It won’t be doomsday at Sustainability Fair, which looks long-term

Posted 9 September 2015 at 12:00 am


Though Hollywood producers seem obsessed with films focusing on apocalyptic events, in the real world the human race has to take a longer view.

It is either take the long view, or act in such a short-sighted manner as to help fulfill the predictions of doomsday prophets.

The Sept. 15 “Sustainability Fair” at Holy Family Parish’s Lyceum (5:30 p.m.) will provide numerous perspectives on better securing our long-term future as residents of “Mother Earth.”

The first thing I wrote alerting people to the “Sustainability Fair” focused on economic sustainability in food production. Some may have concluded from that discussion that individual self-sufficiency in food production might be ideal. For most people who live in the “developed” world, the concept of individual self-sufficiency is unrealistic, even if one thinks of it as ideal.

Sustainability of food production systems is directly related to the impact of those systems on the environment humans have to live in. Forcing crop cultivation into areas too arid to support it backfired in the 1930’s Dust Bowl.

Growing the same crop on the same ground indefinitely is a risky proposition. Failure to strip crop or, in more hilly tropical areas, failure to terrace fields can be a recipe for food shortages and failed farms. Agricultural experts at Iowa State University have suggested severe flooding in the Midwest may be related to over-reliance on corn as a cash crop.

In deciding how we go about producing the food that we must have, we certainly benefit from considering the effect food production methods have on our environment. An approach which devastated the biological allies we depend on would be short-sighted and, ultimately, catastrophic.

There are areas where so-called “second-generation” rodenticide use is prevalent enough that, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology publication, “Living Bird,” raptors consuming poisoned rats, voles and mice die as a result. Without the aid of raptors, environmental deterioration would be inevitable.

One of the premier “mousers” is the red fox. Having too many fox(es) certainly has a big downside. Without a healthy raptor population and no foxes, the result might well be far less agricultural productivity due to rodent-related losses. Habitat preservation is vital to maintaining needed balance.

Any practice that upsets a reasonable natural balance can result in unacceptable alternatives whether they be greater reliance on poison, or reduced food production, either of which would be unsustainable.

Often overlooked allies in the struggle for sustainable food production are the lowly amphibians. A single garden toad was estimated to be worth almost 20 1947 dollars! While that raised my eyebrows when I read it, there is no doubt that toads and frogs can be invaluable allies to anyone attempting to grow food.

As an amphibian admirer since the age of 4 (we make special provisions for them), I can say without equivocation, that 2015 has to be number one in leopard frog reproduction in my experience. There is, nonetheless, reason to be concerned about the long-term viability of our amphibians.

The health of Orleans County’s raptor population (kestrels, hawks, eagles and owls) and, perhaps, its amphibians as well, suggests that, at least here, we are doing pretty well. The healthy coexistence between people and some of their more important allies on the food production sustainability front seems relatively intact.
The challenge is for us to sustain that coexistence for the long-term.

Gary F. Kent