Sunday, January 12, 2014

Is farming back-breaking?

Here is an article from the Guardian about robots designed to do farm labor.  Unlike what I profiled in my last blog post, this science reporting is actually pretty decent.  It presents a new technology, analyzes what it can and can't do right now, what it hopes to do in the future and how long those results may take to bear fruit.  The article also addresses social and technological objections to the new development. 

My only qualm with the article is that it falls into the same cliche of focusing on "back-breaking" work on a farm.  As I've discussed in other blog posts, farm work is certainly physically demanding, but I don't understand why in a large proportion of media presentations of farming, "back-breaking" is an obligatory adjective.  It just serves to frame farming in a negative light, which in turn frames whatever new technology or alternative to farming in a positive light.  It's obfuscation, not information.  I mean, not every sports article talks about how back-breaking the athletes' training is.  That is understood as a necessary part of, but not the only, defining feature of sports, and as such doesn't need mentioning in every article on sports.  Why should it be different with farming?  And while we're on the subject of sports, maybe back-breaking work isn't something we should be avoiding so assiduously.  In an era of high rates of obesity and other health problems related to a lack of exercise, maybe all of us should be seeking to do a bit of backbreaking work now and again, whether it's on a farm or elsewhere!

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