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Dr Sarah Taber
it's happening folks time to talk about agrarianism in the United Federation of Planets send tweet
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
Ok so first off there are little nods to agrarianism- the idea that farming is the ideal lifestyle, and that there are "rural values" that are both different from those of urban areas and also inherently better- all over in Star Trek.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
Who's the smartest person on Starfleet Academy campus? Boothby the gardener. Giving the Federation a gardener for its moral guidance is an aesthetic choice. It says "this might be sci-fi where we've eliminated survival labor, but somehow we're still down to earth."
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
Gardeners are great, but I had this job for a while and let me just say we are also subject to moral foibles. I would live for a sci fi universe where space captains get their moral guidance from plumbers. "Tell us what to do when the shit hits the fan, pipe daddy" they say.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
Ok I'm actually gonna digress on plumbing for a minute Plumbing is arguably MORE key to life support than farming, esp on a starship. But in the Star Trek universe it's treated like a joke. This is a reflection on real life where farming's revered but sanitation is unspeakable.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
Anyway back to agrarianism in Star Trek Captain Kirk is from Iowa because that tells us he is down-to-earth. Like, a REAL man. It's v important to the theme of TOS that Kirk is the Most Authentic Guy Ever, & Iowa is a symbol of authenticity (see also: US presidential primaries).
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
Let's look at some pics from the reboot. Kirk was born in 2233, so this car chase takes place around 2240-2245. While y'all were watching the FX I was checking out the cornfields and let me tell you, THE IMPLICATIONS ARE STAGGERING
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
1) Iowa is still dominated by corn monoculture in 2240. The scene where Kirk motorcycles to the Enterprise being built IN A CORNFIELD (0:25:00, iTunes won't let me screenshot) clearly shows straight rows w no intercrop, confirming corn monoculture still in place in 2250-2255.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
2) Corn monoculture in the 2250s implies we haven't figured out any better way to do it, which is kind of a bummer. The current corn/soybeans regime feels eternal & inevitable, but it's only been around for about 100 years.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SwiftOnSecurity
3) Corn monoculture implies bulk markets for starch, fuel, alcohol, &/or livestock, in a Federation where these needs are theoretically met by replicator & advanced engines. Not only is corn a platform , it's still a platform in the 2250s. WHEN WILL THE LIES STOP
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
3) Small sample size (we only have a couple shots of 2250s Iowa farm country), but no soybeans are seen. Where did they go? Do we just ... not need to eat protein or rotate crops anymore?
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
4) Corn pollen is sterile above ~95°F. Small rises in average global temperature may keep midwest corn from setting a crop. Corn in 2250s Iowa implies either climate change has been reversed (good if true), or the Federation pays farmers to grow Potemkin crops for the aesthetic.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
5) Midwestern corn monoculture is aided by a private property-based land tenure system. (Corn monoculture can exist *without* private land ownership, but in the event of a different land tenure system, other cropping methods are more likely to emerge.)
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
This implies that while the Federation is a moneyless society, it is NOT a property-less society. Land ownership is a zero-sum game. The existence of people who own real estate, especially large plots when population is high, implies the existence of haves & have-nots.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
In short, the agrarian realities of Federation-era Earth suggests cracks in its post-scarcity public façade. However, the agrarian politics of Iowa merely *suggest* cracks. It's the Picard family vineyard where shit gets downright dystopian. STAY TUNED
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
*also does anybody have population estimates for Earth, either in the TOS/Kirk era or the Next Generation? I'm having no luck at all
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
ok time to talk about the Picard wine estate *deep breath*
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
In "Family" (s4 e2), Captain Jean-Luc Picard goes home to recuperate after being turned into a Borg and then you start to wonder why because that whole family situation is a shitshoooowwww
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
Setup: the way it's played is the older brother, Robert Picard, is the dutiful son who stayed home to tend the vines like their father. He's grumpy about how Jean-Luc "left" and won't stop bitching about it.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
HOWEVER. If you know anything about land tenure and how it's passed on for multiple generations, this situation is even more messed up than it looks.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
If you divide up a family plot among all the kids (or even all the sons), within a few generations you wind up with tiny useless postage stamps that nobody can live on. That's especially true after a few generations of post-scarcity population growth, e.g. TNG-era Earth.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
France traditionally dealt with this through primogeniture: the oldest son inherits the entire estate intact. Younger sons get a stipend if the the family's very wealthy. More usually, younger sons get bupkus.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
Under primogeniture, younger sons typically went into the military, priesthood, or (later once colonialism got underway) maritime trade. Those were the only institutions that had space for them. The core economic, political, & social power structure- land ownership- didn't.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
Some young sons added a martlet (modified swift or martin) to their family crest. It had feathers instead of feet because they believed these birds never land. It represented how the crest's owner would spend their life wandering to satisfy a shitty land inheritance system.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
The fact that Picard's extremely French family still has an estate at all in 2367 heavily implies they've been using primogeniture.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
Jean-Luc Picard leaving home to join Starfleet fits the younger-son-in-a-primogeniture-family to a T. He left home to join an exploratory/military/semi-priesthood-y force complete with livery and never being able to start a family, much to his regret.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
Which makes his older, estate-inheriting brother Robert's constant bitching about "whaaa you worked hard and left us" EVEN MORE HORRIFYING THAN IT LOOKS.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @joeinformatico
This also drags up all kinds of systemic questions about how post-scarcity Star Trek Earth *works.* Private land ownership appears to be alive & well. Per : why do the Picards own a lil slice of France, but Sisko's dad only has a 2-story building in New Orleans?
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
This implies ongoing wealth inequality- of a potentially very serious degree- in Federation-era Earth. Nobody ever mentions Robert Picard having a day job. He just twiddles around FEELING the vines (not the most responsible use of time for an estate owner) and day drinks.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
He makes his wife do the cooking & won't let her get a replicator. Perhaps most appalling, his vineyard's still using furrow irrigation. That's when you run water down a ditch between rows. Super simple, but super wasteful. Lots of water soaks down past roots or evaporates.
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Dr Sarah Taber Nov 28
Replying to @SarahTaber_bww
Hahaha and they pass off this caustic, day-drinking, controlling train wreck of a man as a "guardian of tradition" agrarian values my ass, he's just a jerk. it happens
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