In the center of the city, amidst the towering high-rises, red brick rowhouses, squat corner stores, congested yellow-dashed streets, thundering metro tunnels and bustling crosswalks, stands a barn. To the inhabitants of the city, it is the last vestige of a time that has long passed. A reminder of a time in human history, when we weren’t so far removed from the natural world. Long ago, the barn was just a barn. A small piece of a larger farm. Back then, the land was covered in rows of corn and wheat. Trees sprung from the soft earth, with roots that extended far beneath the ground. Now, the land is covered in rows of skyscrapers; and steel beams are the only things that sprout from the cracked dirt. Gradually, pastures turned into city blocks and the farm was reduced to a small field and a single red barn. A red barn with a rusting tin gambrel roof, chipped paint, and two big front doors that don’t close all the way. Inside that barn lives a farmer, the last farmer, a dog, and a collection of seeds.
Earlier that year, the commercial farms that fed the city, stopped working. Their fields lay barren and disease ravaged their industrial sized pastures and animals. The rot spread to plants and then their seeds. Fires broke out in the city’s agricultural vaults. The city’s leaders requested seeds from the entire population. Seeds that hadn’t been exposed to growth inducing chemicals and factory wastewater. People were beginning to starve, and their eyes turned to the farmer, who for so long, was overlooked.
Early one morning, the farmer pulled a dusty white sheet off his ancient tractor. Like so many of his other tools, the tractor hadn’t been used since his fields had been covered in asphalt and cement to form city streets. The farmer lowered barrels containing almost 3,000,000 different seeds into his old wagon and hooked it to the back of the faded green tractor. After many cranks of the key, the tractor roared to life and the farmer rolled onto the road, bound for the center of the city.
Curious faces peered from towering windows on either side of the street as the farmer rumbled slowly down the street. When the people caught sight of the farmers bounty, they exploded onto the pavement. Jubilant cheering erupted, hats and newspapers sailed through the air. The farmer was hailed a hero and was met by the mayor on the stairs of city hall. The seeds were sped off to the city’s commercial farms and were stuck into the same corrupted soil.
The farmer went home and from a vantage in the roof of his barn, watched as millions of people flooded the streets once more, scurrying like ants, from home to work and from work to home. He saw that through their dedication to progress, they’ve become powerful. They can predict rain and snow through glowing boxes in their living rooms, they’ve tamed great machines and have cowed them into their service. They defy time and space with their smartphones, create domains of infinite knowledge, and sculpt the very land to their whim. But he also saw that the people of the city had lost themselves. For progress they traded our most basic identity as children of the land and in doing so, doomed themselves and their city. They never learned to give back what they took from the earth. They didn’t learn to protect the land and the water. They still saw themselves as separate from the natural world, above the laws of nature. The crops failed again, many years later. This time, however, the farmer had no more seeds.