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Interview with Dr. Ned Farley

Nick: Please tell us who you are, and why you have expertise in this particular field.

Dr. Ned Farley: My name is Ned Farley, I have a doctoral degree in anthropology that is coupled with both a Masters and an undergraduate degree in anthropology as well. In the Americas, anthropology is a program of study that really breaks down into four main areas, one of which is culture. Every trained anthropologist in North America has to have a methodological or a working knowledge of being able to study culture and biology. My specific area of licensure relates to archeology, so I deal with cultures that are deceased, but the approach that I take when studying these cultures is one that is ecological. I look at the impact of technology, and I look at things like subsistence strategies, and really your study falls into those two camps. So it’s something that I really relate with rather nicely. One of the courses I teach here on campus is globalization, and kind of a core element, or central element to that class and the curriculum of that class is this idea of sustainability. Sustainability is kind of the new topic, and when I say new it’s about ten years old but, it’s new for academics. It’s a new topic of discussion because anthrologists always look at the past more than the future, but what we have realized is that we cannot ignore one for the other. The past, the present, the future, they are all intertwined into culture, and how people use their culture, how they carry it, how they experience it. And so that, kind of in a fast nutshell there, really sparked… was a cause in sparking my interest in your proposal and the potential outcomes for that, because, and I’ve even brought this up in my anthropology class, the idea of being able to increase rates of sustainability with little to no overhead or capital investment is exactly what humans have looked for since they started writing things down on paper. When we take a look at, for instance, domestication, the domestication of maize, eventually corn, allows people to live in urban environments in the southwest. It is a means of survival; it allows them to grow into large numbers and to flourish. However, with that said a lot of the concerns that are being voiced right now by cultural anthropologists in the field in places like, modern Ecuador, southern Columbia… these would be geographical regions that would tie into what you are doing. Central Africa, southern Africa, Thailand, southeast Asia – cultural anthropologists working in these areas are starting to evaluate the impact that new technologies and philosophies of new approaches towards indigenous sustainability… how those are affecting cultures. And so when you came to me yesterday, I think your concern was really great because even though it is not a direct laboratory concern, and that is really where your energies have been spent right? Getting this off the ground, getting this plane off the ground and now you are up in the air… the question that you have to ask yourself is what the potential impact is for this. So there is, in this case, two cultures that I think, current cultures that I think you could look at, and then, there are a variety of cultures in rural portions of Southeast Asia that will tie into this. Your impact is going to be two-fold. First it is going to be market, so what is going to happen is if you are going to introduce this probiotic to herders in a rural, developing environment… they are going to become, and they already are I understand that, but they will intensify. They will come in very close contact with the local market place. Biologically, there have been studies that have verified that increased market exposure, the health of the populations change, and change negatively. Women and children, in places like Ecuador, have been studied, things like the C-reactive proteins in the liver, in children, have been studied, and they have found that these C-reactive proteins have increased volumetrically with a more intense exposure to world markets. Basically it is a round-about biochemical way of talking about the impact of infection disease. So we see, biologically, and impact in infectious disease. How does this affect the population, well okay, number one we see increases in mortality rates? We also see an increase in sterility and a decrease in the reproductive fitness of these populations, so you’re actually impacting fitness indirectly.


Nick: Is that as a result of the change between individuals who decide that they would rather work on their career, and being productive in society rather than having children, or is it more as a result of a biological decrease in sexual fitness.

Dr. Ned Farley: It’s a combination of both. The literature right now is telling us that the attitudes of women will change; the attitudes of mend will change in these developing environments as they are exposed more and more to this world market affects. However, what a lot of the anthropologists are coming to the conclusions that they are coming to is that cultural attitude change is more just general exposure. These technologies become conduits, pipelines, for contact between the west and the east right? When you think about colonialism and the impact that it had on the health of indigenous peoples here in North America…things like syphilis, tuberculosis, the common cold, variations of flu, all of these are introduced, and introduced in a very intensive way through contact, through market contact. A person would say, “Wow, we are no longer living in the 16th century and 17th centuries”, but in reality, you know how regionalism works, it’s still prevalent. So one of the things that you have to keep in mind is that when you equip people with new technologies they are going to maximize, they are going to push in such a way that they will intensify the exposure to populations that they are not generally running into on a regular basis, and it will impact individuals who are most vulnerable, and this would be children. How can you get around this first component I am sharing with you, because we will talk about this in just a moment, and this is right up your ally, introducing some sort of educational program that is geared not toward the sustainability technologies that you’re discussing, but for healthy living. Things like washing hands, right? Recognizing sickness, we are already teaching that to our young here, and we have been. When I was a kid I remember getting a lecture on washing my hands when I was in first grade, so that would have to accompany it. Men, women, and children so that’s kind of the biological side of things, so you don’t want to recreate the colonial times. The other thing is the culture, and that is kind of the crux of why you came to see me today, so let me just speak on that a little bit as well. When you are talking about herding, when you are talking about the growth of rice, when you are talking about the growth of corn – you are talking about cash crops. The first thing you have to ask yourself is, “is this cash crop indigenous?” And the answer is going to be yes if you are going to, let’s say Zambia, and you, because again Zambian cattle or central Savannah African cattle, they’re the population that you’re going to hit so they are indigenous to that area, and they are currently a cash crop. And you’re affecting the viability of that cash crop right? You’re intensifying it. Studies that have looked at similar types of technologies being introduced to these regional cultures, specifically studies that look at forestation in places like the Amazon, and that’s replanting included there. And then accelerating that, with things like changing of the soil chemistry, or, in this case, studies that have looked at increasing or decreasing the amount of space that farmers need to raise a certain volumetric measurement of rice, or corn, have resulted in, kind of some really interesting byproducts so I’ll tell you about those, they kind of fall into two camps. We’re still dealing with culture now. First, their perspective on natural resources. Cultures, the indigenous natural resources that cultures are connected to and one of your colleges wrote on the Masia. You know that these natural resources define them. They are not just for food, they’re not just for mild, but they are literally part of their culture. The Nuar in the Sudan are traditional agro pastoralists or herders, they grow milk. When their herds are affected, rites of passage are affected. The only way you can become a man in some of these cultures is to start your own herd, and if you don’t have the chance to do that… because of competition, because of warfare, whatever the case might be. It can literally have major impact on your place in society. So you have to be cautious about that. What a lot of the studies have found is that when new technologies, like your probiotic, are introduced to indigenous environments, and cash crop environments, there is a change in the attitude of people toward their surroundings. They start to degrade and become extremely wasteful when they approach all of their resources, and it has a domino effect. So, case and point, I’m a pastoralist living in Zambia – I realize that I am, the population is exploding, and their health is just wonderful, I do not have to worry about any sort of gastrointestinal dysfunction or infections that they might receive, because again you are going to help their health in a positive way. However, my family and I may not treat them with as much respect as we once did, we might treat them as just a commodity and then other aspects of our landscapes might change. Our bamboo forest that is right next to where I am herding my cattle, I’m going to clear cut it, because you know what? I’m going to herd more cattle, and you’ve made this really profitable for me. So that’s the impact that I am mentioning. What we see, in terms of the work of anthropologists is that when you introduce cash crops you intensify, and this occurs a lot in Thailand with rice farming? The terrace rice farming, when they start to really produce a lot they don’t stop. Right? They don’t say, “Well that’s great, now I’m getting a bigger crop out of what I have”. They go out and get more land, they clear cut, and they plant more of their cash crop. See what I mean? It’s a human desire, it’s a human goal. So what you would have to do is incorporate a program, and you could mention this in your proposal. Incorporate a program that would also train people, just like we are receiving training, on why you shouldn’t liter, why you should respect the environment.


Nick: So, would the American culture today be a good reflection of what is happening, or could happen in these preindustrial or developing nations.


Dr. Ned Farley: Very much. Well think about the dust bowl. Same thing happening there.  They said, “Look at all this land we’ve got, let’s get rid of all this switch grass and lets start planting!” and what happened? They demineralized the soil so they made them very, very, in a sense sterile. They had nothing, because they are of course harvesting the crop. They had nothing, when those… and I think it was in the last summer months… when those winds start to pick up with the storm seasons… mid-summer months. They had nothing to hold the soil in place and so they had, literally intense erosion happening and they had to move. If you want to start clear cutting, or start changing, you know, these really important related, in this case, crops. So, I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m just saying accompany it with some sort of educational program that’s right in your wheelhouse, that’s what you did this summer.

Nick: When we look at the camp that we did this summer, we were looking at GMO’s specifically: how they affected us, how prevalent they are and, what their main purpose is. Insulin is a perfect example. Some people are against GMO’s yet they don’t necessarily realize that insulin is a GMO. How they define GMO is rather loosely they only characterized food products. Not, anything else. So we addressed those particular issues.


Dr. Ned Farley: How to transform that vision?

Nick: Yes exactly. So when we do that transformation and remove that misconceptions how do we reach those who may not trust the science.

Dr. Ned Farley: I can tell you right away one of the techniques that has been studied by anthropologists, and they have found it to be very, very useful, and you have probably seen, or even read material on this before is training indigenous peoples to be the spokespeople. Giving them, equipping them, and this is something that came up in your initial conversation with me – creating a laboratory environment for them, and training them to produce their own probiotics, right? Or to distribute if it’s going to be on a higher level, a cooperate level. Make them the distribution, make it grass roots, because when you come to me and say, you know, “I want you to try this new food out”, let’s say. You went to a restaurant and you really loved it. And let’s say it’s a restaurant, let’s say Portuguese, Portuguese restaurant. Well, I got to say if you are coming to me and saying, “It’s really good I didn’t have any problems”. I’ll accept that right away. There will be greater authenticity there, greater credibility. But if someone from Portugal comes and tells me, “hey you should eat there”, in a very thick accent, I might still be leery. I might ask a few of my friends, “Hey have you gone over to that place?” It’s the same kind of thing right? They want safety they want trust. So if it’s like a colonial model, where a white guy shows up with a backpack and a great idea, or where a government car shows up with AK-74s and guys in suits, I can guarantee it’s not going to be as well received as if you have a person who grew up in the village, you know, who has a herd, and who says, “Guess what I’m giving this to my herd” because remember these animals are not just cash. You don’t want to transform that. They are part of the culture, part of the society. Right? Not as extreme as what we see in rural India for example, but it’s pretty darn close to that. If I come up to you, and I say, “you know what I am giving this to my herd. I am giving them this pill, and wow I’m tell you man, they are growing heavier. They are healthier. I am not having to move them around as much”, cause a lot of these guys move around a lot through the wet and dry seasons. Especially in like central, eastern, and northereaster Africa. So I can stay home, I have a better life. A person would say, “Wow, yeah, I’ll introduce that to my heard as well.


Nick: Are we worried though at all about creating a sedentary society then, or more sedentary society than what was previously there.

Dr. Ned Farley: That should be a concern, but  I think  what we are going to find, in most places whether it is South America, MesoAmerica, South Africa, the Eastern countries, in this case eastern Europe. People are becoming sedentary anyway. This is a problem that we are having. There is less land. People are losing access to cash crops and they are turning to labor. So they are sitting on the land and they are walking to the local village or city and the yare working at a factory and they are coming home. So I don’t think that you have to worry about sedintism. There is very few nomads out there. The nomads that are out there their herds are just so tiny to start with, if you think of the nomads of places like Algeria, they are not your target group anyway. Your target is, and maybe I’m making an assumption here, but your target, in a sense, is the actual developing countries themselves, so not just one tiny part of Thailand, but all of Thailand or all of Southeast Asia. I think of it like a GNC, you are going to become like a GNC store for the globe. If I want to increase my body mass, and I want to become more efficient with regards to, lets say, working out in the field. Lets say I clear cut trees and I want to be more burly, I want to be able to do this. I’ll go and choose to do that. But I can also chose not to. So again you are not going to force people to become sedentary, they will do that if they want to, and it is not a bad thing. Sedentarism is just a natural byproduct of more production and surplus production because that is what you are talking about here too. Now here’s, one last thing here though, make sure that when you introduce or affect a cash crop to a culture, to a village lets say. That they are not selling off all of their potential food. Because one of the other things that we have seen, we have seeing it since the early 1970s is we introduce a cash crop, we impact, or share markets and then suddenly people are raising all this food, but they are starving. And you are saying to yourself, “well how can you be starving if you have a whole field of wheat, or a whole herd?”. This is because they can’t pay their bills they have to sell everything off. What is awesome about your study is that they could create enough surplus where they could feed themselves. So, now it becomes indigenous again where I live off my herd, and sell it for cash. Right? And that’s powerful. If you can do that without disturbing the balance between biology and culture. You win, hands down.


Nick: So this is a product that has the potential to make and affect that balance?

Dr. Ned Farley: Yes, to bring traditional foods back into the house, because you also don’t want people to make money and then go to 7/11 right? You want them to make money, but you also want them to grow their own food, and eat their own food. You are also going to see things like domestic violence go down because one of the things that has also been happening with these cash situations is that suddenly people feel disenfranchise, and well, what do they do? They take it out on the people that they love. I mean, we’ve done that for centuries, unfortunately, so that is something to keep in mind. Now there is one additional element  that I have to give you, as part of this process. Now, if you’re on a timeline I apologize…. Okay. You want to make sure you are not changing an indigounous or traditional brand of knowledge, and let me explain what I mean by that. Think of your world view right? You might describe yourself as Christian. You might describe yourself as Christian Protestant… Christian Protestant Lutheran… however you want to. One of the things that I don’t want to screw up in your childrens lives is any of that. Because the assumption is that the knowledge that we have to impart to our children should stay the same. It is part of our culture. The greatest inculturator in your life in your mom. She taught you your culture, your language, and everything else. You don’t want to destroy traditional ecological knowledge right? You don’t want to transform it. The herd has to remain the herd, and you don’t want to disassociate from it. Every mythological characteristic, every linguistic characteristic, you know what I mean? You want to make sure not to lose anything. It only takes one generation to lose a language. It can take only one generation to lost a tradition, and you don’t’ want them to lose that, you don’t want your kids to go off to college and become atheists. It’s the same thing, you don’t want this wonderful industrial, agricultural element to damage that intimate relationship between parents and their children.


Nick: With the rapid globalization, that we already have occurring, isn’t it at this point that we should strive to preserve the culture through history, through writing the document out, making sure that you gather all that information, and then as the culture evolves and becomes more homogenized, you know, a new culture form through these homogenization, we still have the documentation.


Dr. Ned Farley: Right, here is a good example. Your putting together, working with Dr. Davis who is putting together an instrumentation grant, and one of the things that we were asked by some of the people in the community we wanted to partner with was, “well do you have to have a degree in biochemistry to run this thing?” So, I sat down with Dr. Davis, and he said, “No, that’s not why we are doing it. We’re doing it so there will be cues for them to feel free to use this. That anybody can sit down, and at least they get through the manuel, and its not a 5000 page manuel, but they can look through it, and the can plug it in and use it, and get something out of the data. That’s what you have to think about. So let me retrofit that idea. When you create pamphlets, lets say you have a marketing campaign where you are sending out fliers, or you are sending out pamphlets regarding this probiotic… don’t’ make it on your computer, and make it something that you would give to a CEO at Generac. Make is something that has indigenous art, and has stories, mythological stories of the cattle, of earth gods, and I’m not asking you to paganistic in your approach, but what I’m saying is put the cues in there. You know what I mean? Have every aspect of this technology, not replace what parents are doing, but enhance it. I teach Sunday school, and one of the things that I am doing with the kids there, cause they’re in 5th grade, is were playing a role playing game. Now, I’m not playing D and D with them right? That would be defeating the purpose, but I created game that is similar to it. It contains some of the same strategies with the dice, but it has a Christian theme. So when these kids come out of their kingdoms, they send messangers, and these messangers go to cities, and they prostilitize. They are not fighting demons, and gouls, and goblins. They are fighting bear. Or they are having to jump over a stream, or something like this, and the reason that I am doing this is that I am emphasizing the idea that you have to make it not conflict with the culture, but works with the culture. Those knowledges, those histories are not lot right? We cover ourselves in all types of stuff. I have seen the back of your car. You’ve got stickers on everything. This creates a kind of psychological piece, and it makes it intimate to you.  It is part of your culture. Your making every object in your shirt, your watch, everything around you is part of your tradition. If you can then incoorperate a pharmaceutical and make it part of that. I think you win. And yeah you are going to fail more… you know initially, but you test out some models, you know. You bring indigenous people in and say, “How are we going to market this thing? You know it works; I know it works. How do we get it out there, how do we get people energiezed about it.” You want to check, and this is more of the business world, there is a lot of business ethics resources that have been written on solar panels, or well water. Well water in Africa, there is another good example, the drilling of wells. This is done by indigenous peoples. It’s created companies, indigenous companies you know? These are people that live in villages. So that’s the way of getting around that concern. You will transform the culture no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try not to, you are always going to affect it; however, if our impact can be positive, you know, no more clear cutting – the intensifying of that. When I’m introducing this. No kids behind the school smoking cigarettes and getting tattoos and listening to Motley Crew right? You want, I don’t know if people do that anymore… that what we did, but you want people to celebrate who they are and say, “my herd is my herd by-golly and its healthy and I live off it. It provides for my family, and it provides cash for our family too.” So it’s a, unfortunately it becomes a lifelong practice for you. You don’t just make the probiotic, introduce it, and say, “Okay see you later”, right? Like some sort of comic book hero. You have to live with these people, return to these people, but that’s the fun part of it I think.