One Straw Revolution – A Book Review

Last night I finished reading The One-Straw Revolution by Mansanobu Fukuoka.  This book is part autobiographical, part philosophical, and a very small part practical application.

As a young man, Mr. Fukuoka worked as a research scientist.  He worked hard and long hours, and also enjoyed the night life after work.   Burning the candle at both ends led him to fainting at work.  Eventually he got very sick and almost died in the hospital.

After his close brush with death, he found a new inner truth.  He found that all of his life has been meaningless.  All of his pursuits, all of his work has been for nothing.  This thought could either be depressing or freeing.  I found the thought depressing.  He found this new personal truth set him “free”.  After he left the hospital, Mr. Fukuoka went to his job and quit.  All of his peers thought he was insane.

He then went and lived on his parent’s farm.  While there, he was in charge of the citrus trees.  He decided that since everything in life was meaningless,  he did not have to care for the trees. The lack of care caused all of the trees to die.  Needless to say, his father was less than happy, and Mansanobu Fukuoka had to look for work off of his father’s farm.  He eventually came back to living on a farm, and began the “no-work” farming method.  This method was planned out a little more, and he started experiencing great success with is farming methods.

This “no-work” farming method was actually quite a bit of work.  But he used no chemicals.  He grew rice without flooding the fields.  He used a cover crop of white clover and mulched with long straw.  He then scattered seeds around that were covered in clay pellets.  The clay pellets protected the seeds from rotting or being eaten by slugs  or other garden creatures.  His results were very good and comparable to his neighbors who used chemical means on their fields.  He harvested his yields using hand tools.  Nothing more.

He decried the “organic” farmers of the West (AKA Americans) as taking too much work.  The idea of composting seems like too much of a hassle. He felt they didn’t get it.  He said they could scatter the straw on the fields and essentially let the waste compost on it’s own without all the extra work of formal composting.

Other than those basics, I didn’t really get any major “how-to” take aways.  I got a lot of philosophy though.  Some of it was esoteric.  Okay, most of it was esoteric and I didn’t quite grasp what he was trying to say.  and I disagreed with some of his philosophical thoughts.  It would not be how I chose to live.  He is against what we would call progress.  From his book he stated that if our economy has an increase in growth from 5% to 10% are we twice as happy?  I agree that wealth doesn’t make us happy, but it does allow us to make more choices.  Sometimes these choices can allow us to live happier lives.   He lived his life (as far as I know) living up to his ideals.

While he expressed discontent with the way the world was doing things, he seems much more at peace with it than the Nearings from the Good Life seemed to be.  Back in the 1970s, he predicted the human race would have experienced great losses and have a sad and futile future.  Thank God he was wrong, I’m really liking being on this planet right now (and writing these blog posts for you to read).  We do have to remember, this is a Japanese human who lived through World War II.  That means that he lived through the nuclear bombing of his country at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  It’s quite easy to understand how anyone who lived through that would believe that catastrophe is just around the corner.

Overall the book was a good read.  I think it will help you to become a more well-rounded gardener, and it will help you to think about your land in a different way.  However, I don’t see myself ever referencing this book for the sake of my land.  I’m glad I read this book, although I don’t see myself using any of the techniques.  His methods have been critiqued for being hard to follow and unsuccessful unless they are followed exactly.  I believe once you understand how all of his methods work, it works well.  I also believe if you don’t do it exactly his way, you may be looking at failure (even though that’s the road to success, as I talked about here).

Do I recommend you read it? If you want.  If it interests you.  I don’t consider this a must read.  I consider it a “pretty good if it’s lying around” kind of read.  Keep in mind, a lot of folks disagree with that.  So, if you are in the mood for a philosophical book with some gardening ideas, pick it up.

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