Sustain This

Sustainability, in its most real form, exists in society through ideas and debates around the relationship between humans and their global ecosystem. A paradigm shift is on the horizon, one in which environment and economy are no longer bound by illogical juxtaposition.

The best way to be prepared is to be informed.


…Coming From

Norman Borlaug – Ph.D. in plant pathology and genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1942: Domestication of plants traditionally followed annual growing seasons. During the time of his research, acquisition of crops for seasons were highly dependent on seasonal factors. Borlaug predicted that human population would outgrow its capacity to feed itself, and at the exponential rate of human population growth, this event would occur within the 21st century.

And so led to the automation of farming and the intensive hybridization of crops. Genetic Engineering began with intensive cross breeding and multiple crops in a growing season.  Led to more nutritious crops grown in more even stands so they could more easily be harvested mechanically. This was, of course, a solution to the problem.

The Green Revolution

Led to The Green Revolution and the introduction of monocultures, Patented Genetic Engineering through DNA manipulation and agribusiness.

Stunning success transformed agriculture in developing countries and in modern ones. Mass production techniques spread to the developing world in the 1940s with the primary crops of wheat, rice, corn and soy. Growth of these nitrogen hungry starch producers depended on large amounts of synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides, irrigation and heavy equipment. From 1900 to 2000, cultivated area increased 33%, while energy inputs multiplied by 80%.

It could be said, in this rapidly advancing human settlement of urban centers linked by corridors of resource extraction, that intensive farming reduces pressure to convert more natural land to cropland thus preventing the negative effects on natural resources. There are however, as in lessons of Permaculture, alternatives to increasing the yield of land plots without the scale of agribusiness.

Agribusiness, due to its required size for profitability, produces pollution and increases fertilizer input needs, because plants and animals are isolated. Permaculture can avoid health risks of animal and plant bacteria mixing because the scale allows for a natural balance.

Large tracts of monocultures reduce biodiversity, are at great risk for erosion in “off crop season,” and are prone to desertification, have problems with soil salinization through excessive synthetic fertilizer applications, and increased susceptibility to crop diseases and pests as the nature of their existence precludes itself (abundance of food supplies always overrides limiting factors in population growth of any community or species).

Produce distribution is also not without its faults. The majority of “fresh” products that are available year-round in the United States are grown in California, Mexico and South America, and fruits in Washington and Oregon. This often guarantees that food is picked before it is ripened, and the retailer relies on the natural process of decay to ripen products in boxes during shipment. Plants release ethanol as they decay, and exposure to this gas in turn increases the decay of surrounding objects. Thus plants can still come to a prime edible state in time to travel thousands of miles, and thus appear to be prime for consumption on the supermarket shelves.

Alternately, Permaculture Guilds and Food Forests use small scale intensive use of land plots to focus on production of produce that is allowed to ripen on the vine. Thus preserving its maximum nutrient capacity, flavor and texture in a natural way.

Food Systems Today

Soil quality is declining, resulting in lower yields. Society has reduced hunger by half since 1970 through fossil fuels, irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, more agricultural land, more productive crops, and livestock. In responses to fears of famine as major limiting factor of human population growth, cause for wars in many places has been reduced. So some solutions have been met, while others (resource use) have been exacerbated.

The Quantity Approach – Borloug’s definition of food security the guarantee of adequate and reliable food supply to all people at all times, however the techniques developed at that time to satisfy this need are in need of improvement.

The Quality Approach – The modern definition Food security relates to quality and location. The modern approach to food farming lies in localized pockets of diverse land plots that use the advantages of modern engineered agriculture and applies these technologies to practical methods of maintain the symbiosis of a plot of land that can provide and accommodate waste for a distinct geographical boundary.




Sense of Place: that which surrounds us defines us


Regional Identity – balance between what people want from the land and what the land will give them


French cheeses, Swiss chocolates, German beers all have long standing names that stem from different people’s regional perspective, or twist, on the regional product

Just as cultural practices advanced for production of these products, the escalation in appreciation for the product led the society to remold its landscape for the production of these products



            Creation of space to represent cultural identity

Loss of appreciation for nature and local biodiversity in modern urban cities and regions is in direct correlation with the loss of pride in regional specialization that has resulted from mass production of goods and services

Knowing what is endemic or indigenous to a region brings a sense of regionalism 


                        “A SENSE OF PLACE” = the feel that a culture or group of people give a region

   Think about your travels to places that are different – what is it that makes them different?

 Direct impacts of place: on physical health, on opportunities, on lifestyle choices


A location is a combination of a place and its people


Appreciating biodiversity on a cultural level

Supporting local farmer’s markets

Development of urban allotment gardens

Increase in community supported agriculture (CSA) programs

AND enjoying IMPORTS because you KNOW they are IMPORTS


What does this mean for globalization?

– It encourages local societies to be sustainable to the extent that they can self provide for quality of life

– Appreciates the differences between places through imports of other region’s specialties/role their region plays in the global marketplace

– Properly planning for regional appreciation and increasing a sense of place are intrinsically linked


Globalization in many ways can be seen as an EXPORT OF CULTURE


            It used to mean that distance was everything – regions were created as a result of lack of transportation. All things are related and proximal things are more related. As transportation technology evolved, so too did the connections between people and regions. Telecommunications has sped up the rate of global interaction, and gives some non-proximal things similar characteristics/properties of proximal things.




Major Issues

1) American culture is homogenized – Does “Melting Pot” automatically mean “Bland?”


2) Leading” in a “race” toward development automatically insinuates that being developed is better.

  -what lessons are we missing that are only passed down through culture and experience?

3) The terms ‘old world’ and ‘new world’ are reflective of ignoring the history of the population before colonization. There were people and civilizations before the land was new to Europeans and their history.

     In essence, the terms ‘old’ world and ‘new’ world are insensitive to world history. Between these two societies, the Europeans were the ones to first invent the written word, and this is why their “history” is “older”

* for more colloquial lingo that alludes to inacurate depcition, don’t miss this TED talk on first and third world countries.


“A psychological place-specific approach, and not only an ecological site-specific approach, is indispensable to address the issue of urban sustainability,” (Bonnes, et al., 2007)




or is regionalism always akin to tribalism?