This project will use, for the first time in Québec and Canada, the new Social Metabolism methodology, an approach that views farms as ecosystems and measures flows of energy and soil nutrients through the landscape. Social Metabolism considers that natural and social processes are "active agents" engaged in a permanent and mutual determination. Every human society produces and reproduces its material conditions of existence from the metabolic processes exchanged with nature. This metabolism includes all the processes by which human beings, organized in society, catch, circulate, transform, consume and excrete materials and/or energy from the natural world. One part of the Social Metabolism is the Agrarian Metabolism, which refers to the exchange of energy and materials established by a society’s agrarian sector with its environment. The Agrarian Metabolism, therefore, is considered to be the part of the Social Metabolism specialized in the ‘production’ of biomass. However, the metabolic function of the Agrarian Metabolism is not just to provide biomass for human nourishment, but also fuel, medicinal products, raw materials for industry, and, not less importantly, environmental services. This analytical approach allows us to study the agricultural sector seen from a holistic perspective, combining economics with social and environmental dimensions. And furthermore, it also serves to assess the long-term viability of the prevailing forms of managing farm systems. This means assessing their sustainability, in line with new social concerns and challenges that the ecological crisis poses to the social sciences.
This project has two main objectives. In first place, it seeks to reconstruct the distribution of agriculture on the territory of Québec in 1871, 1921, 1951, 1981 and 2011, and analyze the different trajectories of agrarian evolution. In second place, this project aims to contribute to the understanding of how the traditional organic agrarian systems, based on solar energy, functioned and were transformed into the industrial and globalized agriculture now prevalent in Western societies dependent on fossil fuels that are becoming increasingly scarce. Furthermore, and linking the two objectives, it will try to analyze how this transition has generated new landscapes and new environmental impacts, such as landscape degradation or loss of biodiversity and agricultural inheritance.