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Waiting for more data vs. acting in good faith

Posted by Chad Kruger | March 21, 2013

In the comment string of my original post Reflections on Savory, reader Rondi Lightmark asked a very legitimate set of questions:

How much closer are we going to get to catastrophes far worse than the Dust Bowl while scientists sit around and debate the merits of a new idea? Allan [Savory] has adequately demonstrated the success of his work to warrant significant support for implementing his methods on a large scale. What do we have to lose if we do? Who can answer that question?

While I responded to the comment in that post, I’ve had several similar questions raised in other settings recently so I thought this topic justified its own more general post. Do we wait for more data or act in good faith based on what we know? Here is the rub between science and action on challenging issues like climate change, soil erosion or desertification. I completely understand the frustration that it often seems as though science moves “too slowly” to enable us to respond effectively to increasingly complex global problems. On the question of climate and global carbon emissions, scientists like James Hansen (Hansen et al., 2008) have actually indicated that we may, in fact, have waited too long to take serious action and that we may be too late to curb the more detrimental global effects of a changing climate. With this in mind, it makes acting seem more urgent and often leads us to make significant societal investments in ideas that don’t have solid quantification or evaluation to support. Read more »

The importance of planetary “skin care” for our soils

Posted by David Granatstein | February 28, 2013

Soil is often called the “living skin” of planet Earth; an essential but fragile part of the biosphere.  Attention to soil health (or soil quality) has waxed and waned over the years, but it appears to be making a comeback.  In the past few months I have been to two exceptional meetings on soil health – one in Moses Lake (>200 attendees) and one near Spokane (>100 attendees).  Growers and crop consultants made up the largest share of the audience, mostly larger commercial growers.  In my 25 years of working on soil quality, I have never experienced the level of excitement I saw and the depth of actual change on the case study farms presented.  Ideas like the soil food web, that sometimes can be vague and hard to translate to action, were illustrated in actual practices on the ground that are improving the soil and profitability at the same time.  Cover crops played a big role in the presentations.  These appear to be underused here in Washington relative to some other parts of the country.  To me, this spells opportunity. Read more »

Can incremental change pave the way for system transformation?

Posted by Marcy Ostrom | December 18, 2012

As several CSANR faculty members have agreed to do, including Andy McGuire and David Granatstein, I am responding to the question posed by Center Director Chad Kruger on September 18: Achieving farm and food system sustainability: incremental vs. transformational pathways? Read more »

Reflections on Savory: The Science and the Philosophy Pt. 2

Posted by Chad Kruger | December 14, 2012

Managing Change Northwest recently brought Allan Savory of the Savory Institute to the Pacific Northwest to speak to the Washington Cattleman’s Association, the Tilth Producers of Washington, and a special workshop and keynote in Seattle for consumers. CSANR co-sponsored Savory’s PNW tour because we thought he brought a challenging message that many in our region needed to hear. Below is the second of a two-part post of my reflections on what Savory had to say when he was here.

Part 2: The Philosophy

In my previous post on this topic I shared my thoughts on the controversial nature of the science behind Allan Savory and Holistic Management (HM). In this post, I will focus on my view of the philosophical challenge Savory presented when he was here. Read more »

Reflections on Savory: The Science and the Philosophy

Posted by Chad Kruger | November 20, 2012

Managing Change Northwest recently brought Allan Savory of the Savory Institute to the Pacific Northwest to speak to the Washington Cattleman’s Association, the Tilth Producers of Washington, and a special workshop and keynote in Seattle for consumers. CSANR co-sponsored Savory’s PNW tour because we thought he brought a challenging message that many in our region needed to hear. Below is the first of a two-part post of my reflections on what Savory had to say when he was here. Read more »

The clean air I took for granted

Posted by Chad Kruger | September 20, 2012

In case you hadn’t noticed, central Washington is still on fire. If you haven’t noticed, then you must live a long way from here! Raging wildfires have consumed nearly 150,000 acres of the center of the state over the past two months, with the most recent round of blazes (more than 100 fires) sparked by a massive lightning storm on the evening of September 8th.

While much of the attention to the Taylor Bridge fire near Ellensburg in August focused on impact on domestic structures and livestock, the excitement created by the current Wenatchee Complex fires and Grand Coulee fires has largely focused on air quality impact (though there are plenty of structures and livestock impacted). Read more »

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Hope for a sustainable Haiti?

Posted by Chad Kruger | August 16, 2012

In February, I was invited by CSANR-affiliated WSU alum and good friend Jason Streubel to visit Haiti for an agricultural summit he was hosting on behalf of his new organization, Convoy of Hope (CoH). Jason was hired immediately after graduating WSU with his Ph.D. in soil science last year to help CoH “build a sustainable agriculture plan” to support its Children’s Feeding Initiatives around the world. They didn’t make it easy by assigning Haiti as his first challenge. CoH has fed more than 50,000 children per day in Haiti alone for the past 20 years!

Along with Jason and a team comprised of both local Haitians and a couple of other “American experts”, I visited several communities and sites both in the plain near Port-au-Prince and in the mountains to the north. We visited with local farmers and leaders and held a number of discussions regarding the circumstances in Haiti, the existing CoH program and capacity, and what was really needed to make a difference in building a sustainable agriculture and food system in Haiti. Read more »

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