Thursday, January 27, 2011

Standing Our Ground on Sustainability

Read our mission statement. Sustainability is part of it. Obviously, the Community Garden fits right in there, so does our involvement with the Farmers Market Steering Committee, both individually and as an organization.

And the music? you might ask. The creativity in iCreate. Human sustainability. "Spiritual nourishment" Gregor Samsa would say (from The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka)

So where does this belong? Another feature, say "Sustainability," or perhaps under "Virtual Community Garden." "La Vida Locavore" is high on the list for a sidebar feed. What do you think? Let me know.

Vanessa, resident Ariadne

La Vida Locavore

Standing Our Ground on Sustainability

by: Jill Richardson

My latest on Alternet is titled "Have Corporations Hijacked the Word 'Sustainable'? It's based on a trend I've seen over the past year or two. Sustainable means "capable of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage." Easy enough to understand, right? But over and over, I hear Big Ag interests (who are not always corporations, but are certainly serving corporate interests) say that sustainable is defined as "producing more food off of each acre while using less natural resources."

To compare these two definitions, imagine we are talking about cars instead of agriculture. Let's say you're driving a Hummer. And you want to be "sustainable." Obviously, the Hummer won't do. Should you swap out the H2 for a Ford Expedition? Now, the Expedition can produce more with less resources than your Hummer. That is, it can go more miles using less gas. But is it "capable of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage." Absolutely not.

How about a Prius. Wow, that can REALLY go more miles on less gas compared to a Hummer. But if we all drove Priuses, could that be maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage? Sadly, probably not.

To get to the point where we meet the true definition of sustainable, we'd likely need a very robust public transportation system, much of which is powered from renewable clean energy like wind and solar, plus bike trails, and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles that plug into an upgraded grid powered by renewable clean energy. And honestly, maybe that wouldn't be sustainable (based on the true definition of the word). But it would be helluva lot closer to it than a Ford Expedition.

So back to agriculture, clearly the Big Ag guys are trying to take us on by redefining "sustainability" in terms of yield. And they've already managed to hoodwink an awful lot of influential people into thinking that they will always win a contest based on yield, even though science proves otherwise. Here, in the industrialized world, we'd likely see a slight decrease in yield if we switched to organic agriculture, but we'd still have enough to eat, and some data indicates that we'd do better during periods of weather extremes (like droughts) than if we continued with chemical ag. In the non-industrial world, things are entirely different. Since the farmers there can't afford too many chemicals to begin with, switching to organic will actually INCREASE their yields by 80%.

But even if that's the case, even if sustainable ag can match or beat industrialized ag on yield, sustainability is STILL not a question of yield. It's a question of whether a system can be maintained over the long term without using up natural resources and wrecking the earth. Crop rotation, intercropping, cover crops, and composting can all do that; nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides cannot.

Posted via email from Mountainair NM

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