28 Feb 2016 - Sustainability is our Responsibility

This week I write again about ‘sustainability’. There are so many definitions that I find it impossible to settle on one that fits everything. I participated in the annual Ag Outlook meeting of the Phoenix Ag Club in Arizona a few days ago and the overall program theme was Sustainability. The main focus was on agriculture but the discussion went far beyond farming and ranching. Here are some of the definitions I discovered.

Sustainabililty is....
“...the ability to continue a defined behavior indefinitely.”
“...being able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed.”

Then there is Environmental Sustainability defined this way. “Basically the world’s standard definition of environmental sustainability is sustainable development, which means sustainable economic growth, which is an oxymoron. No form of of economic growth can be continued indefinitely. Furthermore, all economic growth today is terribly degrading environmentally.” Another source talks about the “Three Pillars of Sustainability; social, environmental and economic.”

At the Phoenix meeting , a farmer from North Dakota said the order of the Pillars should be reversed with economic first, followed by the other two. He said “if I don’t have economic sustainability, then I can’t continue to produce food, fiber and energy and I can’t afford to buy the inputs that will improve the quality of the soil for the sustainability of my kids and grand-kids and all the kids on the planet.”

Our meeting took place on one of the satellite campuses of Arizona State University and we heard from one of their professors whose main sustainability concern is water...getting enough for agriculture, to cool buildings, to play golf, to drink, to wash cars and flush toilets.With several-million urban people in the Phoenix area, they are concerned about sustaining a livable atmosphere in the desert and at the same time keeping the rural/urban water battle from escalating.

If you are an agricultural producer anywhere in the country, I’m sure you have your own definition of sustainability that is unique because of who you are and what livestock or crops you produce. The only thing I know for sure is this will take a lot of work and compromise for all of us because we all share the planet and its resources and I haven’t met anyone yet who can fly away to another planet.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.