Sustainable Agriculture Listserv

Sustainable Agriculture Listserv

RESOURCES FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

SUBJECT: NEW LISTSERV ON PRINCIPLES OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE Newsgroups: alt.sustainable.agriculture,soc.culture.native From: (Tom Hodges (moderated newsgroup)) Organization: Washington State University Tri-Cities Date: Fri, 16 Jul 93 18:57:27 GMT

Its done! The LISTSERV sustag-principles is established to discuss the principles underlying development of sustainable agricultural systems. To subscribe, follow the directions at the end of this message. The listserv will be archived on SunSite at the University of North Carolina along with alt.sustainable.agriculture and messages are to be sent to "" where they will be reviewed and put onto the listserv.

My thanks to everyone who helped me with advice and support to get this going, especially to John Wiegley and Lawrence London.

Tom [stuff deleted]

I would like to have the charter circulated as widely as possible so that those who might be interested will be able to consider subscribing, so feel free to forward copies to anyone.


mail: Tom Hodges USDA-ARS Route 2, Box 2953-A Prosser, WA 99350 USA tele: 509-786-2226 FAX: 509-786-4635

Best wishes, Tom Hodges


A LISTSERV, open to all interested parties, with moderated contributions.

Statement of Purpose:

Agriculture is the basis of civilization (without it we starve, no obvious replacement is available). For long term development of civilization, it is essential that agriculture be put on a sustainable basis. This idea is widely (universally) accepted, the problem is that there is no agreement as to what sustainable agriculture means.

The purpose of the proposed LISTSERV, "sustag-principles", is to provide a forum for calm and courteous discussion of the scientific, economic, social, and spiritual principles needed as a basis for sustainable agricultural systems. Conference and journal papers on closely related topics can also be submitted for circulation to the subscribers.

Introduction for Discussion:

Any agricultural operation of any size, from a backyard vegetable patch to 5,000 hectares of wheat or pasture, is embedded in a biological- chemical-physical and human environment. The agricultural operation affects the environment and vice versa, the magnitude of the effects in either direction are influenced by the size and intensity of the operation and by the local characteristics of the environment (biological-chemical-physical and human).

A minimalist, bare-bones definition of a sustainable agricultural system that everyone can agree is accurate, but hopelessly incomplete, seems like a good place from which to start our discussions, so here is a proposed definition for immediate discussion and change. A sustainable agricultural production system is a dynamic (i.e. changing rather than static) system for producing food and fiber that can operate for an indefinitely long time (1,000 years?) with a benign relationship to the biological, chemical, physical, and human environment (improving or not hurting the environment).

maintainin maintaining or increasing species diversity around the area of the system in the soil (microbes as well as burrowing things), on the soil, in the air, and in the water. For the chemical and physical environment, this means maintaining or improving the quality of the soil, the water, and the air around the system.

The human environment includes both the health of the humans in the area and some economic and social considerations. The system must be fair to both producers and consumers of its products, i.e. producers must get a reasonable return for their labor and risk while consumers must get agricultural products at a reasonable cost. The system must use and occupy land in a way that is consistent with the laws, customs, and goals of the surrounding society (those laws, etc. may require some modifications to support sustainability). The system must provide its share of the good quality food and fiber products needed by the surrounding society at a cost acceptable to that society. Cost should be considered to include all resources used by the system and any temporary degradation of the land caused by the system. If the society expects the agricultural system to produce at a level that results in long-term degradation of the environment, then that expectation will have to modified over some amount of time. Obviously the system must not be dependent on indefinite consumption of non-renewable and non- reusable resources, use of such resources must be phased-out and eventually replaced with renewable/reusable inputs.

How is the Baha'i Faith Concerned with Sustainable Agriculture?

Agriculture is a topic that is given great importance in the writings of the Baha'i Faith. In this century, for the first time in human history, humanity has the opportunity to plan and organize our future on a global scale. Also for the first time, human technology has become sufficiently advanced to threaten the habitability of our planet on the same global scale if technology continues to be applied to the environment without consideration of the consequences. Agriculture - farming, stock raising, and forestry - is one area of human activity that has great potential to either harm or improve our environment. From the 1850's to the 1920's Baha'u'llah, the Founder of the Baha'i Faith, and his son, Abdul-Baha' wrote about the dangers of technology uncontrolled by spiritual principles and about the role that humanity must consciously assume as caretaker or custodian of the world. The Baha'is believe that developing sustainable agriculture, i.e. regional agricultural systems that maintain and improve the environment, must be given the highest priority in planning and developing the global society of the next century.

The Baha'i Faith encompasses a global network of local institutions (Local Spiritual Assemblies or LSAs). These local institutions receive general direction and advice from national institutions and from the international center of the Baha'i Faith (the Universal House of Justice or UHJ). The local institutions are, however, largely responsible for design, implementation, and execution of local programs for education, social and economic development, and enrichment of the cultural and spiritual life of their area. In response to advice and encouragement from the UHJ, some 10s of thousands of social and economic development projects have been initiated in the last 10-15 years, mostly in villages of third world countries. Developing sustainable agriculture systems is a high priority of many of these projects. The Baha'i International Community, a UN Non Governmental Organization (NGO), is eager to be able to advise local Baha'i communities attempting to develop sustainable agriculture systems, so improved understanding of the underlying principles of sustainable agriculture is a high priority for them. The Baha'i International Community may also be able to advise other national and international agriculture research and development agencies about the implications for sustainability of the experiences of local Baha'i communities in their ongoing grassroots experimentation.

Converting our agricultural systems to sustainable systems will not be a simple or straight forward task. We can not attain a sustainable agricultural system by simply returning to the practices of the past. The presence of billions of humans on the planet, all trying to reach even a minimally satisfying standard of living, will, without conscious coordination of activities, put a severe strain on the earth's biosphere. We must coordinate major human influences on the biosphere such as agriculture and forestry to minimize or eliminate this strain.

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Other Internet Resources for Sustainable Agriculture

news groups: alt.sustainable.agriculture bionet.agroforestry

archive of files on sustainable agriculture: SANet

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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