The Death of Ramon Gonzales, by Angus Wright, is a prophetic book that may impact world food policies by the year 2000 the way Rachel Carson's Silent Spring stimulated environmental consciousness 25 years ago. At first glance this appears to be a report on the pesticide poisoning of farm workers, including Ramon Gonzales, in central Mexico. In fact, it is a profound and moving essay on the belief system that allows technology to destroy both human culture and natural environments.
There are good books that critique the Green Revolution and modern agriculture's dependence upon pesticides. What makes this a great book is Wright's regard for the victims: the peasants forced from traditional homelands to labor in the fields of agribusiness, the places and ecosystems where farming is practiced, and the cultures that once flourished on the land.
Professor of environmental studies at California State University, Sacramento, Wright has a doctorate in Latin American history, speaks Spanish fluently, and has spent time with the people about whom he writes, both in the fields of Culiacan in central Mexico where they tend vegetables for the American market, and in their mountain Mixteca homeland south of Mexico City. He indicts a worldwide agricultural system with moral authority derived from the experiences of people in particular places.
Yearly, five billion pounds of agricultural pesticides are used worldwide, roughly one pound for every human being alive on the planet. The United Nations estimates that 20,000 people die annually from accidental pesticide poisoning, most of them farm workers, and one million people each year suffer acute poisoning short of death.