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Reboot Agriculture! (the Land Institute)

March 27, 2011

just a theory

Why are we in the wasteful habit of eating annual plants – plants that die every year?   That answer dates back over 10,000 years to the fateful day when, so the paleo-theory goes,  a prehistoric Homer Simpson noticed cornstalks growing out of his trash pile and suddenly a light bulb – or perhaps a flaming mastodon dungball, I dunno – appeared over his head.   Presto:  birth of a nasty habit.  D’oh!

Since then, every year we’ve been planting annuals –  food crops that die off completely following each Fall harvest.  Each Spring, we repeat the cycle and, in the process, inject fertilizer and pesticide chemicals into an ever-expanding clear-cut swath of jungle to keep pace with our growing World population’s needs.

Ecosystems work best when they are diverse, yet we carpet broad swaths of land with homogeneous crops.  In the process, we create chemical and nutrient run-off that poisons aquifers, rivers, oceans and their attendant food chains – which we then ingest.   Tuna steaks, anyone?

While the notion of creating disease-resistant genetic modified (GM) annual crops seems a partial answer, that approach seems like such a plate-spinning exercise compared to what follows.

Enter the Land Institute, where researchers like Wes Jackson are working on rebooting agriculture – developing and identifying perennial food sources.  What if we used perennials, rather than annuals, as our chief food sources?  We could reduce or end our use of poisonous chemicals that contaminate our plant and animal food chains and our environments.  We could conserve precious natural nutrients in our soils.  We could extend growing and harvesting seasons, all without destroying naturally balanced food systems.

Instead of rebooting our crops each Spring, we might someday have an always-on, self-refreshing agriculture base.

Do you think this could work?  What stands in the way?  How would you overcome it to help us get there?

If these questions leave you feeling small, then start small.  Think:  what can you do to support more economical use of crop resources?   Can you supplant annuals with perennials in your diet?   Check out the Land Institute and see what they recommend.

Meanwhile, in these days of high oil prices, why not buy local food in-season?  Patronizing local organic farmers’ markets might seem expensive, until you factor in the notion that less oil was consumed in growing the food, getting it to you, and you getting to it.   As the game show host intones:  Now, how much would you pay?

What else? Chime in below!

From now on, every day is Earth Day.

Business and Sustainability – the odd couple

March 1, 2011

World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Image via Wikipedia

Wikipedia’s entry for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (www.wbcsd.org) nicely frames the dynamic and complex relationship of global business interests within the discussion of sustainability.

Section 8 (reprinted here for your reference), states:

[

Pros and Cons of the WBCSD

The WBCSD is significant in its advocacy of largely market-oriented solutions to challenges of sustainable development.

The ‘Pros’ of this approach include:

  • Alerting business to the need for change to become sustainable
  • Promotion of sustainability, sharing best practice
  • Taking ‘initiative’ by making sustainability a global concern, backed by large and influential multinationals, corporations and organizations

The ‘Cons’ of this market-based approach include:

  • The potential ‘deradicalization’ of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • The depiction of sustainability agendas and business agendas as mutually compatible. This is described as a ‘win-win’ scenario; thus, the existence of ‘win-lose’ scenarios is neglected.
  • The potential for conflation of internal contradictions within business and ‘muddying of the waters’ through such means as ‘greenwash’, ‘bluewash‘, ‘astroturfing‘ and corporate agenda setting [1]

]

Having read this, what are the resources and strategems available to the practicing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) official in balancing societal and corporate interests at times when, despite all the patriotic statements, interests conflict?

How do you reconcile the two?  What experiences can you share here to invigorate others’ efforts?

Green Data Center Conference, meetup & more in February

January 19, 2010

I recently was invited by the President of GSMI, the Global Strategic Management Institute, to attend the upcoming Green Data Center Conference in San Diego during the first week of February, to speak with some industry experts and interview some of the distinguished faculty. 

We plan to make the output from that activity available (podcasts, articles etc.) on GSMI’s Sustainability forum, and I will link to it from this blog for your convenience.

If you are planning to attend the Conference, you should know that I have an arrangement with GSMI whereby readers can earn a 15% discount off your fee as an attendee, exhibitor or sponsor by entering my discount code:  [ ecocentric ] when registering at www.greendatacenterconference.com .

How else can you get engaged, whether or not you attend?

  1. Drop me a quick comment/reply below detailing any question or issue you’d like to see addressed at the conference.  I’ll do my best hard hitting investigative reporter impression for you.
  2. Start/arrange a meetup at www.meetup.com  .
  3. Forward, re-tweet or otherwise share this post URL any way you like.
  4. Join GSMI and get engaged in their fast growing community of sustainability-minded professionals.
  5. Subscribe (free) to this Blog using the Subscribe feature in the right margin to get weekly updates, articles and announcement of other upcoming events and resources.  I value your feedback and will strive to responsibly filter information based on your interests.

Hope to see you in San Diego!

~Ed

That was fast

January 12, 2010

A 3D-snapshot of the mkSolaire (or "Smart...

Image via Wikipedia

I just registered this blog in January 2010.   I promise I’ll be blogging and linking to important and timely news & resources for those interested in sustainable building, energy, earth and other themes. 

What can you do? 

Subscribe using the Subscription box at top right.

Suggest a link, blog or other resource you respect.

Contribute your own articles if you think this is the right forum (if you’re reading this, it probably is the right forum!). 

All the best,

~Ed

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