Guest Post: Agricultural Biodiversity and Sustainability for the Future

Beginning Farmers strongly encourages the submission of guest posts related to food and farming issues. The following article was submitted to us by reader Jack Lundee.

The opinions contained within it are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of beginningfarmers.org or its administrators.

“In other environmental issues we tell people to stop something, reduce their impact, reduce their damage…” – US Ecologist Gary Nabhan

Since the beginning of the green movement, there has been a rise in the number of organizations and businesses that are doing their part in the promotion of sustainability through conservation. This past Earth Day brought about the Earth Day Network, which has been playing its part to bring conservationist and green enthusiasts together, sharing ideas and discussing new ways to support the planet. Other large organizations and 501(c)(3)s like the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) have been working on successful emission reduction projects in the San Francisco Bay area (http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/commitments/commitments_search.asp?Section=Commitments&PageTitle=Browse%20and%20Search%20Commitments&id=343232). All the while, the climate is continuing to worsen, and individual, as well as collaborative acts, are important for any successful green campaign.  As human beings, we’re constantly told to reduce our carbon footprint, consume less unhealthy foods, and spend less time in the shower! But let’s take a minute to step back and look at this from a different perspective; one that Gary Nabhan strongly suggests.

Gary Paul Nabhan, phD., is a Arab-American writer/conservationist who’s extensive farming work in the U.S./Mexico borderlands region has made him world renown. Specifically speaking, Nabham is known for his work in biodiversity as an ethnobotanist. His uplifting messages and attitude towards life and culture has granted us access to multiple beneficial theories including his latest of eat what you conserve (http://www.greenprophet.com/2010/06/04/22246/eat-conserve-gary-nabha/).

According to The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, about three quarters of the genetic diversity of crops have vanished over the last century and a dozen species now provide 90% of the animal protein eaten globally. In accordance, just 4 crop species supply half of plant based calories in the human diet.

Nabhan claims that by eating the fruits and vegetables that we are attempting to conserve/save, we’re promoting the granular dissemination of various plant species. But this goes beyond what we typically buy in supermarkets, particularly because of price and abundance. We must remember to try new things and immerse ourselves in the very concept of diversity. Keep in mind; the benefits of splurging for that costly fruit/vegetable supremely outweigh the cons. Not only does one promote biodiversity and further eliminate the need for farmers to remove rare, less purchased crops from their agenda, but one also effectively encouraging healthier lifestyles.

Agriculturist Marco Contiero mentions that “biodiversity is an essential characteristic of any sustainable agricultural system, especially in the context of climate change” (http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/ips/5cf45c1c04357fdc5183024a327e7952.htm). Contiero believes that people should eat localized crops, spending less time purchasing and becoming heavily reliant on imports.

According to Conterio’s theory, this would suggest that we, as individuals, tend our own crops/plants, and make sure to purchase localized farm products at supermarkets and groceries. In the end, this condenses export/import reliance, thus reducing our carbon footprint.

Nabhan and Contiero’s theories both rely profoundly on an action oriented approach at conservation and sustainability. With an abundance of green movements following Earth Day 2010, organizations and individuals have taken a stronger following to expert opinions like the ones demonstrated by both of these highly influential agriculturalists. So remember, when the fall season approaches, be sure to visit your local apple orchard to pick some fresh fruit.  Also, as eco-conscious individuals, don’t hesitate to stop the next time you drive by a yard stand with fresh crops. Promoting biodiversity and localized farming is a crucial piece of the conservation puzzle.

Jack Lundee – Supporter of all things green and progressive.

1 Comment on Guest Post: Agricultural Biodiversity and Sustainability for the Future

  1. I’ve just written a post about the lack of diversity in farmers crops that I saw during a long drive from Tennessee back to Illinois. You’ll see from the responses that there are a lot of folks out there trying to do the right thing. I just hope that the farmers that have courage to switch from corn to other diverse crops are being successful. I can only buy from them but I wish there was more we could do to support those that buy out of the chemicals and corn approach. UDG

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