Yanking Back On the Reins of Climate Change


Or, Thinking Outside The Stall:Orion Magazine has a compelling, imaginative essay in their Sept./Oct. issue calling for a return to horse-power as a clean, renewable, and powerful means to farm our nation's fields and transport our nation's citizens. Author Dick Courteau knows his equine stuff having been raised on a Minnesota farm in the 1940s where"McCormick's reaper was still drawn by two big Belgians and a Percheron, Sally, Dick, and Rex…We were in a horse-powered technology, but not a primitive technology. That horse-drawn reaper in my childhood cut the oats, gathered them into precisely measured bundles, wrapped the twine around them, then automatically tied the knot, cut off the twine, and kicked out the bundle…One thing is certain. Horses were not abandoned because they were no longer up to the job. "Courteau champions the unmatched versatility and strength of horse power and presents a cogent argument on how this natural source of energy can be used to reduce agricultural's shortsighted and total dependence on oil:Today, conventional farms in this country depend on oil for virtually 100 percent of the energy employed in tilling fields. Already fuel costs are a close second among farm expenses and have started to put a crimp in farm operations, and even the best-case scenario is one of ever-tightening oil supplies. With the food supply for 300 million people at stake, shouldn’t a responsible government be putting some backup measures in place?To start with, stop paving over some of our finest agricultural lands. And as a horseman I propose that we foster the breeding of draft animals, so that we have reservoirs of genetic material scattered around the country for when they might be needed. European governments long financed and presided over the breeding of horses, promoting superior lines, and we have our own precedent in the Remount program of the U.S. Army. As late as 1937, the Quartermaster Corps had 652 stallions placed with ranchers who had agreed to breed mares to supply the cavalry and artillery.Courteau is not naive. He admits in the article that "The use of horses would not, in itself, protect against environmental degradation." And he acknowledges the level of commitment and education this sort of life requires, (factors which, considering our nation's obsession with short-term gain, may render this solution totally unrealistic). Maybe I've got Tolstoy's ghost hiding in my goofy, romantic heart quietly whispering wide-eyed allurements to return to the land where I will retire at the end of a sweat-soaked day smelling of a horsey named Karenin to my candlelit room where I will write odes to the mighty dung beetle, I don't know. Plus, I, um, never worked any land ever. Nonetheless, the article captured my imagination. Courteau mentions that he's met with resistance and condescension when he suggests a return to animal power as a source of renewable energy, even when he's amongst climate-concered, progressive friends. But, to me, I found it a welcome addition to the debate over how to combat the man-made conditions rapidly suffocating our Earth. Take a look.

In These Times August 2022 Cover
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