Over Christmas break I was having a discussion with my family regarding the abundant use of the phrase “sustainability” especially as it’s applied to the agricultural sector. Not surprisingly, there continues to be a clear discord in the way that people use this term.
Sustainability seems to have gotten the green-tagged reputation in casual conversation; that is, that if something is organic, or ‘naturally’ made then it’s under the umbrella of sustainable. To me, it doesn’t require deep reflection to understand that sustainability encompasses a lot of different dynamics, among them are environmental considerations, but they certainly don’t start or stop there.
Especially when we’re talking about agriculturalists, we need to be thinking of corporate sustainability. That is, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Our Common Future). My point, in talking with my family, was that it isn’t that no one has the answer to what sustainability is, the question that really remains to be seen is how a sustainable agricultural firm operates. It’s not the what, it’s the how.
That’s really the challenge facing today’s progressive agriculturalists, how do we “meet the needs off the present” ?
I certainly don’t have that answer, but I know that there are minds out there with cerebral capacity far surpassing my own which can answer this question.
On Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, Bill Gates gave a speech on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation challenging world leaders at the United Nations to restart the race to answering the burning questions of how to meet the world population’s food shortage.
The Green Revolution is referred to as an age of the past, but why? The global food supply and distribution system certainly leaves something to be desired.
“[The International Agricultural System] has been very successful in the past. When I was a high school student, the biologist Paul Ehrlich wrote a best-seller predicting that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death in the next decade. In fact, world food production doubled and hunger and poverty declined almost everywhere. It is worth pausing a moment to reflect on this accomplishment. Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty, and they have made life better for billions of people.”
I salute Mr. Gates as he lights a fire under the ass of leaders and innovators to solve the problems which have been regarded with stagnant attitudes in the last two decades.
“Today, I am announcing almost $200 million in grants to fund agricultural development that works. Several of these grants extend projects that are already getting great results for farmers. For example, we are re-investing in projects that:
- supported the release of 34 new varieties of drought tolerant maize;
- delivered vaccines to tens of millions of livestock;
- and have trained more than 10,000 agro-dealers to equip and train farmers.
The goal is to move from examples of success, to sustainable productivity increases, to hundreds of millions of people moving out of poverty. If we hope to meet that goal, it must be a goal we share. We must be coordinated in our pursuit of it. We must embrace more innovative ways of working toward it.”
Our food system needs to be a sustainable one. It’s important to note that the ability of the international food system to have successful longevity we have to be resourceful, creative and progressive. We have to think outside the paradigms of demonizing GMOs, or small/organic farms being the inefficient burdens on agriculture’s back. There is a middle ground, and there is an answer out there to the question of sustainable agriculture. I know it.
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Originally read via NY Times Green Blog “Bill Gates Calls for More Accountability on Food Programs“