Essay PreviewMore ↓
Whose business is it to create a sustainable agriculture? How will knowledge systems required to support such an agriculture be developed and implemented? These pragmatic questions are addressed by the 14 contributors to this book. If in fact the agricultural community is beyond the stage of understanding and internalizing the need for the concept of an agriculture that can be sustained, then this book offers concrete suggestions for the types of research objectives and social and political decisions that must be followed in order to make sustainable systems a reality.
The book contains the proceedings of a July 1991 conference, sponsored by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that drew participants from academia and U S. government agencies. The proceedings have also been available since 1992 as volume 2, no. 3, of the Journal of Sustainable Agriculture (JSA). The publisher of this book, Haworth Press, also publishes the JSA, and the decision to make these proceedings available in both formats is understandable, since this book will be of value to an important audience that is larger than the readership of the journal. As the name of both the conference and the book reflects, the contributors represent various disciplinary perspectives and professional experiences, being primarily ecologists (7) and environmental policy makers (5), with the addition of a sociologist and an educator. The chapters cover a range of topics that can be grouped into structural issues (federal policies, EPA program priorities, information and education systems) and research issues (participatory research methods, identification and monitoring of indicators of sustainability, and theories and methods for the design of sustainable agricultural systems at the watershed, landscape and soil levels).
The authors are authoritative and succinct in exposing, analyzing and integrating the practical issues involved in fulfilling the objectives set forth over the past 15 years by various writers who can only be called "philosophers of agriculture." The thoughts of such individuals as Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson and Robert Rodale can be seen as passionate philosophizing by outsiders aiming to raise the level of consciousness of the scientific agricultural community about the unintended effects of their research paradigms and technologies. Such writing, while constituting a necessary initial component of the developing literature on sustainable agriculture, can be frustrating for those scientists accepting the need to address the environmental and sociological impact of agriculture, but less certain about how to do so.
How to Cite this Page
"Integrating Sustainable Agriculture, Ecology, and Environmental Policy.." 123HelpMe.com. 16 Dec 2018
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Maryland is the 42nd largest state, making it one of the smaller states in America. It is located in the South Atlantic region on the United States eastern seaboard. Prince George's is one of twenty four counties in Maryland. It is also the geographic center of the state. Maryland has a varied climate. The state is home to a variety of different ecosystems. This is also true of Maryland’s environment, which has the Atlantic Ocean on the coast, mountains, and forest land. My paper will focus on Prince George’s county and the state of Maryland.... [tags: Ecology ]
1051 words (3 pages)
- Applications of G.I.S. in Agriculture and Ecology Geographic Information Systems (G.I.S.) is one of the fastest growing technologies today. This field covers anything and everything that can be mapped, anything from weeds to urban sprawl, if it can be mapped, G.I.S. can be used. G.I.S. uses computers to store, analyze, and show data collected about a given topic(Kennedy 1), (Zimmerman 5-9, 73-91). G.I.S. basically turns a computer into an atlas(Kennedy 1). With all this information available, how can it help the field of agriculture.... [tags: Agricultural Environment Farm Essays Papers]
1070 words (3.1 pages)
- As individuals who live in the USA, we are prepared with the necessary information about infectious diseases, which are a highly important matter for our health. However, as a developed country, we do not have as many disease outbreaks as the developing societies. Geographers and ecologists, have researched interconnection between geography, political economy and cultural ecology, which all relate to one another and therefore, could be described as ‘political ecology’. More specifically, in the article, “The political ecology of disease as one new focus of medical geography” by Jonathan D.... [tags: Environment, Ecology, Natural environment]
1094 words (3.1 pages)
- Ecology, or in Greek translation "study home", is the study of the interactions of organisms between it's enviornment. While biosphere means the whole worlds ecosystem. Why are these terms so important. The reason why they are important to everything on Earth because they hold and shape all organisms that live within them. Without organisms animals, plants, and everything that we know would never be able to survive. If ecology wasn't organized and delicate, the system wouldn't be the same to the environment or to the organisms that are and were here today.... [tags: environmental science]
1158 words (3.3 pages)
- All three theories by Heidegger, Bookchin, and Naess are based on the normative assumption: humans perceived themselves as being distinct from a world that unites both humans and non-humans. To better understand the distinguishments that each author makes in his theory, I will reconstruct each of their assumption. After that, we will explore the rational fashioning of integrative ways and the problems that it raises. In conclusion, there may be a reiteration of the assumption in our effort to act ethically according to the ecosystem.... [tags: Social Ecology]
1862 words (5.3 pages)
- Since the sixteenth century, foreign dominance over Central and South America has been attributed to farming and plantations. Spaniards introduced the concept of plantation systems to the new world in the island of “La Española” or Hispaniola. From there, it spread through the Caribbean, eventually finding its way into Central and South American countries. Plantation systems were founded on slave labor and brutal methods of exploitation imposed by European colonists on indigenous peoples, and eventually to African slaves, in order to perform labor-intensive farming practices.... [tags: latifundio, history, ecology]
1661 words (4.7 pages)
- Competition and predation are two key factors that affect the stability of an ecosystem, such as a lake. There are three theories on the affects of competition. Competition may lead to competitive exclusion, stable coexistence, or niche differentiation. It has been shown that in marine environments, species are strong competitors for both light and nutrients and thus competition leads only to competitive exclusion (Passarge et al. 2006). The competitive exclusion principle states that if two species compete for the same resource in the same location, then one of those species will go extinct because one species will be the better competitor (Jenson 2010).... [tags: ecology]
563 words (1.6 pages)
- Organization-environment relations depict certain areas of UCSB in their entirety in which two of those theories include population ecology and neoinstitutional theory. Population ecology and neoinstitutional theory looks at UCSB in divergent perspectives: population ecology studies organizations if they are a living or dying species whereas neoinstitutional theory highlights the organization’s importance as an establishment to its field of expertise. With this, I am going to compare both, population ecology and neoinstitutional theory, in relation to the University of California – Santa Barbara.... [tags: Environment, Ecology]
1820 words (5.2 pages)
- The mistake of culture as timeless, knowledge as data Take a walk down Bourke’s main street and about midway, on the northern side, you will see a panoramic mural spanning the roofline of a simple brick building. It is a kind of timeline. At one end there is a panel devoted to Aboriginal life and Dreaming before colonisation, while the rest of the panels show a sequence of white exploration, pioneer settlement, a changing pastoral industry, reminders of historic floods, and a modern outback town.... [tags: Ecology]
914 words (2.6 pages)
- Design, Ecology, and Ethics “We need to design institutions (and cars and homes and toothbrushes, etc.) that make it easy for people to be good.” (Jim Farrell) Right now, if someone in America wants to be good to the earth and good to future generations, it’s hard. It’s expensive to purchase local, organic food. In the suburbs, to get to work and practice and the store and back home again on a schedule without a car is tricky if not impossible. To think about how and where and by whom nearly 100% of products in Target are made is to most certainly become ashamed.... [tags: Environment Ecology Essays Papers]
721 words (2.1 pages)
Editor Olson (an ecologist with extensive experience working with various facets of agricultural environmental impact, who at the time of the conference was an EPA contractor, but now pursues graduate studies at the Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln) sets this tone at the outset by briefly reviewing the effect that current trends in human population growth, climate change and environmental degradation are likely to exert on natural resource availability and on agricultural systems (however they are labeled) over the next three decades. He concludes that "In spite of all the uncertainties, some statements can be made with confidence about the future context of agriculture. Human demands for food, fiber, and other natural resources will be much greater, while the natural resource base will be significantly diminished relative to the present." He argues that "because the future cannot be accurately predicted, sustainable agriculture must plan for uncertainty" and should be characterized by strategies that "seek to minimize the chances of a disastrous outcome."
Other authors are equally pragmatic, as when dealing with the obligatory subject of defining the concept of sustainable agriculture. Otto Doering of Purdue University states simply: "No specific definition of sustainable agriculture is embraced here. However, the implicit notion is that sustainable agriculture is a structurally different system from today's system," and so establishes the premise that today's agricultural management paradigms will not successfully help industrial societies confront the resource limitation dilemmas predicted by Olson. However, Olson points out that the necessary transformation of present agricultural systems need not be wholesale, that rather sustainable agriculture "is essentially a process of altering, where necessary, current management practices." Just what types of changes will be necessary is broached directly by North Carolina State's Deborah Neher, who points out that all definitions of sustainable agriculture are complex because they feature multiple goals, but she identifies three features common to most such definitions: 1) environmental quality and ecological soundness, 2) plant and animal productivity and 3) socioeconomic viability. This establishes the context for the book's focus on issues beyond traditional agricultural field-level measures of productivity and efficiency.
The twelve chapters of the book each begin with a useful representative summary (of varying length, from 8 lines to a whole page). Each chapter is a well edited and digestible unit, averaging about 13 pages each (the longest is 22 pages, and three have only 8 pages). Though this is not a "data-dense" volume, a judicious number of tables and figures support the ideas presented. I've found a number of the figures, where flowcharts and cycles predominate, to be useful teaching materials, particularly those from the chapters on soil nutrient cycling and landscape ecology. Pertinent information regarding authors' affiliation, credentials and experience is included in a footnote on the initial page of each chapter. References cited are listed at the end of the corresponding chapter, a convenient format for a multi-author volume such as this.
Missing from the book, however, is a summary of the discussions of the conference. Given the topics at hand and the authority of the contributors, one can only imagine the rich nature of such discussions. For instance, agricultural economist Doering presents a thoughtful analysis of the effect of federal policies on agricultural sustainability (he concludes that current mechanisms do well what they were designed to do: assure farm income and provide a reliable and inexpensive supply of basic commodity grains, but would be ineffectual to promote the large structural and attitudinal changes necessary for sustainable agriculture) and ends by posing a barrage of stimulating questions:
In order to meet environmental goals, will expensive command and control approaches be used extensively? Realistically the command and control approaches are almost precluded by both the level of knowledge and the intensity of administration necessary to make these approaches effective for the large number of dispersed and very different farming operations around the Nation. Will there be an effort to utilize some of the economic incentive and free market approaches like those set forth in the Clean Air Act? The question is: What new approaches and institutions can be developed that are not punitive, might be more effective than the current ones, and would bring about change?We are left only to wonder how the assembled experts responded to such relevant and timely quandaries.
Another curious feature of a book that covers such broad and open-ended subject matter is the lack of a closing chapter summarizing the outcomes and conclusions of the conference. Instead, editor Olson chose to include this information in his introductory chapter, a brief but comprehensive overview of both conference objectives and results. The outcome can be paraphrased as follows: 1) Sustainable agricultural systems are complex, multiple-goal systems. Agricultural systems are managed systems that can therefore be designed, and the models and principles for the design of sustainable agroecosystems should be based on thorough knowledge of ecological mechanisms. 2) Such ecological knowledge is currently incomplete or inaccessible to agriculturists (both theorists and practitioners), and should be developed, adapted and communicated, accordingly. 3) The necessary knowledge needs to be conducted on time-scales relevant to issues of sustainability, which is after all a concept intimately intertwined with the temporal dimension, and should be organized about valid measurable indicators of sustainability. Proposed examples of such indicators range from the conceptually basic (the ratio of soil erosion to soil formation) to the summary and complex (the trend in average age of farmers). 4) The knowledge should be researched and communicated by "transdisciplinary" teams, a term utilized independently by both Gary Barrett and Cornelia Butler Flora that I find much more satisfactory than the inadequate "multi-" or "inter-disciplinary," in that it appropriately implies collaboration whose product transcends the traditional, if oxymoronic, approach of subject matter specialists working in a group, but separately. As Cornelia Butler Flora (then Head of Sociology at Virginia Polytechnic and State University, now Director of the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development at Iowa State University) explains in her redefinition of the discipline of farming systems research and extension, transdisciplinary teams should be composed of:
"...advocates of the various goals [of sustainable agriculture], with the ability to negotiate priorities, [and] provide an important input into research and extension toward a sustainable agriculture. Further, farmer membership on these teams is particularly crucial, because a sustainable agriculture means that the farmer shifts from a user of technology to a producer of technology and a monitor of its impacts."
In synthesis, the book argues for the integration of four essential arenas in order to develop and implement sustainable agricultural systems:
Ecology. The natural environment is the source of the management principles that should be used to design sustainable agroecosystems, and these principles emphasize regeneration over extraction of resources.
Sociology. Since agriculture is practiced by humans for human purposes, the human context need always be paramount in agricultural research, and sociology provides the tools to analyze and interpret the needs and dynamics of human societies.
Economics. As the science of how humans make choices, a more fully developed economic system integrating environmental and social costs of agricultural practices is required in order to improve the accounting of such traditional but incomplete measures of production efficiency as are yield and profit.
Politics. As the mechanism for equitably arbitrating among the competing interests of various sectors of large and complex societies, the political process must be sensitive to the new environmental concerns and priorities of industrial societies, and advocates of such concerns must be effective participants in the process in order to ensure that the needs of society at large are not sacrificed for the transient benefit of the few.
Ultimately, success in pursuing the degree of conceptual, scientific and political integration proposed by these authors will depend on the level of ecological and economic sophistication of the citizens of industrial populations. Such a consciousness is best developed during the formative educational experience, argues Sandra Henderson, in what is fittingly the concluding chapter of the book: "Pre-college education provides the only formal education that the majority of the public receives. Most students who do go on to college receive little education at that level on agriculture and related topics. If an agriculturally literate populace is a goal, the precollege education must be the primary mechanism for achieving that goal." This is a significant challenge for the educational system, but one that clearly is important to meet if industrial societies are to be prepared adequately for the future. Sustainability, in the final analysis, will be determined on a comprehensive, social level. Olson makes this point powerfully: "It remains to be seen, however, whether society and policymakers are willing to make the hard choices and sacrifices required to attain sustainability. That is the greatest uncertainty."