products. As grain production rose, it required more outlets, so we eat what needs to be sold. Manning points the way to restored health for humanity and for ecosystems: a counteragriculture of food rather than food products. Diversify what gets planted, raised, and eaten to go against the grain." --Deborah Popper, geographer at City University of New York's College of Staten Island

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Richard Manning

  • Richard Manning is the author of Last Stand, A Good House, Grassland, One Round River, and Food's Frontier. He lives in Montana.
  • Richard Manning © Michael Gallacher
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Available Formats and Book Details

Against the Grain

How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization

Richard Manning

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

North Point Press

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