Agriculture, environment and sustainability: Notions of sustainability Objectives of session • to discuss the concept of sustainability • to outline the issues associated with managing for sustainable futures
Julian Park Ex 6686 Web site www.rdg.ac.uk/~aasparkj/ email@example.com
Sustainable: a textbook definition The word sustainable appears to originate from the French verb soutenir, meaning to hold up or support What are we trying to sustain and how do we decide what to sustain? Some systems are sustainable but undesirable What temporal and spatial scales do we attach to sustainability? Even if a system is deemed to be “sustainable” how do we manage it so that it continues to be so?
Some definitions associated with sustainability…. …….exploration into a tangled conceptual jungle where watchful eyes lurk at every bend (O'Riordan 1985) …….in order to be sustainable land use must display a dynamic response to changing ecological and socio-economic conditions (Fresco and Kroonenburg 1992) …….monitoring of progress toward sustainability depends on the identification of system characteristics that either support or decrease sustainability (Slocombe 1990) …….a sustainable system is one that can evolve indefinitely toward greater human utility, greater efficiency of resource use and a balance with the environment which is favourable to humans and most other species (Harwood 1989)
Giampietro et al 1992 make the following comment with respect to some forms of land use: "He/she [the land user] is acting like a truck driver who is short of cash and sells pieces of his truck to improve his income but who will soon no longer make a living out of being a trucker of goods"
Early 1900's some people were already questioning what was termed "industrial agriculture" Concerns in America about soil degradation: The Dust Bowl of the 1930's in the American plains 1950's, 1960's a period of rapid mechanisation and increase in productivity 1960's worries about chemicals, The book "Silent Spring" seen by many as the work of a crackpot The green revolution increasing output of mainly rice and wheat in Asia 1970's Oil crisis in developed world 1970's Forrester and Meadows "World Dynamics Model" predicted difficulties ahead The Brant Commission The North South Divide (1978-79) 1980's Rapid expansion of developed economies, widening of the North South divide, The Bruntland Commission, 1990's Rio Convention, Agenda 21, NFFO's, CAP reforms 2000 Another energy crisis/ Middle East crisis? A BRIEF HISTORY IMPACTING ON THE SUSTAINABILITY DEBATE
1. The projected growth in world population and demand for food, fuel and fibre 2. The impact of agriculture on soils, water and air (erosion, degradation, pollution) 3. Continued increase in use of non renewable resources in production, (fossil fuels, phosphate, potash) 4. Social and cultural aspects of agricultural change (depopulation, loss of landscape and amenity) 5. Depletion of biodiversity (monocropping, loss of habitats, widespread use of pesticides) 6. The impact of climatic change on agriculture and vicevera 7. Global markets, falling commodity prices and changes in support mechanisms Main pressures relating to the sustainability of land use today
So what can we say about the concept of sustainability in practical terms? • Popular:- few people would openly advocate a concept of unsustainability • Involves thinking about the future:- i.e. it has temporal characteristics • Systems interactions make planning in a sustainable manner difficult • Need to deliver strategies for assessing the (degree of) sustainability of a system