Sunday, June 07, 2009

america in microcosm..,

NPR | Henry Ford didn't just want to be a maker of cars — he wanted to be a maker of men. He thought he could perfect society by building model factories and pristine villages to go with them. And he was pretty successful at it in Michigan. But in the jungles of Brazil, he would ultimately be defeated.

It was 1927. Ford wanted his own supply of rubber — and he decided to get it by carving a plantation and a miniature Midwest factory town out of the Amazon jungle. It was called "Fordlandia."

Ford didn't just want to tame men; he wanted to tame the jungle itself — and therein was his next failure.

"Ford basically tried to impose mass industrial production on the diversity of the jungle," Grandin says. But the Amazon is one of the most complex ecological systems in the world — and didn't fit into Ford's plan. "Nowhere was this more obvious and more acute than when it came to rubber production," Grandin says.

Ford was so distrustful of experts that he never even consulted one about rubber trees. If he had, Grandin says, he would have learned that plantation rubber can't be grown in the Amazon. "The pests and the fungi and the blight that feed off of rubber are native to the Amazon. Basically, when you put trees close together in the Amazon, what you in effect do is create an incubator — but Ford insisted."

The resulting plantation actually accelerated the production of caterpillars, leaf blight and other organisms that prey on rubber, Grandin says.