Resource sustainability insistently encroaches onto the homeland security agenda.
Regardless of the causes — climate change, increasing global demand for a middle class life, depletion of available land and water, ethical norms — the throw-away culture is itself being tossed into the recycling bin.
Not long ago, Pope Francis told reporters
“We’ve become a little accustomed to a throw-away culture, … we do it far too much. With all these young people out of work, the throw-away culture is reaching them too. We must get rid of this throw-away mentality.”
The sustainable agriculture movement is one manifestation of this cultural shift.
Sustainable agriculture weaves these ethical traditions together. It requires rigorous science and reverence for nature. It treats plants, animals, and human beings with care and respect. Sustainable agriculture arises out of concern for the health and wellbeing of individual farmers, farming communities, and the public at large. It replaces the prevailing economic and technological models of “more, bigger, faster, and more efficient” with utmost concern for quality. Above all, it replaces the norms of extraction and exploitation with the norm of sustainability.
While the language may sound like a neo-new age hash, sustainable agricultural practices are not a new idea.
…if sustainable agriculture is defined as the ability to maintain productivity, one can find hints of attempts at “sustaining” agriculture since its inception some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. In fact one could contend, as some do, that since we have ably maintained productivity, agriculture as we know it is sustainable. The real question is whether current agricultural practices can be sustained much longer.
Some people look to technology and innovative institutional practices as the keys to achieving a sustainable future. See, for example, the discussion of The Farmery, on the always informative Resilient Communities website:
The Farmery is designed to be an innovative grocery store where produce is grown and sold under one roof. The modular design of the structure is created from shipping containers. These are cheap and easily accessible building materials making nationwide construction a very real possibility.
But we also have a great deal to learn from our grandparents, the people who lived sustainably before it was culturally correct.
The two minute, and now declassified, British video below shows one technique the Swiss practiced, presumably during the food shortages of the 1930s and 1940s.
Among other things, the video illustrates that sometimes the old, simple ideas remain the best. One wonders how many other antediluvian solutions to 21st century threats are also filed away — like this video — in dusty, all but forgotten storage rooms, patiently waiting to be rediscovered.