Volatility

April 30, 2017

The Attack on the Leopold Center and the Destruction of Science

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Power dictates what kind of science is done. Most often, research which could benefit humanity is never funded in the first place, and scientists are indoctrinated against seeking to perform such research. Of the potentially infinite number of lines of scientific inquiry, humans can choose only a tiny fraction to pursue. This choice is almost never made on rational/scientific grounds. On the contrary, the choice is made on political and economic grounds and according to political and economic goals. Especially in the modern era of scientific professionalization and specialization, this choice is almost always made by existing political/economic elites. The axiom, “In any era the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class”, is nowhere more true than where it comes to how technology and science are chosen. STEM education takes place within the framework that considers corporate control and corporate profiteering to be normative. This is the water in which it swims, and it’s a rare cadre who even becomes conscious, let alone asks questions.
 
Less commonly, the system does provide some resources for true scientific inquiry. By this I mean, research which is neutral from the point of view of whether its results will support or condemn capitalist activity. Of course this institutional support is never more than pennies compared to the billions of dollars of public money distributed for avowedly pro-corporate research, i.e. “science” as corporate welfare. But even this piddling amount, which nevertheless is consistently the best investment the establishment ever makes from any objective point of view, is always at great risk of assault by the representatives of corporate power. Today Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture is slated to be killed off by rerouting most of its funding.
 
The Iowa state legislature, owned by agribusiness and presiding over the complete destruction of the state’s communities, economy, soil, and environment, just voted to starve the Leopold Center this way. Advocates of sustainable agriculture and real advocates of science are now trying to get the governor to veto the bill.
 
The modest amount of legislated funding for the Center will instead be redirected to agribusiness interests. This is typical of the massively lopsided funding structure which is dominant everywhere. Few universities have anything remotely like a Leopold Center in the first place but have always been 100% pro-corporate in their funding and research. The Gates Foundation is typical of pro-corporate “philanthropy” in giving a measly few dollars for what are allegedly “sustainable agriculture” projects. It then touts these for propaganda purposes in order to make its actions look scientific and responsive to the public good even as the vast majority of its disbursements are for pro-corporate projects. In a typical example, in the form of Cornell University’s “Alliance for Science” corporate philanthropy and a corporatized university collaborate to set up a junk science propaganda bureau on behalf of the corporate product genre, GMOs. Much of the funding comes from the Gates Foundation. With such gambits they’re following the longstanding pattern of the US government’s foreign aid scams. Almost all USAID money and “food aid” policy goes to pro-corporate and pro-globalization initiatives. USAID funds cosmetically “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” projects only for propaganda purposes, and once they’re away from the media eye these projects are often scams and always come under agency pressure to conform to corporate norms. See Food First’s World Hunger for copious details of USAID’s chicanery.
 
What does all this mean? Monsanto and the other giants of agribusiness have extracted massive profits. Why do they need a cent of publicly funded R&D help, let alone such a monumental level of corporate welfare? What’s more, in recent years these corporations have been dismantling their own research programs. This is in fact an admission of the intellectual and scientific bankruptcy of the entire industrial agricultural endeavor. In every reality-based way corporate industrial agriculture is a complete failure at every good it promised to deliver, is obscenely wasteful, and is horrifically destructive of human communities, real economies, the environment, and the soil and genetic basis of all future agriculture.
 
The only thing propping up the whole destructive mess is the current regime of entrenched power. Governments and corporations have enough concentrated power to enforce the domination of corporate industrial agriculture through economic and physical brute force, and that’s all they have. Even this system of force keeps faltering, and the elites keep being forced to concentrate power even further in order to maintain their brute momentum.
 
Clearly the day has come where actual technological research has reached the point of total attenuation and diminished returns, while science long ago disavowed industrial agriculture as a destructive failure. The day has come where the elites of the system no longer have any use at all for actual science. When an Iowa legislator flippantly says that the Leopold Center “has completed its mission” he’s speaking far more broadly and profoundly than he knows. Indeed from the corporate point of view all of science has completed its mission. At the same time their use of the idea of “science” as a fraudulent theme for propaganda and organization is becoming increasingly critical. This corporate propaganda project goes with the attempts of the scientism religion to sustain and aggrandize itself. Here we see the core of how corporate power and pseudo-science fundamentalism increasingly find their interests and goals to be identical.
 
 
Since power dictates what kind of science is done, it also dictates how truly rational and rigorous the practices are, and how honest and forthcoming the practitioners are about the results. The result is the same age-old practice of power: Establishment “science”, having been chosen to protect and increase the power of elites, is also practiced in order to bring about the elites’ desired result, not the result that rationality in search of truth would attain. The result is then publicized, not in an open, honest, descriptive way, but as a form of political propaganda, with all the usual propaganda methods applied to it, from suppression to secrecy to cherry-picking to distortion to tendentious interpretation to flat-out lies.
 
Therefore the Cornell Alliance’s pseudo-science is far more typical of today’s corporate science establishment than is any legitimate scientific research. The astronomically lopsided funding imbalance reflects this, assaults on the few legitimate scientific institutions like the Leopold Center reflect this, and most of all the near-consensus among system types that there’s simply no science left to be done at all wherever corporate PR themes are normative reflects this. Cornell and Gates, and the cultist fanboys who sign on to the lists circulated by the Cornell website, are smug in their fundamentalist assurance that whatever the Monsanto PR department decrees is the essence of science, no more and no less.
 
This is also the religious faith of the pro-corporate cadres and fanboys who “marched for science”. Where are they when it comes time to fight for a beleaguered practitioner of science like the Leopold Center? They’re nowhere to be seen because they’re part of the corporate consensus which believes that science = money and money = science. They’re part of the corporate science paradigm which decrees: Science is nothing more or less than whatever the corporations say it is. By now all of corporate science, which means almost all institutional science, including all research programs, is nothing but propaganda, part of a massive lie machine.
 
We see the basic fact. Where it comes to agronomic and ecological science, at the very least they don’t want to know. The corporate-dominated system doesn’t want to know, the average scientist and “marcher for science” doesn’t want to know, the average voter doesn’t want to know. If they wanted to know, the Leopold Center wouldn’t be getting the axe. If they wanted to know, the Leopold Center would be far more lavishly funded, and there would be hundreds of university centers just like it. If they wanted to know, they wouldn’t be actively or tacitly supporting Big Ag’s publicly funded lie machine. And this leads us to the fact that the system goes far beyond not wanting to know. It actively, systematically suppresses truth and all legitimate inquiry which would seek truth. The corporate system and the scientific establishment which is its helpmate together comprise a complete culture of the lie.
 
 
Therefore it’s easy to see why the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture is so odious, not just to corrupt legislators but to the whole culture of scientism and corporate “science”. Its founding mission, as encoded in the 1987 Iowa Groundwater Protection Act, is triply scientific in the true sense of the term and therefore abhorrent to corporate science and those who are religiously committed the paradigm:
 

(1) Identify the negative environmental and socioeconomic impacts of existing agricultural practices, (2) research and assist the development of alternative, more sustainable agricultural practices, and (3) inform the agricultural community and general public of the Center’s findings. It is important to recognize that this mandate creates, by design, a dynamic tension between conventional and alternative forms of agriculture. This tension is a healthy part of the Center’s work; it does not indicate the Center is failing to fulfill its mission or communicate effectively. The Center has a particular responsibility to focus on the environmental problems of agriculture and their solution.

 
According to the concept of the scientific method there is in fact supposed to be intense, thorough-going dynamic tension within the scientific community as everyone always works to see if they can falsify the work of everyone else. The fact that today’s corporate and scientific establishment and their parrots in the media and among techno-fanboys find such tension and falsification work to be intolerable is proof that there’s little left of legitimate science within the system framework. Within the limits of establishment research and publicity frameworks, we’re currently in a post-science and pre-science era where actual science has no room left. Only when the forces of human and ecological opposition become kinetic and destroy this destructive system will they open up the space for human innovation, including scientific innovation, to resume. But today we live in the time of the total bottleneck. The corporate system will do all it can to prevent every human and ecological attempt to restore the balance and resume human and evolutionary freedom.
 
 
Therefore, the Leopold Center is being targeted in part because it challenges the culture of lying and debunks the lies. It debunks the lies of industrial agriculture and exposes its failures and destructiveness. But we can’t stress enough that the Leopold Center’s primary activity is not this direct debunking. Rather, the Center assists and helps fund the rising community food sector which Big Ag rightly sees as its mortal enemy. The Center is targeted for assassination not because of its criticism, but because of its affirmative role toward the necessary great global transformation to agroecology.
 
 
 
 
Help propagate the necessary ideas.
 
 
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2 Comments »

  1. Dear Russ:

    Here, in Douglas County, Oregon, self-styled timber capital of the nation, a local, though not dissimilar effort by industry is underway. At the Umpqua Community College (UCC), staff with a more wholistic, eco-forward view of the regions forested watersheds, conceived and implemented a course of studies loosely called “Natural Resources.” This program aimed to differentiate itself from more typical forestry programs, designed either to transmit technical expertise with the requirements of industrial, short rotation, clear cut, mono-culture, chemical input logging; or to facilitate pass through to a four year school of “forestry,” such as at Oregon State University.

    Students in the natural resources program were availed of courses that exposed them to the intricate web of interconnections between species, above and below the forest floor. Issues critical to hydrology, wildlife, biodiversity, connectivity, etc. are offered. Students can obtain a two year technical degree or proceed on to OSU to pursue more eco-centric careers; careers whose disciplines, research and findings may well fly in the face of industrial timber management.

    Next month’s election for members of the UCC Board of Directors has been a very different contest from past elections, indeed. Industrial timber and its supporters created a considerable slush fund to underwrite the campaigns of its three chosen board members, people that industry feels align with their clear cut management paradigm. They have blanketed the county with their signs, phone calls and mass mailings. Those more supportive of the “natural resources” purview are left to purchase campaign materials, when they can afford to, with their funds or with contributions from like-minded folks in the community; eco-friendly people who are a distinct and often reviled minority in Douglas County, Oregon. Industrial timber is still the largest power broker in Oregon, locally and regionally.

    Joseph Patrick Quinn

    Comment by Joseph Patrick Quinn — April 30, 2017 @ 1:08 pm

    • Thanks Joseph. The UCC program sounds good, which no doubt is why the enemy is targeting it. Here’s wishing you all well in trying to preserve the program in its ecologically oriented form, and keep us posted.

      Comment by Russ — May 1, 2017 @ 10:42 am


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