Shutting your eyes may be presidential policy, but the journalist and blogger Tom Philpott won’t let us get away with it. He wants to focus our attention squarely on the environmental consequences of the global and, especially, the American way of raising food. Nothing, his new Perilous Bounty reminds us, is going in the right direction ... . I didn’t once see the word 'regenerative' in Perilous Bounty, though Philpott is very much concerned with soil and water health. He must dislike the term — and given the plain-spoken crankiness that has always been an endearing feature of his writing, he maintains a surprisingly tactful silence on it. The whole book, in fact, skirts the tendentiousness that has become a hallmark of writing that sounds environmental alarms ... Perhaps that’s because the author simply expects the reader to be as appalled as he is by the plain facts, which he lays out with new clarity ... As most of us, and surely the author, dream of rebuilding an agriculture system that at last puts racial equity at its center, we can’t lose sight of the land, water and air that need the loudest and longest advocacy.
Philpott is a veteran reporter for Mother Jones magazine and he has himself been a farmer, so he knows the language of agriculture ... the evidence Philpott and others before him present is clear: Not only must we significantly alter our farming practices but we also must address the causes of climate change if we are to avoid ruining our farm land and turning from a nation of vast agricultural bounty to a land unable to produce enough food for its people.
The author is deeply invested in—and knowledgeable about—all the ins and outs of the virtual oligarchy that controls American agriculture, from the seeds to the market destinations ... Philpott is especially good in his explanations of alternative agricultural modes of production, which, for the most part, involve increasing diversity, mixing it up, and spreading it out. The author also explores the unique problems facing midsized farmers—too small for the national chains and too big for local farmers markets—and the complete overhaul of production required to break the monoculture mindset ... A solid, keenly drawn critique of American agricultural circumstances and consequences.