“Man feeds the earth; the earth feeds man.” –Chinese proverb
Long ago, in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia, human beings began harvesting and domesticating wild seeds, plants and animals for the purpose of yielding food. Thus, began agriculture.
Fast forward 10,000 years. Agricultural lands now comprise over 40 percent of the earth’s land surface. Agriculture now employs more people and uses more land and water than any other human activity. In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations refers to farmers as “the largest group of natural resource managers on Earth.” Perhaps the greatest challenge these managers face today is how to meet the world’s increasing demand for produce without harming its remaining ecosystems.
Can agroecology – the scientific discipline that uses ecological theory to study, design, manage and evaluate agricultural systems that are productive and resource conserving – be the answer? What better time to explore this question than fall, a time known in our hemisphere as harvest season.
We’ll begin by talking with Dr. Wes Jackson, a man widely regarded as the father of sustainable agriculture. Dr. Jackson founded The Land Institute back in the 1970s and has been furthering the science of agroecology ever since. He shares with us some history, wisdom, ideas and a palpable passion for the land.
Your responses to our reader survey reveal your concerns about industrial agriculture as well as your commitment to and interest in developing solutions.
In her article A Growing Movement in The Concrete Jungle, Biohabitats Ecological Designer, Nicole Stern, describes one of the hottest new trends to hit our cities – urban agriculture.
We recognize that a discussion of agroecology would be incomplete without mentioning permaculture. The Permaculture Institute defines ‘permaculture’ as:
“an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor.” Because permaculture extends beyond how food is grown, to address how homes are constructed, diminished landscapes restored, rainwater harvested, communities built, etc., we see it as a topic deserving of its own issue of Leaf Litter. So, look for that in the future!
For those of you who want to dig deeper into the topic of agroecology, we provide loads of resources. Be sure to check them out. Finally, catch up on the latest at Biohabitats.