Wendell Berry Goes to Washington…again.

The Washington Post interviewed “three wise men” who presented their 50-yr plan for a new agriculture policy to Congress that ensures sustainable food systems in the U.S. At issue is their plan that spans fifty years, or ten farm bills. The Post’s Jane Black, asked these three experts whether our representatives can think that far ahead!

Good question.

Wendell Berry, a farmer and philosopher, whose writings illuminate the politics and ethics of modern agribusiness versus sustaining agriculture, told Janet Black he was not particularly hopeful (since the same issues he wrote about are the same issues he presented three decades later).

The long-term plan for a sustainable food system (conceived by Berry and geneticist Wes Jackson from the Land Institute,  and sustainable-agriculture advocate Fred Kirschenmann with the Leopold Center) emphasizes perennials, not annuals. The reason has to do with cultivation of living communities in soil that foster resiliency to stress.

Drought and increasing temperatures, followed by flooding are some of the stress factors impinging on agricultural land. Industrial scale practices that ignore how soil communities sustain the productivity of land has been the U.S. approach to farming since the 1950s when fertilizers and pesticides ended widespread hunger in the U.S.

But the land is reaching exhaustion. With the new impacts of climate change, many experts fear a collapse of our once productive fields.

As a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, I read the discussions about “deniers” of climate change, even in the face of mounting evidence of its progress, and causal elements from humankind. As yet we don’t seem to know how to convince a large segment of our society which holds a view that climate change is a left-wing plot.

maslows-hierarchy-of-needsFor any long-term change the public has to be able to think long-term. When our economy and political focus causes citizens to worry about basic needs (food, job and home) we put them at the base of Maslowe’s famous hierachy of needs. At the level of existence, people feel anxious.

Perhaps the long-term thinking that concerned leaders wish people to exercise is not possible under current political, social, and economic circumstances, or, even if people are willing to engage in long-term planning, misguided by leaders deny climate change as a threat.

Mrs. Obama established an organic garden at the White House and the the First Family dines on the garden’s sustainable produce. Will that sensibility spread beyond their table into national policy.

The jury is out. I would love to know what you think.

Warming Ocean Surface Temps…

From the Environmental News Service

ASHEVILLE, North Carolina, July 21, 2009 (ENS) – The world’s ocean surface temperature in June rose to its warmest since 1880, breaking the previous high mark set in 2005, according to a preliminary analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville.

The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for June was second-warmest since global recordkeeping began.

The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for June 2009 was the second warmest on record, behind 2005, 1.12 degrees Fahrenheit (0.62 degree C) above the 20th century average of 59.9 degrees F (15.5 degrees C).

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Recovery Act Pathways Out of Poverty RFP

Dear Readers,

Yesterday I thorougly reviewed the RFP from the Department of Labor that will fund projects to train people for green jobs. It is exciting to learn that people are designing a process that assures success. For example, the proposals must be from a strategic partnership and the partner types are spelled out to assure that a comprehensive approach will be funded. Then, the RFP instructs grant seekers to connect their projects with other Recovery Act initiatives in their target area. This paticular RFP will support training and job placement for disadvantaged individuals living in areas of 15% poverty rate or more, ex-prisoners who face increased barriers to employment, and eligible veterans preferentially.

Here is the link to review the RFP, due September 29.

Susan