Robert White

Winnipeg, Canada

About Robert

I'm passionate about

Our place in the universe and our responsibilities as planetary stewards (as we currently are about the only self-aware species)

Universities

UBC (very long ago)

Comments & conversations

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Robert White
Posted over 2 years ago
Organic Farming vs. Conventional Farming: Why do you favour one over the other?
I am a member of general public, but my research leads me to another definition of organic. Plants and the 'things' that feed on them have been doing a 'war-dance' ever since plants first left the oceans and the plant-eaters followed. If IPM involves using the individual plant's strengths as well as our ability to meld groups of plants that help each other in defense, then I am all for it. That to me is organic. Any system that leaves residual materials (either directly or through photo-decomposition) on or in the foods we eat in such a form that they cannot be eliminated by our own body and allowing the accumulation of these materials in our body to our detriment is conventional... at least as currently practiced. I feel, through my looking at pre-industrial farming techniques (not for the farming, but for the linkages between land and political power), that those methods were better 'conventional' systems than today, although not as productive. The use of the commons, and the belief in stewardship rather than profit were better than the mono-culture agri-farms that have spread so much across the fertile lands we still have.
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Robert White
Posted over 2 years ago
Do you think Genetically Modified food (GM) is morally justifiable? How about the "Industrialisation" of food production?
We have been modifying food sources from the time we started intermittent agriculture and animal domestication, often for a specific purpose that we have decided upon. The addition of G to the M is another attempt to do the same. Unfortunately, we currently possess imperfect knowledge on the effects of these modifications. Nature has had millions of years in which to 'weed' out the versions that are not viable, yet we are trying to produce the same effects in an extremely limited time. The assumption that being able to print out a plant's or animal's genome confers absolute knowledge of that genome is premature, at best, and dangerous at worst. Genes express themselves in many ways, with many connections that are still unknown to us. Current medical information indicates that the expression can also be time sensitive. Morally justifiable is a very subjective statement. If GM crops are offered to alleviate obvious shortfalls, then that can be justifiable. If they are patented so no one can use them without permission and payment, is that justifiable? Many GM crops that I have heard of are modified more to accepting of higher levels of ambient fertilizer use and/or herbicide resistance, rather than nutritive value and/or direct predator resistance. To me, that is the morally unjustifiable aspect of GM foods. Especially if the patentor is also the manufacturer of fertilizer or herbicide. 'Natural' crops have arrived where they are through a 100 million year long 'war' with the creatures that prey upon them, much as we have developed resistances to disease and parasites. Perhaps our inablility to wait, and seeing only the profit motivation is the morally unjustifiable action.
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Robert White
Posted over 2 years ago
Is it time to accept literal religious belief systems are intellectually bankrupt?
Science is a movie: where each individual frame changes slightly from the one before, much as does our comprehension of the universe. The longer we watch, the more we understand of the plot, the players, and the universe in which it is set. Fundamental faiths are pictures: static once taken, with no chance of change thru time (unless tinkered with). Although each individual picture can stir emotions, some even transcendant in the image they convey, unless they can evoke relevance at any future time that they are viewed, they are dated. And the further back the picture was taken, the more dated (and irrelevant) they become. Fundamental religious views will hold back science and social development, UNLESS the desire is for stasis. But as neither science nor social development are static, fundamentalist views will always be at odds with these ideas. The question then becomes a requirement for individuals to decide which side they want to come down on, and whether they will allow all others to search their own path, or only theirs. Fundamentalism is SAFE... we know what we get. Science is DANGEROUS... the search may take us where we never expected (or wanted, or should) go.