Day 1

MONDAY, MAY 23:  Introduction, Realities and Importance of Environmental Issues, Focus on Sustainable Agriculture

8:45 a.m. – Continental breakfast (Laminan Lounge, Olin Center)

Unless otherwise noted, the following events will be held in Olin 002, on the ground floor of the Olin Center

9:00 a.m. – Welcome & Introductions (Julie Dobrow & Colin Orians)

 

  • What is our educational mission?
  • Central questions
  • Places where reality and perceptions blend
  • Zelizer’s concept of frame and memory, role of media in creating perceptions
  • Focus/approach for this year’s TELI

9:30 a.m. – Welcome and discussion of importance of interdisciplinary work in looking at environmental issues  (Dean Andrew McClellan, Arts & Sciences)

9:45  a.m. – exploratory exercise

10:45 a.m. – Environmental issues: Past, Present and Future (Michael Reed, Biology)

  • Challenges & success stories
  • Looking ahead – Leveraging Tufts’ strengths?
  • Changes in realities and image of conservation, what is environmental change and how do we see/measure it?

11:30 a.m. – “Shifting Baselines” (a series of short films)

12:00 p.m. – Lunch (Laminan Lounge, Olin Center)

1:00 p.m. – Case study #1:  The Realities of Sustainable Agriculture (Tim Griffin, Friedman School)

  • Key issues in sustainable agriculture?
  • Economy of scale in sustainable agriculture (is the locavore movement a sustainable goal?)

1:30 p.m. – Provocative Issues in Sustainable Agriculture (Colin Orians, Jennifer Hashley, Tufts New Entry Sustainable Farm Project)

  • Genetic Modification: the good, the bad, the ugly
  • Design of agriculture and forestry systems, implications for pest outbreaks
  • Food/Organic labeling
  • Debates over organic:   is it for the elite?

Discussion

3:00 p.m. – Wrap up & thinking points

MONDAY, MAY 23 – HOMEWORK

Find an article about some aspect of sustainable agriculture.  Think about it in terms of the central questions we are posing this week in TELI.  Post a few reflections below in the reply section. A few questions that might guide your reading/thinking:

  • Where does this article appear?
  • What scientific/environmental issues are discussed?
  • Who’s cited as expert?
  • What scientific evidence is presented?
  • Are there any visuals that go along with this article – any graphics/photos?
  • Reflect on your sense of this as an issue, what is the reality, what is the “take home point,” in what ways did where it appeared and how it appeared influence your perception of this issue?  How would it influence others who are perhaps less informed or skeptical?

17 Responses to Day 1

  1. Michael Reed says:

    Journal article in ‘Food Policy’

    Evaluating potential compatibility between food production and biodiversity protection. Conclusion is that you can’t do both in the same place:
    “a large proportion of wild species cannot survive in even
    the most benign farming systems.”
    “We conclude that restricting human requirements for land globally
    will be important in limiting the impacts on biodiversity of increasing
    food production. To achieve this, society will need to integrate explicit
    conservation objectives into local, regional and international policies
    affecting the food system.”

    cited as expert? Other scientific literature

    evidence presented? literature review for papers that met criteria of assessing landuse strategies – no studies met all criteria; they create trade-off models based on data on crop yield, farming system type, wild species diversity, and population density of wild species

    visuals – yes – visual model of types of farming practices of potential value of sites for crop yield vs. biodiversity value; graphs showing relationships between crop yield biodiversity measures; diagram contrasting 2 landuse strategies to balance farming and wildlife needs

    not sure what you mean by the wording regarding my ‘sense of this as an issue, what is the realtity’ means. Which issue – sustainable agriculture or the use of graphics?
    - sustainability – take home points given above – biodiversity and agriculture are in conflict except; biodiversity suffers except in very poor yield farming scenarios; need to set criteria for protecting wildlife in the face of increasing agriculture demands
    - graphics – helped a lot in conveying the general problem, and in demonstrating the results.

  2. Colin Orians says:

    “As sustainable farming takes root, green thumbs get greener” USA Today
    The article immediately focused on the human element. The focused our attention on changes made by a specific family and used first names. Photo and headline are very green.

    Not science focused, in fact there is zero evaluation of the underlying science. Rather, it is about buying and supporting local green industry with the implied assumption that local is worth paying more for.

    Has links to other articles and a quiz to test your eco-score (how to save energy and more)

    This quote seems to be about getting buy-in from farmer stakeholders – perhaps farmers, as much as anybody else are the audience for this piece.
    “Farmers have always been good stewards of the land,” Clark says, “but now they can get paid for it.”

    text was very formulaic – family ==> other families in brief ==> back to original family in detail, and ends with a quote,
    “You have to keep changing for the good of the land,” he says.

  3. Lai Ying Yu says:

    * Where does this article appear?
    “Traditional Agricultural Practices Enable Sustainable Remediation of Highly Polluted Soils in Southern Spain for Cultivation of Food Crops” pub’d in Journal of Environmental Management; July 2011 issue
    * What scientific/environmental issues are discussed?
    Are small vegetable agricultural plots farmed on soil that was heavily polluted by former mining sites producing hazardous food? Does the current traditional soil management practices, practice of liming and use of manure, provide a “sustainable” (what is defined as long-term safety use) form of counteracting the pollutants in the soil?
    * Who’s cited as expert?
    The article cites a number of essays/ scientific studies and includes references at end.
    * What scientific evidence is presented?
    They offer numbers and explanations of their scientific approach for culling data.

    * Are there any visuals that go along with this article – any graphics/photos?
    It includes a number 5 tables and a number of graphs.

    * Reflect on your sense of this as an issue, what is the reality, what is the “take home point,” in what ways did where it appeared and how it appeared influence your perception of this issue? How would it influence others who are perhaps less informed or skeptical?
    The essay seems very focused and the conclusion is very easily understandable and carefully written, limiting the significance of the results to other plots of a similar scale, similar pollutants, similar level of pollutants, traditional farming methods, and type of vegetables grown. The information might be of help to those growing food on community gardens and who are uncertain about the soil they farm on (esp. those located in urban centers with its history of urban renewal). Its level of scholarship, number of references, and appearance in an academic journal suggests that it is very credible and responsibly researched.

  4. Matt Panzer says:

    This is a journal article on the sustainability of rice farming in Myanmar.

    Where? Journal (Environ. Dev. Sustain. 2011)
    Issues? Rice farming in Myanmar, specifically focused on efficiency of fertilizer usage
    Cited as expert? Other articles/ self-citations
    Scientific evidence? Surveys, Myanmar governmental agency data
    Visuals? Graphs, maps
    Take home point? Myanmar currently doing better than China/Vietnam in fertilizer efficiency and so has room to grow yields… but should take care in doing so “sustainably”

  5. Julie Dobrow says:

    Mother Jones Magazine is a very political venue. You don’t really expect articles to be without a fairly explicit agenda. However, the reporting is still quite good. This article touches on a number of the issues that were raised by our speakers today, but extends them by putting them within a broader social context. Interestingly, the writer has made efforts to explain some of the science behind the push for organic, and cites a number of university-affiliated scientists. This online version contains no images or graphics, but there are a large number of reader comments. One of the things we’ll want to consider in our discussion is the issue of reader expectations based on publication venue, and whether there are differences between publications that are ostensibly without political affiliations and those that clearly are.

  6. Gogi Grewal says:

    “When others are grabbing their land: Evidence is piling up against acquisitions of farmland in poor countries”

    *Where does this article appear?

    The Economist (http://www.economist.com/node/18648855)

    *What scientific/environmental issues are discussed?
    Wealthier countries buying or renting large tracts of land in poor developing countries to produce food for their own citizens. All to often, promises of ‘technology transfer’ and job creation have not been kept. Furthermore, many more ‘landgrabs’ are probably occurring and are just kept secret. I think this article highlights the very real concern that the current rate of food production in many countries is not enough to feed their people, and as population growth continues this concern only becomes bigger. So big, in fact, that countries are snapping up cheap land in poor countries in which local people may not even be getting enough to eat, in anticipation of future food shortages.

    *Who’s cited as expert?
    The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), World Bank, and various research institutions such as IFPRI and the International Land Coalition. Also, a couple of names of people from research organizations (Lorezo Cotula of International Institute for Environment and Development and Thea Hilhorst) are cited. The term ‘expert’ isn’t explicitly used, but is implied by citing results of studies and opinions by these organizations and people.

    *What scientific evidence is presented?
    Results of a survey of 99 small projects in Sub-Saharan Africa are mentioned, as well as estimations of amount of farm land bought in foreign countries provided by the Bank and FAO.

    *Are there any visuals that go along with this article – any graphics/photos?
    Yes, there is a graphic as well as a figure. Right at the start of the article, almost accompanying the title, is a very large graphic depicted a mechanical arm lifting a large chunk of land with silhouettes of people far below. It is a very simple graphic, yet sets a tone for the article that to me seems to give ‘land-grabbing’ a clear negative connotation.

    The other figure shows the total area of reported land deals from 2001 to the present, based on preliminary data from Oxfam, CIRAD, CDE, and the International Land Coalition. The diagram makes it very clear that Africa is by far the largest contributer of land in this context.

    *Reflections
    I think this article does a good job of acknowledging that the evidence regarding this issue of land grabs is not fully available, yet conveys the figures that are estimated by ‘expert’ organizations. The take-home point seems to be that countries that are buying land in other nations to produce food do so under the guise of providing employment to the local people as well as transferring skills and technology that can presumably help the locals with their own agriculture. However, there seems to be little evidence that these benefits are indeed being enjoyed by the poor countries. I do regularly read the Economist, and feel that this article would be objective enough given available information on the subject that even someone who is skeptical about this issue would not be outraged. I thought the image used at the beginning of the article was an interesting choice as it sets a negative tone for the article and influences the reader (at least me!) even before I get to the text.

  7. (1) Earth, air, water, food – by Helen Ragovin, Tufts Magazine, Summer 2008, 25-29
    Describes a restaurant and farm close to New York City.
    Buzz words such as local and seasonal, ecological stewardship, and farm policy are mentioned but not explained or discussed. The article mentions that the restaurant is the largest customer of the 80 acres farm hinting at the exclusiveness of this way of provisioning. This relates to our discussions of “what is the right size” of agricultural operation.
    It is mentioned that the farm has its own processing facility (butcher).
    The visuals are amazing and make you wish to be part of the setting and to have the food, however, one image is of a bowl full of kiwis, which are surely not from New York.
    (2) Meat eaters without guilt – by Tamar Haspel, WashingtonPost.com
    The article is detailing the advantages of grass fed meat (weed control, pest control, fertilizer) and calls it sustainable agriculture on small sustainable farms. It mentions the unsustainable sides of industrial meat farming (no details). No facts are listed, no scientific evidence produced or references.
    Both articles clearly appeal to our emotions and are written to be digested like candy.

  8. Anne Cantu says:

    ” Venezuela wants to bring the production of the countryside to the city” (in Spanish)

    Where does this article appear?
    BBCMundo.com

    What scientific/environmental issues are discussed?
    The need to feed the Venezuelan population. The Venezuelan government announced its agricultural plan, urban agriculture, that it says will guarantee a sufficient food supply and lower costs by having people plant rooftop gardens and use schoolyards and empty urban lots for farming, for which financial aid is available.

    Who’s cited as expert?
    The Venezuelan Minister of Agriculture, the president of a foundation that supports an Agrarian Revolution, the coordinator of an Andean institute that supports sustainable development, a member of the opposition.

    What scientific evidence is presented?
    The article gives pros and cons and is rather a political perspective. According to the author who seems objective, Venezuela currently depends largely on imports. The government representatives quoted cite a similar project in Cuba that had good results. The proposed system would be local and eliminate the costly middleman, they say. The opposition spokesman refutes this and says that transportation of produce in Venezuela is cheap because fuel is cheap. His point is that the real problem is a lack of production of foodstuffs caused by an absence of policies that would stimulate internal production with certain guarantees.

    Are there any visuals that go along with this article – any graphics/photos?
    There is a photo of Caracas with a skyscraper in the foreground, which makes the me wonder about the feasibility of the government’s proposal. Actually, it makes me think the idea is absurd.

    Reflection: I find the BBCMundo articles well reported and so the credibility factor here is strong. The article itself illustrates what I know about Latin American politics, and I get the sense that the program is more about Chavez’ demagogy rather than a grassroots solution to the food problem. It is par for the course to subvert ecological and environmental issues in Latin America to political expediency (that might be the point of the article). I can understand that some people would find the proposal valid because theoretically, it makes sense. There has been a program in Germany for many years that allows each apartment dweller a small plot for planting, so this program is not that far-fetched, but since the author starts with the government position and ends with the opposition’s rebuttal, I suspect that she is skeptical of the proposal, and that certainly has an effect on my thinking as well.

  9. Anne Cantu says:

    To follow up, I found an article titled “Farming in the City” by Lester R. Brown, released by the EarthPolicyInstitute.org on March 16, 2007 (the article on Venezuela is from January 2011). It confirms that in many countries around the world people are getting food from urban gardens (700 million people, according to a FAO report from 2005 ). In light of this, I am inclined to think that the original article indeed is more of a political treatment and that the Venezuelan government’s proposal may have some validity. I would need to do further research if I want to have an informed opinion on the subject.

  10. Michelle Boyd says:

    “Selling Agriculture 2.0 to Silicon Valley” by Todd Woody
    • Where does this article appear?
    o The article appears on the New York Times online site and was published on April 22, 2010.
    • What scientific/environmental issues are discussed?
    o This article specifically discusses “sustainable agriculture” as an opportunity for Silicon Valley venture capitalists.
    • Who’s cited as expert?
    o Because the article discusses investments in sustainable agriculture, the featured “experts” are apparently seasoned and prominent venture capitalists who are a part of the “Agriculture 2.0” effort. These experts included Paul Matteucci (a venture capitalist with U.S. Venture Partners in Menlo Park, California), Amol Deshpande (a venture partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer), and Janine Yorio (founder of NewSeed Advisors; she is referred to as the “Johnny Appleseed” of Agriculture 2.0).
    • What scientific evidence is presented?
    o Scientific evidence is not explicitly presented in the article as it is not the focus of the discussion. Instead to provide some background information, the author provides a very brief, simplified definition of sustainable agriculture (“a catch-all phrase for environmentally beneficial farming”).
    o In addition, any reference to “scientific evidence” in the article is presented as a rationale for why venture capitalists are recognizing and pursuing this emerging market (“…venture capitalists say a growing awareness of conventional agriculture’s contribution to climate change and concerns over its consumption of water and energy are creating markets for technological innovation to minimize those effects”). The statements about the impact of “conventional agriculture” are not coupled with any references or citations or attributed to any source (other than venture capitalists in general), although there is a hyperlink for the phrase “climate change” that directs the reader to an article about global warming.
    • Are there any visuals that go along with this article – any graphics/photos?
    o The only visual is a photograph of Janine Yorio, the founder of NewSeed Advisors.
    • Reflect on your sense of this as an issue, what is the reality, what is the “take home point,” in what ways did where it appeared and how it appeared influence your perception of this issue? How would it influence others who are perhaps less informed or skeptical?
    o In some ways, this article links an environmental issue with the realities of business and capitalism. Because of its relevance as an environmental issue, sustainable agriculture is on the radar of venture capitalists who want to invest in related business enterprises – in this case Silicon Valley investors who referenced how sustainable agriculture relates to other well funded areas, including clean technology and life sciences.
    o I chose to consult the New York Times because I wanted to access information that may be readily accessible to the “average” media consumer (versus perhaps a top tiered journal or a specialized publication) and specifically chose this article because it is a part of the sustainable agricultural system that I did not readily consider. Also, it was interesting that quite a few of the recent articles concerning aspects of sustainable agriculture featured on the New York Times site were published as part of the opinion pages or featured blogs (with the exception of articles grouped around a topic cluster).
    o The article presents a slice of the reality in that the realizations of certain agriculture sustainability efforts are dependent upon another party recognizing some sort of value and investing accordingly. The article made me want to explore the issue more thoroughly and I was hoping to find a related article that further detailed the topic. Hopefully the reader of such an article will further examine the business component of sustainable agriculture and its implications.

  11. James Mulder says:

    “Strong Sales of Organic Foods Attract Investors” NY Times, May 23, 2011.

    The article observes and attempts to explain why in a number of Western European countries and the U.S. organic food sales are up while economies are depressed. It uses the term “organic” freely, but never defines it. The article briefly suggests that the U.S. “support[s] standards, certification, research and education” with regard to organic farming, but those are not further clarified, except to say that the States and the E.U. all incentivize organic growing. Experts cited are one organic farmer from Paris, the U.S. Agriculture Department, the Organic Trade Association, and the director of a large organic farmers’ association in Germany.

    The primary concern here is the economic side of the issue, so the article spends most of its time addressing the various ways in which different countries have subsidized or supported organic farmers (more than they have supported “conventional farms”) and the ways in which demand for organic foodstuffs has remained unwavering. The thing the article does not get into, however, is WHY consumers are paying so much money for organic foods and what they believe they are purchasing. The closest it comes to explaining this is to say that “many farmers and analysts expect the sector to remain strong in coming years, helped by increased public awareness of environmental and potential health benefits.”

    Finally, the only visual accompanying this story is a photograph of the Parisian farmer’s wife feeding chickens on their organic chicken farm. I think the fact that this is the image associated with the story (and the fact that the article begins with but does not return to the farmer’s personal experience of expanding his farm to meet the overwhelming need for his eggs) speaks to the way in which organic foods are marketed. The “environmental and potential health benefits” of organic food are often presented in these sort of affective terms, as an individual farmer (or better yet, a married couple of farmers) concerned with an individual consumer’s health and ethical well-being. However, at the end of the article, I am left not knowing how to evaluate the health benefits of organic food myself or how governments are defining “organic.” I only know that governments here and overseas are supporting organic food because it sells.

  12. Diego Millan says:

    Citation:
    Estabrook, Barry. “To Market, to Market! Riding Shotgun with the Tomato Man” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 2011), pp. 77-80
    Similar to Colin, I found a human-interest piece; this one was about about Tim Stark, farmer and writer of the 2008 memoir Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer. It appears in Gastronomica, which according to their website is a journal dedicated to “renewing the connection between sensual and intellectual nourishment” and “uses food as an important source of knowledge about different cultures and societies, provoking discussion and encouraging thoughtful reflection on the history, literature, representation, and cultural impact of food.” I provide this context because we are considering the ways in which environmental issues are being communicated and Gastronimica, from its chic website and artistic covers is definitely not a traditionally scientific journal.
    The main environmental issues discussed are the economics behind running a small farm. Estabrook tells us the back history behind Stark’s farm to emphasize the difficulty inherent in such an endeavor, but also to highlight the very digestible story of perseverance against odds. Stark’s story “shows that with clever marketing and a hell of a lot of work, there is still a place for small farms that provide quality products to regional markets in a manner that is sustainable both for the environment and for the people who work the land” (emphasis added 77). How does the author define sustainable? Well, at least he is consistent with the trends we discussed today in that he does not, but lets it hang there as something good and indisputable. However, science aside, the pleasant picture of Stark’s farm does suggest some important issues. Bottom line, Stark pays his employees well, he does not exploit their labor, he is a good guy and his product should be purchased over big corporations. By highlighting what is good about Stark, the piece communicates a positive message that, if taken up by conscious consumers, should make them feel good about supporting local farms, and a local hardworking farmer.
    The piece touches briefly on questions of organic and pesticide use since it is an issue readily associated with farming, and with purchasing locally. Stark does not use pesticides and is not USDA certified organic, but “reserves the right to apply chemicals if he has to in order to assure the survival of his business”—apparently he has only done so once, which the article also makes sure is clear (the 2009 epidemic mentioned today) (78). Instead, Stark uses “cover crops,” which I will look into, but maybe someone can explain briefly to me tomorrow.
    There are no experts cited, and there is no really scientific evidence given. Visually, we have a picture of Tim Stark, holding a crate of variegated heirloom tomatoes. The colors range from bright yellow to a deep purple and is really stunning. Tim’s face is a bit flushed; he smiles, but looks tired. Sweat mattes his forehead. I mention these details because in such a story, those details tell a story of their own. I wont go at length here, and maybe we can begin early our discussion of media and stories and the proliferation of certain myths with regard to food and consumption. While Tim Stark’s story is impressive, and he admits to catering to a niche market (that includes being the exclusive provider of Beefsteak Tomatoes for one of Tom Colicchio’s sandwich shops), there are only so many posh restaurants willing to pay for his weather-beaten true grit brand produce (which amount to over 60% over his revenue).
    Response:
    In putting pressure on interdisciplinary approaches, I have to ask what perspectives could scientific knowledge bring to this piece. We spent a lot of time today talking about the costs associated with environmental issues. I ask this more conscious of how human-centric it is, but what are the nutritional benefits of eating local? Sure, Stark’s tomatoes taste better, but do they deliver nutritionally as well. My gut wants to say yes, there is probably a nutritional upshot of purchasing locally, and that healthy living can offset medical costs down the road, but I really am without a solid ground from which to make those claims.
    I think the commitment to labor is more than laudable, but I really must question who is consuming this information and how it is being packaged. Aside from making the case for the palatability of Tim Stark’s tomatoes, the article really makes Stark a hero—one that is balanced, tough at times but hardworking—with little to back up its initial claims about sustainable solutions for the environment and for the people that work the land.

  13. Regina Raboin says:

    1.Zimmerer, Karl S. Biological diversity in agriculture and global change. (2010). Annual Review of Environment and Resources. Vol. 35: 137-166. Doi: 10.1146/annurev-environ-040309-113840.
    This article appears in Annual Reviews.

    2. Several issues are reviewed and discussed: biological diversity in agriculture, climate change, globalization, social-environmental adaptation, vulnerability and resilience, management and scale, environmental policies.

    3. Because this is a review article there are numerous researchers cited as experts; this would be a good resource to discover important primary literature covering the issues above. Experts are also cited in the acknowledgment area for their field research. Journal articles, books, research papers, edited volumes are included in the review/bibliography.

    4. Scientific evidence is provided for all issues, as well as surveys for global agricultural and environmental policies.

    5. Yes, there are several visuals included with this review: several figures such as a World Map identifying locations of regional and locale-based research used and cited in review (this is in addition to the other sources used in the review); a conceptual framework of interactions of biological diversity in agriculture including global change; very helpful side-bars with definitions of key terms, acronyms; also tables with summary points and future issues.

    6. This article reviewed the key issues and policies surrounding biological diversity in agriculture which I had very little knowledge about this topic. The key to scientific and policy analysis of biological diversity in agriculture is understanding global climate change and processes. This article furthered my belief that these are very intricate, difficult issues to understand and solve; that while the issues are GLOBAL, there isn’t one policy that will provide a solution to the challenge of maintaining or creating biological diversity in agriculture. Because it appeared in a peer reviewed journal and was well-written, yet dense in content, I would expect the article to use only the very best of the literature published in this area, not quite exhaustive, but close to being so. Others less informed would find this an excellent review of the most important issues in biological diversity in agriculture, a very good jumping-off point for doing further research in this area; for skeptics it would perhaps provide more resources for further education or continued skepticism.

  14. Regina Raboin says:

    Here is a link to the seminal article that Colin mentioned earlier today, Tragedy of the Commons by Garrett Hardin, Science 162 (1968): 1243–1248
    http://www.sciencemag.org.ezproxy.library.tufts.edu/content/162/3859/1243.full?sid=39eb0f2a-9ffd-45d5-8a9c-c6e85cae9e94

  15. Blake Ratcliff says:

    Article: “Food insecurity means that few would mourn the death of Doha,” by Jayati Ghosh, a leading development economist, in the Guardian on 3 May 2011

    No substantive graphs or visuals accompany the article. There is, however, a photograph of Pascal Lamy, who has served as the WTO’s Director-General since 2005.

    The article cites as trade policy experts the WTO negotiators and officials of participating governments, and offers food price statistics of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

    This article discusses what the expected failure of the Doha round of WTO negotiations could mean for global food security and food prices. Volatile food prices of the last few years have hurt developing states tremendously, and the previous overarching Uruguay round trade agreement and its failed Agreement on Agriculture (“AoA”) (1995) need to be updated to provide relief to developing states and the many states worldwide that import vital food. The AoA tried to stem food insecurity by aiming to increase developing state ag production to become net exporters, reduce developed state tariffs and domestic subsidies, and increase market access in developed states. Since 1995, developed states (like the US–think corn and cotton) have refused to reduce sizable domestic subsidies that did not allow developing state crops to compete equally, and developing states responded by shifting from traditional crops that were often better suited to their state’s ecological conditions to cash crops that increasingly relied on purchased inputs–which were subject to market volatility and wild price fluctuations. As the WTO’s negotiations aim to reduce protectionary domestic barriers to international trade (import tariffs, domestic subsidies, import quotas, etc.), a new Doha agreement, with a renewed look the intl trade and price of crops, could stabilize prices, but developing states may be wary that a new agreement could fail as the old one did–by not preventing high food prices and continued developed state domestic subsidies. The article argues that developing states would not mourn the collapse of the Doha round of negotiations due to doubts over free trade policies, but it is clear that trade protections to address the problems of high food prices and food instability must be enacted in some regard.

    I decided to pick an article in a slightly different vein, as it is important to note that policy debates over the sustainable development of agriculture can occur at the international level without the discussion of agricultural practices and environmental systems. Competitive advantage, equal access to markets, robust enforceability and stronger penalties for non-compliance, and other benefits that would come from a new trade agreement on agriculture–sub-components of the ‘economic leg’ of the three-legged stool discussed today–are vital to creating and preserving a suitable international trade climate that can address and respond to issues of food insecurity and high global food prices and promote efficient agriculture production. Domestic sustainable ag policies can mean little when trade barriers can prevent the efficient market interaction of food exporters and food importers around the globe, interrupt food reaching populations at or near the poverty line, and drive developing countries to make agriculture decisions that are unsustainable and poor from a resource and environmental standpoint.

    My research and academic interests center on the analysis of international mechanisms structured and empowered to solve international environmental problems. While most multilateral agreements on environmental or developmental concerns (and, perhaps, nearly all topics of intl law) do not have high rates of state compliance and enforcement and suitable enforcement mechanisms, the WTO’s regime governing international trade is the rare exception that has found success (widespread state adoption of free trade principles) and robust, effective enforcement mechanisms. The failure of the Doha round would not be a colossal disaster in the overall trade debate–as another, re-framed round would start soon afterward as these negotiations don’t really end–but this article is notable as Doha’s collapse might show that the WTO in the coming years may not be as adaptable, responsive, and effective as in the past.

  16. Katie says:

    Sara Hasselbach Response: Monday, 23 May

    In “The Conservation Challenge in Agriculture and the Role of Entomologists” (The Florida Entomologist, 1994), Tonya Van Hook argues that conservationists and agriculturalists alike must work together to navigate the demands and impacts of a growing human population. To this end, she believes that the study of invertebrates has the potential to shed light on the threat to long-term population survival—theoretically, practically, and educationally.

    In line with our thinking about the alienated roles of economists, environmentalists, and biologists—who all seem to define the term “sustainability” differently according to their specific areas of interest—Van Hook points out that agriculturalists and conservationists take different approaches to the impact of population growth on the environment. She states, “Agriculturalists are attempting to feed the world’s population in a sustainable manner. Conservationists are attempting to halt the exponential increase in the loss of species and the ecological processes they perform” (42). The successful response to population growth that both meets the demands of the population and maintains the integrity of the environment may only be reached through the cooperation of these two different agendas. In this negotiation, Van Hook believes that entomologists ought to initiate the common interests of agriculture and conservation biology for three reasons: 1) in order to meet future needs of food/fiber production, entomologists must formulate ecologically-based management strategies; 2) insects play a critical role in ecosystem structure; and, 3) entomology provides opportunities to develop environmental literacy that will support future goals relating to conservation and agriculture.

    Further, Van Hook argues that conservationists rely on sound agricultural practices, just as agriculture depends—in a larger sense—on biodiversity. While the concept of an interdependent relationship between agriculture and natural systems (understood, for example, through adaptation, dispersal, migration, nutrient cycling, and climatic and disturbance regimes) is critical, she maintains, “direct studies of the importance of biological diversity on and around agricultural systems are lacking” (53). She calls for a change in perception of the issue by overcoming the reductive research and management strategies and by enforcing a compromised perspective socially, politically, and economically.

    In order to define the terms in use, Van Hook appeals to Daily and Ehrlich’s definition of “sustainable” and Benbrook’s 1991 definition of “sustainable agriculture,” which is, “by definition, vital to long-term human survivorship, and rests on any methods that minimize environmental degradation and non-renewable resource use” (57). In the end, the take-home point of this essay argues for the necessity of interdisciplinary approaches to the problem of population growth as it relates to conservationist and agricultural values. Van Hook reasons for a re-evaluation of the terms of these issues on social, biological, political, and economic change, with an emphasis on the key role of entomologists in this crucially interdisciplinary conversation.

    Concerning the article’s packaging/marketing, there are no visual aids (images, graphs, charts) to accompany Van Hook’s prose.

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