“Keep this place clean”

– Don’t pee on the floor!

– Flush after use.

– Keep this place clean. After you, others will use this toilet.

Yes it’s true. I’m not making anything up. Anyone traveling through Brazil has seen this. These instructions are pasted to the walls of many bathrooms out there. At least, in the men’s bathrooms, which are the ones I have access to. You, who are a woman, tell me, please, if these instructions are there too, in the women’s bathrooms. In hotels, restaurants, airports, in a infinity of public places….

How do you feel reading these “instructions”? Why are they there? I ask your permission for one more reflection…. Why is it that our society still needs such basic rules of behavior?

Forgive me, but I can’t remember who is the author of this sentence, irresistible for the moment: “Ethics is what you do, when nobody is watching you.”  Well, the bathroom has this characteristic: nobody is seeing you. Could we conclude, then, that we are experiencing an ethical crisis in our society? Would that explain the issue? Unfortunately, I think the answer is not that simple.

So let’s get out of the bathroom, and walk through the fields, through the farms. What are we throwing on the floor? Are we keeping the place clean? How are we disposing of the waste and residues resulting from productive activities? Manure, beds, peels, liquid waste…

Many good producers in this country would be embarrassed to answer these questions. Would they lack ethics? I don’t think so. What is it about, then? I don’t know. But I have a hunch (I want to make a brief comment here: how good it is to be able to register a hunch! Advantages that only a non-scientific article has). My guess is: we are running in “automatic mode”.

 – “Keep this place clean. After you, others will use this toilet ”.

Of course we know that! Our land will be used by someone after we decide to retire. Perhaps, for our children or grandchildren. I know, land and water courses are not sanitary. But…. what are we pouring into them? What kind of waste is being accumulated for the next generations? Are we overcoming the capacity to recover these natural resources?

Questions that require a lucid way of functioning of our brains. The “automatic mode”, imposed by the urgencies of our daily lives, and by the interests of companies and organizations that have goals that aren’t your own goals, can be a dangerous way of functioning. Is that an alert? Yes!

What I have to say is: don’t let the urgencies of your day to day transform you into something that you are not. Keep your lucidity, your critical view. This is not incompatible with financial gains, on the opposite. Keep calm and follow your intuition.

You know what is the best for your future, and for your descendants. Producing food is a blessed and fantastic task. We don’t need to destroy natural resources to do it. Natural processes are like a positive spiral, which generate gains at every turn. It’s necessary that we understand these processes, so we can potentiate them, with the use of genuine science.

I say genuine, because I want to emphasize that independent science, free from commercial interests, the one that really participates in the evolution of humanity. We are very sensitive to scientific achievements. We are delighted with your advances. Let’s not let this admiration blind us to the perfection of natural processes.

Understanding the nature of natural processes may not be as charming as new technologies, but it is essential for us, as food producers, to guarantee continuity in our production processes. When we understand the natural processes that involve an agricultural production environment, we are using, in its most classic form, science.

We need to learn to appreciate that too. Let us value clean bathrooms! We also should value care in the management of agricultural production, in the careful use of substances that are aggressive to life (which some insist on saying are safe), in the disposal and use of the waste generated.

After all, after us, others will use these lands!

Antonio N. S. Teixeira
Executive Director – IBA

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