“Yet capitalism is nothing if not vitally expansionist.”
-Jack Kloppenburg, on capital’s pursuit of the commodification of seed, First the Seed: The Political Economy of Plant Biotechnology
If you don’t look too closely, if you blur the proverbial edges, it’s easy to settle into the comfortable notion that Vietnamese agriculture is the pastoral ideal: the ‘slow’ life, rice paddies that sway with the breeze, the market vendor whose little bundles of herbage elicit ooohs and aaahs from tourists itching to revel in something ‘quaint.’ I can romanticize it too. Do you see any farmers in that field of maize, concerned about whether or not their new high-yielding seeds will allow them to hold onto their land for another year?
“We fool ourselves if we think we can choose between them [the country and the city], for the green lake and the orange cloud are creatures of the same landscape.”
-William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West
I hadn’t any real goal in mind when I took off for a drive yesterday afternoon, but it was well worth it. It took 1.5 hours to drive from Hanoi to somewhere resembling uninterrupted green space. After following a single road through a litany of small peri-urban towns, I noticed a curve ahead that climbed a modest hill, another sign that one is leaving Hanoi. It led up a road on a ridge above the surrounding area where I stopped for a couple minutes, stretched my legs, and took in the expanse of green. It’s not possible to explain just how green the northern Vietnamese countryside is. The photos (especially from my crappy cell phone camera) don’t do it any justice. The greenness is marvellously suffocating. Part of my joy at this sight might just have been the contrast with Hanoi, which is an impressively dense city despite their attempts to incorporate green space.