Fields of Concentration
- Course: Fair Trade Theory and Practice
- Course: Food, Waste, and Justice
- Tutorial: Farming Practices and Soil Health
- Tutorial: Topics in Sustainable Agriculture
This Plan explores practices to create agricultural systems that do not degrade the soil and surrounding ecosystem, with an understanding of anthropocentric and environmental needs as equally important and interdependent. It’s composed of three papers and an exam, for a look at Claire’s knowledge in the broader area of environmental studies. The first paper, titled “Leopold and the Fair Trade Movement: Expanding Community,” builds on the work of Aldo Leopold to understand and develop a community ethic that encompasses all of the land community, including humans. The second paper provides support for the claim that conventional agricultural systems are not ecologically sustainable, and presents alternative practices that preserve long-term ecosystem health and bring humans and land communities closer together. The final paper is based on a study of 10 farms in the region, and compares indicators of soil health between conventional farms and those that employ organic fertilizers, integrated pest management, intercropping, and other alternative farming practices.
Though we have come to the conclusion that all humans are created equal and have rights, we have yet to fully eradicate racism, sexism, or many other forms of exclusion of each other from specific communities. We also do not have ethical stipulations for how to deal with far off groups as part of our greater community. This lack of an ethic can be seen in the way that developed nations treat the people, land, and products from developing nations. “Developed” countries impose free trade agreements and stipulations on loans to poorer countries that keep these countries at an economic and political disadvantage. Transnational companies go to poorer countries to take advantage of more lenient environmental pollution, degradation, minimum wage, and human rights laws. These actions come from a standpoint of heightening one’s own position. But there is no attention paid to the betterment of the community, or to how the degradation of other parts of the community will eventually lead to the degradation of the whole and so come back onto the individual. As discussed earlier, Leopold’s ethics are based on the premise that the individual is part of a community and that “His instincts prompt him to compete for his place in that community, but his ethics prompt him also to co-operate (perhaps in order that there may be a place to compete for).” The lack of ethics in global trade shows that we have not fully recognized other people or other lands as part of our community. Biodiversity is important to ecosystem function, so how can humans support it and make agricultural systems compatible with the land community?
Biodiversity conservation requires a landscape perspective. It has been suggested that maintaining long-term diversity at a local scale requires higher diversity at regional scales. Complex landscapes can support more diversity because of the wider range of habitats provided. A landscape with hills and burrows, and flat places, with different kinds of soil, and a creek or pond will support many different species of plants and animals. In conventional agriculture this diversity of landscape is usually homogenized as much as possible. This is to give all the plants the same nutrients, water, and sunlight access, and to allow machinery onto the field.
The inspiration for my Plan was the feeling that I was looking for a way to help. Not just humans but all forms of life. I have traveled abroad in Ireland, France, and China, and worked In Kansas and Vermont. Always searching for a way to improve the world community.
The most interesting part for me was the connection between human nature and non human nature as part of the same community system that requires constant exchange to continue. However the most memorable part of doing Plan was the constant feeling of needing to do more work.