Recently I delivered onions from southern New Mexico to a modern produce warehouse facility in eastern Pennsylvania, over fifteen hundred miles away from where the plants were grown.
The industrialized farm in extreme southern New Mexico, where everywhere one sees Border Patrol vehicles, is a model of "modern" industry, with tiny plastic tubes (made of petroleum) inserted to a depth of one foot underground delivering water and nutrients to billions of onion plants, and with dozens of low-paid Mexican workers toiling on a concrete floor in a subhuman factory environment for long hours-- (the owner told me he RESENTED the rain which was causing PROBLEMS to his control of the plant growth by his method of cultivation.)
This Pennsylvania facility is unique among produce warehouses in that no truck drivers were allowed, much less required, on the unloading dock. All its equipment was spotless and functional, unlike most places, where they have a minimum of working equipment, the infrastructure is crumbling, and unloading is done by "lumpers," independent contractors who work for cash, without benefits or insurance.
While I was waiting for my onions to be unloaded and inspected, two horse-drawn Amish wagons pulled up in the parking lot, one after another, loaded with big boxes of ears of corn on pallets. Both wagons were driven by boys in their early teens. One wagon had three boys whose ages were about 17, 13, and 7. While a forklift unloaded the pallets of corn, the boys took out a large flat aluminum snow shovel and scooped up the manure left by the horses and stowed it in a plastic fifty-five gallon garbage can, and took it away with them when they left. I imagine nothing goes to waste on an Amish farm.
The horses were beautiful Clydesdales in matched teams, very calm and even-tempered. The boys wore black dress pants and white shirts with suspenders and each boy had a unique hat. One had a black fedora with a narrow brim, one a straw hat, and the smallest boy had a baseball cap.
They were very serious and competent as they went about their business, and I wondered how many more people would be employed in a horse-drawn economy with each wagon carrying four pallets, while each big truck in the lot carried twenty-five to forty pallets.
The horses left only fertilizer as a residue of their journey, while the trucks spewed clouds of toxic diesel fumes from the imported petroleum they required to fuel the huge engines needed to pull forty tons of produce and machine 2000 miles across the mountains of New Mexico and Pennsylvania.
I couldn't help thinking that the horses were a better solution to the cartage equation than the trucks, which required a huge environmentally toxic industrial base to do the same job, and had to travel nearly two thousand miles to supply onions that could be grown right where the parking lot had paved over fertile ground. While my truck has its limited aesthetic appeal, those horses completely outclassed trucks in beauty and engineering elegance. And those boys will be very unlikely to end up in an urban jungle, unemployed, using drugs to overcome their misery-- or in the fields and cities of a foreign country, killing those who oppose US domination of their lives and national resources.
Those boys will not be forced by economic necessity to drive all night, lie in logbooks, and generally abuse themselves to earn enough to pay fuel and utility bills and insurance and AT&T. It requires no Mid-Eastern oil and no steel mills to get that corn to market. We would not have to poison the environment to refine steel and diesel fuel, and it would employ ten times the folks to get the job done, impoverishing CEO's and bankers who can put a cost- benefit price ratio to human and terrestrial life that emphasizes the benefit to capital and minimizes the sustenance of life.
Those horses were a beautiful and elegant solution to so many problems that people and other creatures are dying for. I can't accept that humans were meant to live only to secure enough dollars to pay someone else who owns the water, the land, and the resources. Surely this stage of industrialization is an intermediate one. But vested interests are still exploiting the planet and subjugating people, and no one seems to question why we work more than hunter-gatherers, who worked ten hours a week to sustain their families, and paid no one to live on earth.
love holds the stars in their courses-- Maya Angelou