Anthill, renowned biologist and environmentalist E.O. Wilson’s first novel, follows Raphael Semmes Cody through a childhood mesmerized by the wonders of the Nokobee Tract and Dead Owl Cove to an adult life devoted to preserving the natural environment. The middle section of the novel involving Raff’s senior thesis, titled, the "Anthill Chronicles," is focused on the ant colonies that resided in the natural environment where he spent his childhood and appears somewhat predictable to a reader of the novel who understands Raff’s devotion to the wildlife of the Cove. Beneath the surface of Raff’s thesis, Wilson’s philosophy and his discourse on coevolution, nature, society and ultimately, the need for living a sustainable life as a species can be better understood.
By John Byrd, PhD and Kent Hickman, PhD The likelihood of meaningful legislation supporting a shift towards more sustainable practices by business and individuals seems miniscule. Without government policies or incentives the move to sustainability depends largely on the voluntary actions of companies. Companies choose the types of products they produce–the materials they are made of, their recyclability, their energy consumption, their durability–and how the products are manufactured–production efficiency, working conditions and so on. In theory individuals, through their consumption choices, can send a message to companies about the types of products they want. But if the range of choices doesn't include price competitive green alternatives this message never gets back to corporate decision makers.
Some companies include sustainability in their strategic planning, but the adoption rates appear well below those required to address the most urgent problems related to climate change, biodiversity loss, fisheries depletion and water availability. Abrupt changes in climate and increasingly expensive raw materials and energy threaten the ability of companies to continue to create value for stakeholders. So, why aren’t companies doing more?
We think that behavioral economics provides some insight into this lack of corporate initiative toward sustainability, and also offers some suggestions on how to overcome these impediments. Behavioral economics enriches the neoclassical economic model of rational profit maximization by recognizing that social and psychological factors play a role in decision making. This evolving discipline has uncovered systematic differences between the results predicted by models based on rational agents and what people actually do. This more nuanced view of decision making can be a valuable tool to help managers and policy makers shift organizations and individuals toward sustainability.
Heuristics: People use ‘rules of thumb’ to sort through complex problems. For the most part this is an efficient and effective approach to making decisions. Over time, the rules of thumb, or heuristics, evolve to be efficient and become embedded into the Standard Operating Procedures of organizations, such as simple rules about when to offer a new customer credit.
Some researchers argue that the use of heuristics leads to better decisions than those based on extensive data collection and formal modeling. Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, claims that relying on intuition produces quicker and better decisions because too much information prevents decision makers from focusing on the most important aspects of a problem (1). This is similar to the ‘thin-slicing’ approach to decision making made popular by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink (2). There he has a chapter titled, "The Theory of Thin Slices: How a Little Bit of Knowledge Goes a Long Way." But he admits that gut-feelings can lead to poor decisions as well as good ones. In his book he discusses the Warren Harding effect, in which a tall, handsome man is elected President mainly because people intuited that his good looks implied good leadership. This bias persists, as Gladwell documents, with Fortune 500 CEOs being on average nearly 3 inches taller than average American men. Moreover, Gladwell says the greatest likelihood for thin-slicing errors is found among overconfident decision makers, a trait well documented among CEOs.
Heuristics, rules of thumb, and thin slicing work because people have acquired some expertise in recognizing patterns or traits within the decision framework. However, if the external environment changes–resources become scarcer, legislation about climate change occurs, consumers become concerned about the long-term impact of products, the life-cycle impact of a product begins to matter–then existing rules of thumb may not be appropriate. In fact, relying on old rules will almost guarantee that companies are not prepared for shifts to new ways of thinking.
Framing: The behavioral economics literature argues that the outcome of the decision process depends on how a decision is framed or articulated. Much of the conversation about sustainability centers on what companies should do and the extra costs they should bear. Framing sustainability as a cost center creates a natural aversion to examining sustainability initiatives carefully. Decision makers know that there are costs involved. Therefore, it is easier for them to defer analysis than to promote a costly solution to the problem. Examples of companies that have begun to embrace sustainability show that they have changed the framing of their initiatives. General Electric’s "eco-imagination" was created as a revenue center. Wal-Mart embraces sustainability, and avoids framing their action as costly to the firm by pushing these costs onto its supply chain. Framing can also impact the acceptance of sustainable products, helping to create market driven demand for progress. For example, studies of consumer behavior have found that green products sell better when advertising focuses on the product’s benefits to individuals rather than their benefits for the overall environment (3).
Status Quo Bias and Groupthink: Behavioral economists have found that decision makers exhibit a bias toward established regimes or ways of doing things. Significant or disruptive change only occurs if there are strong reasons to change. Reinforcing this bias is the structure of corporate boards and management teams. Corporate directors and high-level executives tend to have very similar backgrounds and worldviews (c.f., 4 5). For example, Chhaochharia and Grinstein (6) show that the vast majority–well over 60 percent–of directors of US companies are employed in industry. If those categorized as being in financial fields or retired are added to this group the proportion approaches 80 percent. O’Hagan and M. Rice (7), looking at companies in the northeastern US, find that high-level managers have a long personal history in the region, which may limit their ability to respond or adapt to new circumstances. This can lead to a ‘groupthink’ mentality in which there is a reluctance to pursue alternatives, especially alternatives that vary from the established perspective. Robert Shiller, an economist at Yale, explained how groupthink played a role in the US housing crisis that contributed to the current recession (8).
Groupthink is related to herd behavior. Herd behavior is common in business and has implications for the adoption of sustainability activities. In essence, people can hide in herds. If a decision is similar to those made in other companies (i.e., acting like the herd) then poor decisions are justified as conforming to what everyone else was doing. An unusual initiative (i.e., different than the herd) that fails risks being blamed on an individual’s incompetence leading to potentially serious repercussions. The herd mentality is strong. In 1997 John Browne, then Group CEO of British Petroleum, gave a speech at Stanford University acknowledging the potential seriousness of climate change. BP was the first major corporation, other than reinsurance companies, to take a position on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This anti-herd behavior was so surprising, especially from an oil company, that his speech has been hailed as ‘groundbreaking,’ and became the subject of several academic articles (c.f., 9, 10, 11).
Loss aversion: The concept of risk aversion that underlies much of economics says that people assign a larger value to a loss than they assign a benefit of an equivalent size. This lop-sided valuation effect produces the risk aversion that explains the existence of the insurance industry. Conversely, behavioral economists have found that risk aversion is largely limited to uncertainty at a given level of positive wealth changes, and in cases of negative wealth changes, individuals may systematically turn to risk-seeking behavior (12). Thus, if environmentalists pose a picture of dire hopelessness, the average citizen and consumer may opt for increased consumption with less attention to its environmental consequence. The effect is aptly portrayed in the well-known Gary Larson cartoon depicting two fishermen in a boat with a mushroom cloud in the background…one fisherman says to the other, "I'll tell you what this means, Norm. No size restrictions and screw the limit!"
How To Overcome Behavior Impediments
We have argued that several aspects of behavioral economics create impediments for companies to become more sustainable. The shift to sustainability asks companies to think and operate differently, but psychological and organizational bias slow this process. What can employees, shareholders and consumers do to overcome these impediments?
Within The Firm
Employees and sustainability advocates need to frame sustainable initiatives in both a positive and a personal light. Avoid doomsday forecasts as the motivation for action. An advocate can make the business case for sustainable initiative by explaining why they are profitable opportunities or will reduce risk. Value is created by increasing revenue and/or by reducing risk. By enabling the firm or organization to avoid shocks that negatively affect its cost structure or the integrity and authenticity of its brand name, sustainability helps create durable and profitable organizations. Moreover, individual motivation is likely greatest when benefits are seen as having a personal impact. It is critical, therefore, to link benefits first to the individual and family, next to the firm or organization, and finally to society and the environment in general.
Employees and sustainability advocates need to learn the skills of being effective change agents. An employee who wants to implement green changes in an organization needs a well-stocked toolkit. First, they need to be knowledgeable about the particular sustainability issues they want to advocate. This could be technical knowledge about a process, product or material that can be improved, or more general information about broader programs like re-cycling or flexible scheduling. They also need to develop communication skills so they can quickly and clearly explain the benefits of adopting the changes. They need to be politically aware of how changes occur in their company, and generous about sharing credit. Finally, they need to be willing to persevere: change rarely happens on the first try.
Outside The Firm
Shareholders have a role to play in moving companies toward more sustainable practices. They can use their proxy power to elect a more diverse board. The first step might be to raise the issue of more diversity among director nominees. Groups such as Catalyst.org actively push for board diversity, so following that group’s activities would be a good starting place for modeling diversity advocacy. The SEC (US Securities and Exchange Commission) has been modifying rules regarding director nominations (13). The new rules allow investors or groups of shareholders who have owned three percent of a company for at least three years to include a director candidate(s) on proxy statements for shareholder vote. The ownership threshold is substantial, but it is a first step toward more shareholder democracy.
A second route that shareholders have to changing companies is through shareholder proposals. The ownership threshold to submit a proposal is about $2,000 (or alternatively 1% of the company’s stock) held for at least a year. Proposals that satisfy the SEC’s requirements are included in company proxy statements and voted on at annual meetings. These proposals make it very clear to directors what shareholders are concerned about. While votes on shareholder proposals are non-binding (the board can ignore even a majority vote) they do have an effect. Byrd and Cooperman (14) found that in response to shareholder proposals about climate change reporting, about 20 percent of the companies took action despite the non-binding nature of the vote. Often, companies facing a shareholder proposal negotiate with the initiator to find an acceptable solution and have the proposal withdrawn. Byrd and Cooperman also found that over 50 percent of withdrawn proposals resulted in the companies taking action regarding the proposal topic within two years.
Just as internal change agents need to make the business case for sustainability, shareholder proposals must show how the company benefits from making the proposed change. Shareholders must also be willing to negotiate and withdraw a potentially embarrassing proposal, if it helps a company become more sustainable.
Behavioral economics offers important insights into why companies may be reluctant to embrace sustainability. Advocates for corporate sustainability, both within and outside of the corporation, may be more successful if they recognize the behavioral bias decision makers have, and recast their efforts to reduce the effect of those behavioral habits.
1. Worstall, T. (2011, December 26) Why Rules of Thumb, Intuition, Gut Feelings, Work in Business Decisions. Forbes. Retrieved March 27, 2012 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2011/12/26/why-rules-of-thumb-intuition-gut-feelings-work-in-business-decisions/
2. Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink: the power of thinking without thinking. Boston: Little, Brown, 2005.
3. Okada, E. & Mais E. (2010) Framing the "Green" alternative for environmentally conscious consumers. Sustainability Accounting, Management & Policy Journal, Vol. 1 (2), 222 – 234.
4. Davis, G., Yoo M. & Baker W. (2003) The Small World of the American Corporate Elite, 1982-2001. Strategic Organization, Vol. 1 (3), 301-326.
5. Nguyen, B. (forthcoming) Does the Rolodex Matter? Corporate Elite's Small World & the Effectiveness of Boards of Directors, Management Science.
6. Chhaochharia, V., & Grinstein Y. (2007) The Changing Structure of US Corporate Boards: 1997-2003. Corporate Governance: An International Review, Vol. 15, (6), 1215-1223.
7. O’Hagan, S., & Rice, M. (forthcoming) The Geography of Corporate Directors: Personal Backgrounds, Firm & Regional Success, The Professional Geographer. DOI:10.1080/00330124.2011.614567
8. Shiller, R. (2008, November 2) Economic View: Challenging the Crowd in Whispers, Not Shouts. The New York Times, (Page BU5).
9. Lowe, E., & Harris, R. (1998) Taking Climate Change Seriously: British Petroleum’s Business Strategy. Corporate Environmental Strategy, Vol. 5 (2), 22-31.
10. Rowlands, I. (2000) Beauty & the beast? BP’s & Exxon’s positions on global climate change. Environment & Planning C: Government & Policy, Vol. 18 (3), 339 – 354.
11. van den Hove, S., Le Menestrel M. & de Bettignies, H.-C. (2011) The oil industry & climate change: strategies & ethical dilemmas. Climate Policy, Vol. 2, (1), 3-18.
12. Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1979) Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk. Econometrica, Vol. 47 (2), 263-291.
13. US SEC (2011, Septemebr 15) Facilitating Shareholder Director Nominations. 17 CFR PARTS 200, 232, 240 & 249 [Release Nos. 33-9259; 34-65343; IC-29788; File No. S7-10-09]
14. Byrd, J., & Cooperman B. (2011) Do Shareholder Proposals Affect Corporate Climate Change Reporting and Policies? University of Colorado Denver working paper.
Kent Hickman is Professor of Finance at Gonzaga University, where he initiated the school's first course in sustainable business. Dr Hickman has published in the area of behavioral economics in Journal of Economic Behavior an Organization. He and Dr. Byrd have co=authored a textbook in Corporate Finance, and they team-teach sustainable business courses at the Rouen Business School, in Rouen, France.
By Alyce Santoro Because conceptual art can exist in non-material forms, one could argue that it is not only one of the most sustainable forms of creative practice, but also one of the most radical in its potential to challenge conventional thinking. To a tremendous extent, commercial media—whose primary function is to persuade its audience to consume—influences current prevailing thought. Conceptual art, by contrast, is often non-commodifiable; the value of an idea can supersede conventional methods of quantification, lending it a subtle, subversive, status-quo-defying kind of power.
The notion that all ecosystems, cultures, disciplines and systems are interconnected, and that we can cultivate a more efficient, healthy and satisfying existence by appreciating more and consuming less, run counter to the mainstream. In spite of the relentless promotion of the consumer mindset, one can find ample evidence of the tremendous human impulse to freely share and exchange information and other commodities simply by perusing the internet (the most culture-altering, wisdom-liberating development since Gutenberg introduced moveable type to Europe in 1439). Practical knowledge—including instructions on permaculture design, DIY, open source and appropriate technologies, petitions and calls for political and social action—is disseminated free of charge by those who, knowingly or not, describe a new social paradigm based on reciprocity, fair exchange and mutual benefit.
German artist/activist Joseph Beuys (1921 – 1986) believed that when individuals contribute to the betterment of society by infusing everyday actions with creativity and reverence for nature then "everyone is an artist." He considered the fruits of such labor "social sculpture."
I didn’t know about Beuys when I first set out to combine art and science by seeking a degree in marine biology, then going on to study scientific illustration. As the detrimental effects of reckless human activity on the environment have become all the more obvious, my urge to express the intangible, profound mysteries contained in the natural world has intensified. My technical renderings have morphed into multimedia "philosoprops," works that challenge conventional boundaries between disciplines and spark dialog around social, political and ecological topics. While most of these pieces have a physical component, their essence is really the ideas behind them—and these are free for the taking.
For example, the concept behind my "sonic fabric"—a textile woven from cassette tape overdubbed with intricate collages of sound—alludes to the ultimate interconnectedness of everything. While I wholeheartedly embrace opportunities to repurpose materials, sonic fabric was not intended as a statement about recycling, per se. Rather, the project was inspired by theories in quantum physics suggesting that everything, at the most basic level, is composed of little more than vibration. When all the vibrations are woven together, the result is one exquisite, unified cacophony.
Like Beuys, I believe that by cultivating a relationship with nature and by honing and engaging personal creative aptitudes, everyone can become a catalyst for social transformation. While the powers-that-be wage an insidious war on the freedom to share information, the subversive force of cooperation and exchange is vastly underestimated, even by those with the potential to wield it. Shifts in the course of our culture depend on the quality of our thoughts. Everyone is a catalyst.
Alyce Santoro is an internationally noted conceptual and sound artist, writer and lecturer. Her written work has appeared in truth-out.org and wagingnonviolence.org, and her interdisciplinary art has been exhibited at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Trinity College Science Museum in Dublin, and the Gwangju Design Biennial in South Korea. She has been a visiting artist at the Cidade da Cultura de Galicia in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and Lang College of the New School for Social Research in New York. Alyce’s ongoing Synergetic Omni-Solution project was presented by Ballroom Marfa in Marfa, TX as part of the 2011 Texas Biennial. Her work will be included in the 2012 ISEA (International Symposium of Electronic Art) in Albuquerque, NM. She affectionately refers to her studio as the Center for the Improbable & (Im)permacultural Research. Please visit http://www.alycesantoro.com for more information.
Organized by Meghan Moe Beitiks with Sabri Reed and Liliya LifanovaSansevieria trifasciata is an epic performer. Commonly known as "snake plant" or "mother in law’s tongue," the plant is ubiquitous and unique at the same time. Over the course of its career, it has gone for months without water, made fiber from its own body, and collaborated with NASA to remove toxins like benzene and formaldehyde from the very air we breathe. In Sansevieria trifasciata’s seminal work, "The Bedroom Plant," it converts carbon dioxide into oxygen at night.
Sansevieria trifasciata performed "The Plant is Present" at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s New Blood Performance Festival, November 19th and 20th, 2011, and at the First International Science Art Conference in Moscow, Russia, from April 3-5, 2012.
The plant sat silently while visitors took turns sitting in a chair opposite it, staying in its presence for as long as they liked. All guests were photographed, and asked to record their experience in a comment book. Responses ranged from "I felt a connection to the plant and was able to live in the moment" to "It was awkward" to "So good! I loved every second of it!" to "Marina was exactly as interesting." Many visitors expressed a new appreciation for the work of the plant, a sense of respect, and a change in perspective. Some expressed a desire to find a "snake plant" of their own and keep it in their homes.
Visitors could also read a biography of the plant, explaining its achievements, and listen to a docent clarify parallels between the plant and the famous performance artist Marina Abramovich, whose 2010 work "The Artist is Present" at the New York MoMA garnered much publicity and acclaim. Organizer Meghan Moe Beitiks gave lectures on the performance and artistic career of the plant.
The question becomes: if we are willing as a public, to wait in line for hours to sit in the presence of a famous artist, what else could we be devoting our attention to? If the act of sitting silently with someone gives us a new appreciation for them, gives us a feeling of connection, of enlightenment, why not bestow that attention on something worthwhile—like the important ecological work of a common houseplant?
Photos by Joshua Slater, Carolina Gonzalez, Meghan Moe Beitiks, and Emerson Granillo. More information about the project and the full text of the comment book can be found at: www.meghanmoebeitiks.com.
Contributor Biography Meghan Moe Beitiks does ridiculous things with plants. In her performance work, she explores our relationship to the environment and its greater meaning to pollution, bioremediation, and ecological catastrophe. She can be seen jogging with plants, researching uranium-reducing bacteria, and flinging oyster mushroom mycelium over fences. She has a BA in Theater Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she focused on acting, playwriting, and scenic design. Following those studies, she spent a year and a half studying Theater and Scenography in Riga, Latvia on a Fulbright Student Fellowship, focusing on the meaning of place in site-specific work. The past several years she has worked as a freelance theater artist and technician in the San Francisco Bay Area, working in institutions like the Magic Theater as well as out on the street in her own site-specific work. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Performance at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
By Rider Foley For thousands of years thriving cities have fostered inventors and creators from which wealth is generated (1). Yet, in some cases, once prosperous cities have receded into the annals of history by turning inwards, threatened by change (2). There are lessons here to be learned for Phoenix.
Metropolitan Phoenix emerged from innovations in large dam construction that both generated electricity and provided a consistent supply of water to the desert landscape (3). Initially, the young city’s broad boulevards gave wide berth for horse drawn carriages to turnabout. This feature, coupled with the one-mile by one-mile grid of agricultural plots gave rise to a quilt-like pattern of uniform construction practices making inexpensive homes available to many newcomers (4). Combined, these innovations generated prosperity for land owning farmers, land developers and production-oriented home builders (5).
In the last thirty years, the construction industry drove cyclical booms and busts with higher highs and lower lows than almost every other city in America (6). The urban fringe was pushed outward, forcing citizens to cover more miles in their daily journeys to and from the suburbs. Phoenix’s economy followed the construction industry’s lead causing the enrichment of some and cyclical elation and suffering for all others (7). In 2006, 244,000 people worked within the construction sector, that dropped to 115,000 in the last quarter of 2011, across Arizona (8). In Maricopa County this translated into the lowest unemployment rate of 3.6% in the summer of 2006 and the highest unemployment rate of 10.3% in 2009 (9).
There are a number of ways to respond to a recurring problem. One is to ignore the lows and focus efforts on climbing back up to the peak. If you were here in the early 1990’s, you might remember a similar story of collapse in the construction sector written in the city’s history. By allowing the construction industry to boom and expand further afield to the exurbs of Maricopa, Buckeye and Surprise the crash in 2006 was steeper and more painful than the first time around.
So, will Phoenicians get back on the construction industry’s bucking-bronco ride? Sure, some may jump back on for a quick thrill, risking another painfully abrupt crash. For the rest of us I want to discuss an alternative, an alternative to the complete reliance on residential construction as the single most powerful factor in the economic sustainability of Phoenix.
To foster sustainable economy we need to assess the resources available upon which we can build. To take a lesson from history, we must not turn inwards and isolate our community from diverse and innovative ideas, inventions and creations. A wealth of smart, talented people in Phoenix need to be educated and supported in their entrepreneurial efforts. How do we do this? There are 39.5 million square feet of empty commercial space—16.8% of the total commercial/industry space—in metro Phoenix (10). Our cities must partner with private landowners to incubate small entrepreneurs. An example of this proposal can be found in the incubator space for small businesses in Chandler created from the skeletal remains of an old Motorola facility. Yes, it cost $5.7 million in renovations, but it drew talented and creative people to that city (11). Chandler is not alone, Scottsdale partnered with ASU at SkySong, offering mentoring, coaching and space for talented entrepreneurs to grow (12). Chandler and Scottsdale are not competing along the 101 corridor; metropolitan Phoenix is competing with San Diego, Boston, London, Shanghai, Mumbai, the world.
In Phoenix’s financial center, our bankers, lenders, venture capitalists and angel investors need to avert their longing gaze from the siren’s song of real estate investment. They must open themselves to the opportunities inherent in supporting the creatives, the innovators, the entrepreneurs that are fighting to have their ideas heard. A small investment would further an entrepreneur’s efforts, providing them the space to expand, and hire additional talent to produce, refine and ultimately sell their creations.
These resources (space, government commitment and funding) are dispersed throughout metro Phoenix and need to be marshaled for economic growth. I propose that we focus on developing the existing community assets to encourage the birth and growth of small businesses and in turn, redesign our future economic model. We can try to attract corporate divisions to Phoenix. Those types of efforts should not stop. But our emphasis should be on demonstrable support for local entrepreneurs. The future challenges for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (and their municipal counterparts in economic development) might be to keep our local companies here, rather than working so hard to bring in another distribution center. Retaining local companies, already embedded in the social, cultural and talented pool of local employees, might just be an easier task than always seeking to lure in large corporations.
One society here already faded into the Valley’s desert sands: the Hohokam (13). Communities often turn insular, closed to new ideas or unable to adapt to stress, when faced with internal or external pressures, and fade into history (14). Phoenix could vanish once again.
The world has changed. Your neighboring cities are not the competition; they are a source of future prosperity. Investing in our regional community will enable the most creative citizens to overcome today’s challenges, while taking the lessons learned from the past, and building our capacity to invent the future.
Rider W. Foley, a Graduate Student at the School of Sustainability and Research Assistant at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University
1. Kotkin, J. 2005. The city: a global history. Random House Inc. New York, New York.
2. Kennedy, P. 1987. The rise and fall of the great powers. Random House Inc. New York, New York.
3. Dutton, A.A. 2002. Arizona now and then. Westcliffe Publishers. Boulder, CO.
4. Gober, P. and Trapido-Lurie, B. 2006. Metropolitan Phoenix: place making and community in the desert. University of Pennsylvania Press. Philadelphia, PA.
5. Gammage Jr., G. 1999. Phoenix in perspective: reflections on developing the desert. Herberger Center for Design Excellence. Tempe, AZ.
6. The Economist. 2005. The south-western economy: dreams in the desert. Published Nov. 24.
7. Henig, C. 2010. Real-estate boom-bust: lessons learned. Phoenix Business Journal. Published March 26.
8. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2011. Databases, tables, and calculators by subject. Retrieved from: http://data.bls.gov
9. Arizona Department of Administration. 2011. Arizona’s workforce employment rate – employment & population statistics. Retrieved from: http://www.workforce.az.gov/pubs/labor/PrNov11.pdf
10. Colliers International. 2011. Q3 2011 Industrial: Phoenix research and forecast report. Retrieved from: http://dsg.colliers.com/document.aspx?report=1853.pdf
11. Scott, L. 2011. Chandler business incubator is nearly full at 95%. Arizona Republic. Published May 7.
12. Casacchia, C. 2008. SkySong Arizona State University Scottsdale Innovation Center celebrates first building opening. Phoenix Business Journal. March 27.
13. Redman, C. 1999. Human impact on ancient environments. University of Arizona Press. Tucson, AZ.
14. Tainter, J.A. 1988. The collapse of complex societies. Cambridge University Press. NY, NY
By Jennifer Huebert In this three part series, several recent efforts to re-establish forgotten or fading agricultural practices were reviewed. The first instalment presented key criteria to consider for an effective revival of these food-production technologies. Three case studies were profiled in the second instalment: runoff agriculture in the Israeli desert, forest gardening in Central America and raised-bed agriculture in the Andean highlands. Each example illustrated a distinct problem with a unique history to consider. In this final instalment, I review how each revival effort addressed these criteria and reflect on the importance of studying the distant past to make informed decisions about the future.
Discussion The three case studies presented—raised-bed agriculture at Lake Titicaca, El Pilar forest gardening and runoff irrigation in the Negev Desert—represent a wide variety of environments and distinctly different agricultural practices. Each project was undertaken at a different point in time, spanning the better part of the past fifty years. To aid in comparing these varied projects, and to contemplate their effectiveness, a list of key points was compiled and will be subsequently discussed.
Cost-benefit considerations Each project attempted to resurrect a forgotten or fading agricultural practice. These methods involve widely varying degrees of time, effort and technology. It is important to consider whether there was a clear benefit for the costs related to these projects (1). In the case of raised-bed agriculture near Lake Titicaca, techniques involved simple tools and uncomplicated practices that required a significant initial investment in labour. At El Pilar, traditional Mayan forest gardening did not require special tools or an intensive labour investment but did require participants to learn very involved techniques. Desert farming in the Negev was more complex than the other two case studies on several fronts; the project would have involved a significant amount of labour and engineering skills if the initial wadis had not already been present. These practices also rely on much planning and precise timing, and are the most technically involved of the three case studies.
Today’s environment In order to establish whether the practices were appropriate for the current environmental conditions, the teams that initiated the raised-bed agriculture and desert wadi farming projects performed background research and experimented to ensure that the forgotten techniques were still viable in these areas. In these projects, teams of specialists first gathered data to evaluate soil conditions, water supply, climate, potential plant species and other factors that would influence crop growth. After viability was established, experiments were undertaken by planting test crops in the fields and studying their growth rates and yields. The experiments were repeated over the course of several years, and techniques were then refined. After demonstrating a measure of success, the methods utilized in these two case studies were taken to a wider audience and other local communities, or other societies, were trained in the practices.
Modern-day communities Several project teams considered the agricultural techniques in relation to the cultures they were working with while planning and implementing these practices. In the El Pilar case, the community was involved at all stages of planning as the practices they were attempting to promote were still in use by indigenous peoples in the area. This project focused on goals set by the community, namely to preserve and promote indigenous Mayan culture and to encourage agricultural practices which they believed were in harmony with the natural environment. People in this area participated in the project willingly and continue to support it (3). Researchers in the Titicaca basin case study had a more difficult task because they were bringing their methods to a community who had seen disappointing results from previous outsider attempts to introduce new food-production technology (as summarised in 2). Because the Aymara and Quecha people of the altiplano had no memory of the techniques the researchers wanted to implement, there was little reason for people to embrace raised-field agriculture as their cultural tradition. Kolata, an anthropologist, performed a significant amount of research studying the indigenous cultures of the region in order to understand their group motivations and learning pathways (4). Both Titicaca Basin teams employed multiple training methods to try to ensure community involvement. They also spent time calculating the labour investment required to practice these methods, and invested much time and energy demonstrating that the techniques would be productive. However, their plans were ultimately received with some resistance and varying degrees of enthusiasm (5).
Sustainability All project teams considered whether the practices had been initially sustainable, and uncovered the reasons they were initially forgotten or disappearing. In the Titicaca basin, archaeological excavations at the ancient capital of Tiwanaku and around the raised beds in the area have led archaeologists to conclude that they were largely used to raise surplus crops for the state. Once these polities declined, the agricultural practice waned and was eventually abandoned (6). However, there are additional concerns regarding the productivity and high labour costs associated with the form of cultivation that these project teams failed to appropriately consider (7). In the Negev desert, the immense effort and skill required to initially build walls and terraces throughout the desert in ancient times is thought to have involved labour coordinated from a state centre (8). Once these structures were in place, no extraordinary amount of labour was needed to farm the desert. However, life in this remote area was abandoned when borders or pilgrimage routes through the desert no longer needed to be maintained. In the case of the Mayan forest gardeners at El Pilar, the sustainability of this cultivation method is evident in the extensive and largely anthropogenic forests of the region (8). This method is only under threat of extinction today when socio-political forces have seriously disrupted the indigenous population’s methods of survival.
Where are these projects today? Over twenty years on, the Negev desert farms were reported to be productive, though the farm at Avdat is no longer actively cultivated. In his concluding remarks on the Negev project, Evenari mused that it would have been ideal to turn the desert into a productive environment for the Bedouin nomads while preserving their cultural heritage (9). While it is not clear that this aim was ever achieved, the model farm that was constructed is now a worldwide teaching and research centre for the study of agronomy, plant and soil sciences in arid environments. It has effected change in arid farming practices in ten different countries (10).
After much media and political attention, several non-governmental organizations were formed around the raised agricultural beds of the Lake Titicaca basin. These practices were hailed as a solution to poverty in the region, but when the leadership organizations fell apart and financial incentives to participate were withdrawn the practices were largely abandoned with high labour input given much of the blame. An extensive post-mortem study of these projects was reported in several books and a number of academic writings that called into question the assumptions and tactics used to try to resurrect these agricultural techniques (7, 11, 12). Kolata has revisited the project in his subsequent research, reconsidering issues of state politics and individual agency in regards to the organization of ancient field labour (5). In his own review, Erickson (13) noted that some farmers in the Titicaca region do continue to practice raised-bed farming techniques, and he has conducted similar experiments in other places with success (e.g., 14).
The El Pilar forest gardening project is still very much a work in progress and criteria to evaluate the success of the revival effort are difficult to estimate at this stage. The cultivars used in forest gardening are recorded in detail, but the specific techniques were not reported and no benchmarks could be located to evaluate progress. However, it is acknowledged that the principles of forest gardening are essentially those of agroforestry, which is a well-established, cost effective and sustainable agricultural practice (15, 16). Evidence that these techniques have been used in the region for thousands of years further reinforces the fact that they are sustainable and productive. A concentrated revival effort may make them flourish again. Ford (3) believes a successful project will ultimately encourage ecotourism to attract and educate a wider audience in the methods and benefits of this type of cultivation.
Conclusions Each of the techniques reviewed has been shown to be productive and sustainable. However, as it was argued earlier, re-established agricultural practices must fit not only with the environmental but also the social and economic systems of the cultures for which they are intended. This is evident in the breakdown of the raised-bed agriculture revivals in the Titicaca Basin. These initiatives did not affect large-scale change in food production practices in the region because they did not fit within the current structure of the societies that were involved. The foregoing hypothesis is also supported by the successes of the Mayan Forest Garden Network. Mayan agricultural traditions endured for millennia and have only recently been threatened because of the breakdown of traditional society. The revival effort to educate people in forest gardening methods is supported, and led in part, by the indigenous population of the area and it has great potential to succeed. The Negev desert farming initiative, the most mature of the case studies presented, provides evidence that ancient agricultural practices can actually be leveraged to solve some of today’s global food production problems.
We have a lot to learn from the past, and archaeology provides a unique perspective on the long-term sustainability of various food production practices. It has been demonstrated that local as well as global communities can succeed in the preservation (or revival) of traditional food-production techniques. Agrarian landscapes are cultural landscapes, and ultimately, part of our world heritage.
Contributor’s Biography Jennifer Huebert is a doctoral candidate in archaeology at the Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland, New Zealand. She is an archaeobotanist with a particular interest in the identification and analysis of archaeological wood charcoal. Her primary research topics include the study of human palaeoecology and the development of arboriculture in the archipelagos of East Polynesia.
The author urges you to become more informed about UNESCO World Heritage designations and the importance of agricultural landscapes in this initiative (see 13).
1. Uphoff NT (2002) The Agricultural Development Challenges We Face. Agroecological Innovations: Increasing Food Production With Participatory Development, ed Uphoff NT (Earthscan, London), pp 3-20.
2. Erickson C & Chandler K (1989) Raised Fields and Sustainable Agriculture in the Lake Titicaca Basin of Peru. Fragile Lands of Latin America: Strategies for Sustainable Development, ed Browder JO (Westview Press, Boulder), pp 230-248.
3. Ford A (2004) Human Impacts on the Maya Forest Linking the Past with the Present for the Future of El Pilar, Report on the 2004 Field Season. Accessed: April 20 2008 http://www.marc.ucsb.edu/elpilar/brass/chron/fieldr/report04.pdf.
4. Kolata AL (1996) Tiwanaku and its Hinterland: Archaeology and Paleoecology of an Andean Civilization (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington).
5. Kolata AL, Rivera O, Ramirez JC, & Gemio E (1996) Rehabilitating Raised-Field Agriculture in the Southern Lake Titicaca Basin of Bolivia. Tiwanaku and its Hinterland : Archaeology and Paleoecology of an Andean Civilization, ed Kolata AL (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington), Vol 1: Agroecology, pp 203-230.
6. Janusek JW & Kolata AL (2004) Top-down or bottom-up: rural settlement and raised field agriculture in the Lake Titicaca Basin, Bolivia. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 23(4):404-430.
7. Bandy MS (2005) Energetic efficiency and political expediency in Titicaca Basin raised field agriculture. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 24:271–296.
8. Haiman M (2006) ADASR - Ancient Desert Agriculture Systems Revived. Accessed: 19 April 2008 http://www.mnemotrix.com/adasr/arch.html.
9. Evenari M, Shanan L, & Tadmor N (1982) The Negev: The Challenge of a Desert (Harvard University Press, Cambridge).
10. Lange OL & Schulze E-D (1989) In memoriam Michael Evenari (formerly Walter Schwarz) 1904–1989. Oecologia 81(4):433-436.
11. Morris A (2004) Raised Field Technology. The Raised Fields Projects Around Lake Titicaca (Ashgate Aldershot).
12. Swartley L (2002) Inventing Indigenous Knowledge: Archaeology, Rural Development, and the Raised Field Rehabilitation Project in Bolivia (Routledge, New York) pp xii, 210 p.
13. Erickson C (2003) Agricultural Landscapes as World Heritage: Raised Field Agriculture in Bolivia and Peru. Managing Change: Sustainable Approaches to the Conservation of the Built Environment. The 4th Annual US/ICOMOS International Symposium 6-8 April 2001, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, eds Teutonico JM & Matero FG (Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles), pp 181-204.
14. Erickson C (1995) Archaeological methods for the study of ancient landscapes of the Llanos de Mojos in the Bolivian Amazon. Archaeology in the Lowland American Tropics, ed Peter W. Stahl JA (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge), pp 66-95.
15. Singh P, Pathak PS, & Roy MM (1995) Agroforestry Systems for Sustainable Land Use (Science Publishers, Lebanon, N.H.) pp viii, 283 p.
16. Elevitch C & Wilkinson K (2000) Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands http://agroforestry.net/afg/index.html.
By Chrissie Bausch Sustainability addresses urgent, multi-scalar problems that cut across social, economic, and environmental domains, have long-term implications, and high potential for damage (1). Sustainability researchers and educators are continually discussing the content of and approach to sustainability education. They agree that it must foster a unique set of skills and qualities, including creativity, empathy, system analysis, interdisciplinary thinking and collaboration. All of these skills are developed and fostered in musical instruction, which suggests that music can contribute to sustainability education.
"Music," wrote poet Walter Savage Landor, "is God’s gift to man, the only art of Heaven given to earth, the only art of earth we take to Heaven." Music is among humanity’s most splendid, inspiring, powerful forms of communication. But music is not just an aesthetic pleasure. Studies show that musical training during childhood correlates with improved motor and auditory skills, and improves the brain’s capacity to reorganize neural pathways. Research shows that music education contributes to personal development, cultivating confidence, listening skills, diligence, persistence, self-discipline and self-expression. It is not surprising, then, that it cultivates many of the skills and qualities required for thinking about and solving multifaceted challenges, including those tackled in the field of sustainability.
Perhaps the most obvious contribution that musical training can make to sustainability education is nurturing creativity. Wals and Jickling (2) tell us "there are no recipes" in sustainability: the field requires creative solutions for complex problems. Every process of music is creative, from practicing a piece to dancing to it. Describing music’s virtue of rousing creativity, Beethoven said, "Music is the wine which inspires one to new generative processes." The creativity stimulated by musical study is not limited to art forms; it can permeate any endeavor, including problem-solving for sustainability.
A musical work is a system of relationships among components such as rhythm, key, harmony, melody and instrumentation. Peretz and Zatorre (3) describe the systemic nature of even a simple tune, "which is defined not by the pitches of its constituent tones, but by the arrangement of the intervals between the pitches" (p.90). Music trains its students to recognize patterns and anticipate change, both important elements of systems thinking. Although music operates within a framework, it is about using that framework creatively; bending, stretching or even breaking away from it. Music unfolds, teaching students to anticipate change. Musical training prepares students to analyze dynamic systems, as well as recognize and conceive of creative adaptations, a skill that can be useful for developing sustainability solutions.
Underpinning the layers of music is the foundation of mathematics. Mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz said, "The pleasure we obtain from music comes from counting, but counting unconsciously. Music is nothing but unconscious arithmetic." Some of the basic components of music—rhythm, intervals, melodies and harmonies—are essentially arranged fractions. Music students must therefore learn to use quantitative, historical, cultural and linguistic information together, all while processing the music visually, aurally, physically and emotionally. In other words, music is an inherently interdisciplinary endeavor, like sustainability. Vocalists sing in many tongues, and instrumentalists partake in the feast of languages that comprise music’s vocabulary. Music is multicultural, encompassing a tremendous variety of instruments, qualities and formats, such as Argentina’s tango, Indonesia’s gamelan or Poland’s mazurka. All compositions have a cultural and historical context. Tchaikovsky’s "Overture of 1812," today known from the climax of the 2006 film V for Vendetta, was written to commemorate a proud moment for Russia: the defeat of Napoleon in the Battle of Borodino. Musicians unwrap the fascinating layers of meaning, history, politics, culture and structure so elegantly packaged in song.
Many of these elegant musical packages are the result of collaboration—a rewarding challenge in science and music alike. To create music together, people must listen, restrain the ego, work with the strengths and weaknesses of themselves and others, and settle differences to achieve a goal. Participating in a transdisciplinary project is like playing in an orchestra: musicians—or scientists—who could be doing solo work come together to bring to fruition something they could not have created alone. Ensemble work requires patience, compassion and communication. Music students can transfer these qualities and abilities to group work in other domains, making them effective participants for challenging transdisciplinary projects.
An essential quality for collaborative success is empathy, which sustainability education strives to cultivate while promoting the principles of justice, intergenerational equity and intragenerational equity. Empathy is at the heart of what musicians do. Researchers believe that empathy exists when humans create "pretend" desires and beliefs to match the emotions they think others experience. Arguably, humans enjoy art because it provokes this interaction between real and imagined emotions (4). When a good musician writes or performs a piece she communicates emotion, evoking the empathy of her audience.
Scholars of sustainability have much to gain from the skills and characteristics that musical training imparts. As we develop sustainability education, we must teach ecosystem functions, intergenerational justice and systems thinking. We must also emphasize creative, expressive and collaborative activities, such as music, that develop the competencies needed to address today’s complex, multi-scalar challenges. If we succeed, perhaps we will also bestow a little more "heaven on earth."
Contributor Biography Chrissie Bausch is a graduate student at the School of Sustainability (SOS) at Arizona State University. Her research explores agricultural sustainability, sustainability assessment, and equity and justice in sustainability. She was inspired to write this piece at a SOS town hall meeting, when during an icebreaker it was revealed that the overwhelming majority of faculty, students and administrators in attendance played a musical instrument. She would like to thank Kathryn Kyle and the TSR editors for their insights on music and sustainability, and for bringing more Bach and Mahler to her writing. Finally, she is grateful to her music teachers.
References 1. Brundiers, K., Wiek, A., & Redman, C. L. (2010). Real-world learning opportunities in sustainability: from classroom into the real world. International Journal of Sustainability in HIgher Education, 11(4), 308-324. 2. Wals, A. E. J., & Jickling, B. (2002). "Sustainability" in higher education: From doublethink and newspeak to critical thinking and meaningful learning. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 3(3), 221-232. 3. Peretz, I., & Zatorre, R. J. (2005). Brain Organization for Music Processing. Annual Review of Psychology, 56, 89-114. 4. Putman, D. (1994). Music and Empathy. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 28(2), 98-102.
By Jathan Sadowski, Thomas P. Seager, and Evan Selinger (Authorship of this article is in alphabetical order)
A recent article in the highly ranked Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reports that, contrary to commonly held beliefs, the Millennial Generation is better cast as "Generation Me" than "Generation We." The study by psychologist Jean Twenge et. al. (1) analyzed the results of two nationally representative surveys, one administered since 1966 and the other since 1976. The surveys ask high school seniors and college freshmen a wide range of questions about life goals, concern for others, and civic orientation/social capital. The authors compared answers from across generations and determined that overall Millennials are more individualistic, materialistically motivated, and less civically engaged than the Baby Boomers and Generation X – despite the commonly held view that the current generation of college students is deeply concerned about social and environmental issues (e.g., 2).
One of the sharpest declines across the three generations is support for environmentally sustainable actions. For example, "Three times as many Millennials (15%) than Boomers (5%) said they made no personal effort at all to help the environment…" Millennials were also less likely to take measures to cut electricity use, and less likely to reduce heat usage during the winter to save energy (1).
These findings are at odds with the apparent surging interest among Millennials in sustainability. Even a cursory examination of college campuses will reveal that American universities are increasingly marketing to Millennials on a sustainability basis. Many offer degree and certificate programs in sustainability; they’ve created special administrative offices in sustainability; built LEED-certified and net-zero buildings; opened "green" dorms, instituted composting programs for cafeteria waste, and published campus sustainability reports. If Twenge is right, then many modern U.S. universities have badly miscalculated what interests their most important stakeholders.
On the other hand, it’s possible that longitudinal studies designed decades ago are no longer capable of capturing the characteristics, beliefs or moral attitudes that are salient today. As a consequence, what Twenge represents as moral decline may simply be generational incommensurability.
To take Twenge’s conclusions at face value risks ignoring three important observations:
- Although longitudinal studies focus on the individual as the proper scale of moral analysis, Millennials work in network groups to a much greater extent than any of their predecessors. Particularly with regard to sustainability problems, it may be that individual action is the wrong scale at which to consider moral obligation (3).
- Although Twenge’s interpretation equates actions with beliefs, we know from other studies that people often fail to live up to their own moral ideals (4). Consequently, it may be that Twenge is not measuring the narcissism she purports to have found, but the growing complexity that Millennials face when putting ideals into action.
- New technologies create new moral problems, and the Millennials are, to a greater extent than any prior generation, defined by the technology in which they are embedded. The moral questions that face the Millennials may be qualitatively different than those faced by previous generations, and as a consequence, be entirely unexamined by longitudinal studies.
The first observation about scale becomes important in the context of social interaction. The Baby Boomer generation may have conceived of moral action as an obligation the individual has towards society, without extending that obligation to include any responsibility for the actions of others. The old maternal refrain, "If Johnny jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?" is meant to reinforce the idea that the right action for one individual is independent of the actions that others take. But the increasingly interconnected world of the Millennials’ asks, "Did Johnny post on Facebook that he was going to jump?" The implication here is that we have an obligation to be sensitive to the emotional state of others (partly because these states are more public than ever) and that Millennials are, at least in part, responsible for the actions of others within their network. Dharun Ravi’s recent conviction on hate-crimes charges for secretly recording and sharing video of his gay roommate kissing another man reinforces this point. While Ravi’s public defense was, "I wasn’t the one who caused him to jump," the jury’s verdict suggests some culpability. To Millennials, posting, linking, blogging, and Tweeting may all be understood as moral acts, to the extent that these activities are meant to influence those beliefs, attitudes, or actions of others that to Baby Boomers may seem like "none of their business." After all, the use of social media is deeply intertwined with the events of the 2011 Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, both of which required an unprecedented use of technology to coordinate political action and civic engagement. According to Allenby (5), in a complex, interconnected world, "The choice of the process by which the individual becomes engaged in a dialog with the system, rather than each individual choice, is what becomes ethically critical."
The second observation speaks to long-standing evidence that people tend to overestimate their own capabilities (6). Compared to other generations, Twenge sees a decline in moral values that is based on a culture of rampant narcissism. Others point to a veritable epidemic of misplaced overconfidence (7) that has turned Millennials into the "self-esteem generation" (8). It may be true that Millennials indeed exhibit this tendency to a greater extent than prior generations, but at worst this would merely make them bigger hypocrites, not amoral beings. However, this conclusion disregards the increasingly complex challenge of putting moral ideals into action. Consider, for example, the problems of the environment and how they have changed since 1966. The Baby Boomers faced air and water pollution that was visible and tangible. Their environmental issues existed within the realm of human sensation, and progress towards environmental goals was rapid and measurable. By contrast, Generation X came of age under an ozone hole that could only be observed with scientific instruments and understood by advances in complicated photochemistry. Nevertheless, new policy prescriptions that phased out certain chlorinated hydrocarbons stopped the expansion of the ozone hole, and evidence is now accumulating that 25 years after the Montreal Protocol, the hole is shrinking (9). But the Millennials face the environmental problem of global climate change, which is not directly observable, even with sophisticated scientific instruments. Nor is science capable of directly modeling global warming with the reliability of previous environmental challenges, nor can science track progress towards a climate goal on a temporal scale that is meaningful to a single generation. Suppose the Millennials do care deeply about global climate change. What exactly should they do that would make an observable and convincing difference? The gap between moral ideals and moral action for Millennials may be larger than ever before simply because they are presented with larger obstacles.
Lastly, we must consider that technologies and their concomitant moral issues evolve more quickly than longitudinal studies. For example, the moral questions faced by the Baby Boom generation certainly included military conscription (i.e., the draft) and the birth control pill. By contrast, the all-volunteer Millennial military has fought America’s longest running foreign wars, where the critical moral question does not regard the military service of young adults – it concerns the use of drones. In reproduction, the moral issues are no longer whether women should be free to have sexual intercourse outside of marriage (although some conservative commentators no doubt are reliving the arguments of their own youth), but what constitutes paternity in cases of sperm donation, the legal status of frozen embryos (e.g., ownership), and cloning. Alternatively, consider civic engagement. Here, Twenge points out that the Millennials’ trust in government has declined considerably in comparison with their predecessors. However, this conclusion may conflate government with governance. Certainly, Millennials’ trust in Google (e.g., to curate personal data) or Wikipedia is extraordinary. That is, governance requires more institutions--systems of social order and cooperation that shape human interaction--than just government. It’s not enough to only ask questions that gauge attitudes towards the government because that misses out on all the contemporary institutions that help people manage their lives. A civil society includes corporations (profit and not-for-profit), markets, schools, and now social networks.
Although the issues we raise herein should clearly concern Twenge, it may not be obvious why the Millennials themselves, or the universities that serve them, should care at all. Nevertheless, consider that Twenge’s view of the problem evokes a particular kind of solution. If the Millennials are found to be morally deficient and are, by virtue of their place in history, nevertheless required to confront social problems like sustainability that have profound moral dimensions, then clearly universities have an obligation to attempt to correct the Millennial deficit. In Twenge’s view, this would require returning Millennials to the ideals and actions that properly characterized the Baby Boomers.
We disagree. If universities, and more specifically programs of ethics education, continue to focus on the moral issues that plagued previous generations, Millennials will no doubt be woefully unprepared to tackle the unfamiliar ethical dilemmas emerging from the technologies that define them. Effective ethics education must adapt to the networked way that Millennials address complex problems. It must empower students to use the technologies at their disposal to put their ideals into action, and it must take into consideration the moral problems these technologies create.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1134943. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at Arizona State University also provided support.
Jathan Sadowski is a research technician in the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at Arizona State University, Phoenix Metropolitan Area, AZ, USA. Thomas P. Seager is a professor at the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment and a Lincoln fellow of ethics and sustainability at Arizona State University, Phoenix Metropolitan Area, AZ, USA. Evan Selinger is an associate professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology, Henrietta, NY, USA.
1. Twenge, J. M., Campbell, W. K., & Freeman, E. C. (2012). "Generational Difference in Young Adults’ Life Goals, Concerns for Others, and Civic Orientation, 1966-2009. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication.
2. Howe, N. & Strauss, W. (2000). Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation. New York: Vintage.
3. Seager, T.P., Selinger, E. & Clark (Spierre), S. (2011). "Determining Moral Responsibility for CO2 Emissions: A Reply to Nolt." Ethics, Policy & Environment 14(1), 39-42.
4. Sadowski, J. (2011). Experimental Analysis of the Gap Between Moral Beliefs and Moral Actions. B.S. Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology: USA
5. Allenby, B. (2006). "Macroethical systems and sustainability science." Sustainability Science 1, 7- 13.
6. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
7. Klink, W. (2010). "Don't I Wish My Professor Was Hot Like Me." Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies. 32: 431-446
8. Bahr, N. & Pendergast, D. (2007). The Millennial Adolescent. Camberwell: ACER Press.
9. Crow, J.M. (2011). "First signs of ozone-hole recovery spotted." Nature. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110516/full/news.2011.293.html
We at The Sustainability Review had the privilege to sit down with the oracular grandfather of climate science, Dr. Wallace (Wally) Broecker, Newberry Professor of Geology in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. We consulted him for his thoughts on his work and on the past and future paths of sustainability science. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation. The Sustainability Review (TSR): What started you looking into atmospheric carbon dioxide accumulation?
Dr. Broecker (WB): The first thing I worked on was carbon 14 measurements. The emphasis was on two things: dating of late quaternary events, and using it to get the rate of ocean circulation by measuring the age of the carbon in deep water. The latter lead me to be interested in the carbon cycle. Right now 25 or 30 percent of the CO2 we produce is going into the ocean; eventually that will increase to 80 percent or so, but only over hundreds of years. The way we know this is by measuring the radiocarbon distribution in the ocean. That got me hooked.
While I was doing my thesis, there wasn’t much talk about CO2. Then several papers came out in the late 1950s and Charles David Keeling started his measurement series establishing how rapidly CO2 was going up. This made it more interesting. Could we explain what was happening? We knew the amount of fuels burned and we knew the increase in the atmosphere. Interestingly enough if you put a curve through the measurements assuming that 57 percent of the amount of fossil fuels burned remained airborne, excepting a few fluctuations, it fits Keeling’s curve beautifully. So where was the other 43 percent?
TSR: Where did these efforts take you? Can you touch on having to testify before congress?
WB: The frustrating thing was that in those days, congressmen would want something in the congressional record…initially, you’d be told you had five minutes…which meant they would jibber-jabber around and you’d be cut down to one minute.
I was asked to testify in the 1980s and I learned enough to know that writing down something to present was useless because you probably wouldn’t be able to use it at all, so I decided I’d write something to be published in Nature (1981). It was published and it was the first warning about abrupt climatic changes.
TSR: You once discussed how you find something sacred about science and that you don't like to see findings "monkeyed with." Once knowledge is in the open, however, scientists lose control of the conclusions people make. How do scientists deal with that?
WB: I think that scientists have to be very honest. I’ve always been very honest; people respect me for that. When you start exaggerating to get attention—and a lot of environmental claims have been exaggerated—that just destroys your credibility. I’m guilty of that now and then, but I try not to be.
TSR: How do you approach your work?
WB: I’m considered an idea person. Probably the best feeling you get is when you discover something new. If I had to base my reputation on measurements, I’d be run-of-the-mill. But I’m clever at putting apples and oranges together and coming up with something interesting. That is my strength. I often wondered why I could do that. I’m dyslexic, so maybe that has something to do with it; my mind works differently. People at times have said they’re afraid to show me data because I have such a quick mind that I spot what it means. That’s my talent.
TSR: Taking a step back, we found a profile of you in The New York Times from 1998. It shared some of your thoughts about computers ‘short circuiting’ a researcher’s thinking about the workings of earth’s ocean/atmosphere systems and that a pencil, on plain white paper are your investigative allies of choice. Who are your sleuthing companions these days?
WB: I started all this way before computer simulations. We used what we called box models where you transfer materials from one box to another. We learned enough about how the ocean works to build a simple model. Then we would get to the point where this allowed us to shortcut—we’d been through a number of steps and so we could add new ones more much more quickly.
TSR: In conceiving of this interview, we had an analogy in mind: sustainability science today may parallel where climate science was 50 years ago.
WB: Well, they’re very different. What I was doing was hard science, and in a sense, that’s much easier because you’re trying to do something tangible. A lot of sustainability science is less well-defined, and here [at ASU] specifically it’s more like social science than hard science. Where I am at Columbia it’s more hard science than social science just because Lamont Observatory is so big it tends to dominate the research direction of our Earth Institute. We started a sustainability concentration for undergraduates four years ago, and now there’s a sustainability major. It took a while to get the committees at the university to agree, because there is always the suspicion that it’s too diffuse. But of course, it has to be.
TSR: How do you see climate science informing sustainability science and sustainability science informing climate science? Do you see those interactions happening?
WB: There has to be interaction. If somebody has a scenario about switching to a new energy [we need to know], how much will it cost? What I do could be called reverse engineering. Engineers design systems. We try to figure out the design of God’s machine, the earth’s systems. It’s complicated. Just to make a model of the atmosphere that includes cloud droplets is a tough chore. So we’re working to understand how this system operates and therefore, what will happen if we perturb it. We’re good at what’s called "back of the envelope" calculations. It’s very important to eliminate the easy things right away. We quantify. You have to have that, because everything we do is going to cost money, and everything we do is going to have environmental consequences.
What I see now is that the concern about environmental consequences is stalling many things that could be done about CO2. We must get away from that mentality because everything we do has environmental consequences. Also I get discouraged when I see people competing. I was asking Klaus Lackner, my hero, why people are so antagonistic toward his idea that you can take CO2 out of the air. He said there are lots of reasons, and one is that there’s a large group of people who want to re-fit power plants and of course that would take huge profits. So they don’t want air capture. That’s insane; we must do both. One will prove to be cheaper and environmentally less objectionable and that one will win out. That’s the way the world runs.
TSR: You once noted, "No one lives on their past successes…It isn't very satisfying. You live on what you're doing this year, this month. My great joy in life comes in figuring something out. I figure something out about every six months or so, and I write about it and encourage research on it, and that's the joy of life" (1). What are you working on now?
WB: One is what I call the Mystery Interval. Twenty-five thousand years ago the carbon 14 content of the carbon in the atmosphere and upper ocean was 40 percent higher than now. That stunned us. By dating corals using uranium series isotopes, the radiocarbon signature content can be turned, making it possible to calculate back to what it was initially. In many different kinds of samples, it was shown to be 40 percent higher. Now we’re trying to figure out why that was. The only way we can explain it is that during glacial time the ocean was stratified—instead of mixing the radiocarbon through the whole ocean, it was mixed only through the upper part, while in the lower half radiocarbon was decaying away. Because of this the upper half in the atmosphere would have more radiocarbon and the lower half would have less, and then at the end of the glacial period these two reservoir were mixed together.
The other thing I’m working on is paleohydrology—using stalagmites and closed basin lakes—to say something about moisture history. Fifteen thousand years ago, during part of the deglaciation, the water cover in the great basin—Oregon, Utah, Nevada—was ten times more than today. That means there had to have been somewhat less evaporation, but also seven or eight times more water coming down rivers. That’s amazing. And there was probably only two times more rainfall. This wet period lasted hundreds of years, and then there was a millennial duration drought that cut the water availability to less than today’s.
We found that these changes are globally orchestrated. The thing that interests me is that what happened 15,000 years ago had to do with a shift caused by a southward shift in the location of the thermal equator. When the northern hemisphere was cooled by extra sea ice this shift made huge and abrupt hydrologic changes.
Climate change models say that as CO2 rises the northern hemisphere will heat twice as fast as the southern hemisphere. The reason is that there’s more ocean in the southern hemisphere—it will hold back the heating. This is going to shift the thermal equator. So the question is, will that produce similar effects to the shifts we see in closed-basin lake records? If so you Westerners are in bad trouble. However, what’s happening today is not the same as the previous shifts. One was induced by sea ice and the other was induced by differential CO2 warming. There are differences. Maybe the differences will cause what happens to be very different.
By Matthew Moore The Digital Farm Collective is an international initiative to record and share footage, philosophies and scientific data on the growth of produce. Using time-lapse films, interviews with farmers and agricultural data, artist Matthew Moore hopes to contribute to a more sustainable global food system by sharing and preserving the growing practices of produce farmers from all over the world.
Moore is a fourth generation farmer whose land and agricultural practice are quickly being overcome by suburbia. He was inspired by his personal experiences and interactions with other farmers to create the "Digital Farm Collective." Using time-lapse photography, Moore began filming everything he grows and inviting other farmers to do the same. The arranged short films show a single production cycle of each plant or tree. These films, along with interviews with farmers and measurements of the conditions in which the plants are grown, will be compiled to create an international database, or living library, to engage, educate and reconnect people with their food by sharing the stories of the plants and of the farmers and families that grow them.
The website, digitalfarmcollective.org, will be the repository for all of the footage and data that are garnered from efforts to document cultivated plants from around the world. Each selected farmer is sent a time-lapse video package to record the lifecycles of selected crops from seed to harvest as well as a system that monitors the environmental conditions under which each plant is grown. Their personal growing history and philosophies are also recorded in order to retain and share the cultural knowledge of farmers from around the world. In a time of shifting growing regions and movement away from individualized farming practices, the images and information gathered will serve as important sources for consumer engagement and education, curriculum development and scientific research, and as a social network of involved growers and farming professionals.
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Matthew Moore was born in 1976 in San Jose, California. He lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona. He received a B.A. in studio art and art history from Santa Clara University, California, in 1998 and a M.F.A. in sculpture from San Francisco State University in 2003. His work has been shown around the country, including at the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, California (2009), the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (2008), and MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts (2005). He has been featured in international publications including Metropolis Magazine, Dwell and Architecture Magazine, as well as Mark Magazine and Dazed and Confused of Europe.
By Daniel Riley and Jacob Park When President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union Address (1) last month, he made the case that U.S. economic revival is tied to a healthy manufacturing sector. Of course, he is not the first to triumph the importance of manufacturing to the economy. The key question, however, is what type of manufacturing the U.S. should have in the future. The answer, for the economy and for sustainable business innovation, may lie in advanced 3D printing technologies (2) or what some technology analysts refer to as, "additive manufacturing whereby machines based on advances in electronics and laser technology build complex materials from granules of plastics or metal" (3).
While not usually touted as a traditional sustainable technology, additive manufacturing processes can dramatically reduce the amount of waste created in the production of items from furniture to packaging. As compared to traditional manufacturing technologies, 3D printing technologies have relatively small capital requirements. MakerBot Industries (4), for instance, sells 3D kits designed for hobbyists for around $1,000.
According to the UN Environmental Program, the typical car wastes about 10,000 kg of raw materials during production (5). For example much of the bulk of a fender, because of uniform thickness requirements of typical manufacturing processes like welding and molding, is completely unnecessary. To Jim Kor of KOR EcoLogic who wanted to create the most efficient car possible, that unnecessary material increased drag and decreased fuel economy. "If you look at a cross section of a bird bone, you'll see that there is bone only where the bird needs strength," Kor explained. "The bone looks like chaotic webbing. [3D printing] is the only process that can replicate a bird bone." This logic led to the creation of the Urbee, the world’s first 3D printed car (6).
Like stacking bricks to build a house, 3D printing creates objects in layers, from the base up, without the limiting constraints of molding requirements or human error in welding. The result maximizes material usage, ensuring that no material needlessly goes from welder’s torch to junkyard. Even in smaller 3D printing projects, material use efficiency is an automatic consideration. The small scale of production typical of most 3D printing efforts means that, unlike with large-run manufacturing the cost of wasted material does not have to be ameliorated through economies of scale.
Shapeways, a company that allows customers to design custom products like furniture and household objects that might be hard to replace otherwise, actively encourages customers to save money by using less material (7). By prompting their customers to actively think about the materials that go into the production of their products, 3D-printing businesses like Shapeways foster consumer awareness of cost and material wastes involved production. This transparency is increasingly relevant as consumers demand that products be not only cost competitive (obviously an important factor in our current economic times) but also designed and produced with environmental sustainability in mind (8).
In addition, the U.S. is still dominated by the business model of making as many products as cheaply as possible, which often means outsourcing the actual manufacturing.A truly innovative feature of the additive manufacturing model is that it brings the possibility of scale to the emerging "hyperlocal" trend that can be seen from Northern California to Vermont. There are many emerging sustainable business enterprises that attempt to build on the growing consumer interest in all things local (e.g. food, energy, economic development, etc) and additive manufacturing provides a market template from which to scale a local business model to greater competitive advantage.
Case in point: what if a small community-oriented bookstore like Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont, had a machine that allowed consumers to print books that were in the Public Domain (i.e. do not have copyright protection)? All you would have to do is search and find the book of your choice and, if it were in the Public Domain, order the number of copies you want at a fraction of the cost of going through traditional book retailers. Through what Northshire Bookstore refers to as "print on demand technology"(10), this small but innovative business can now more effectively compete with large e-retailers like Amazon.com and chain book retailers like Barnes & Noble.
The argument that the future of the US economy lies in sustainable business has been made before, and additive manufacturing cannot substitute for well-designed tax and other policy incentives for green energy technologies. Rather, there is a strong case for building a well-articulated U.S. additive manufacturing strategy to complement current green technology research and development efforts, such as solar and wind energy. This could have a major impact on the entire American business system By using 3D printing technologies to promote local production and advances in material sustainability, U.S. manufacturing has a real opportunity to be reborn as a hub of 21st century sustainable business innovation (11).
As Cory Doctorow, author of Makers, suggests in an influential 2010 Wired magazine article (12): "The days of companies with names like ‘General Electric’ and ‘General Mills’ and ‘General Motors’ are over. The money on the table is like krill: a billion little entrepreneurial opportunities that can be discovered and exploited by smart, creative people."
(1) President Barack Obama State of the Union Address (January 24, 2012)
(2) "The Fundamentals of 3D Printing," The Future of Open Fabrication, n.d., http://www.openfabrication.org/?page_id=29
(3) March. P. (2011) "Production Processes: A Lightbulb Moment", Financial Times, December 29, p. 5.
(5) "Waste and car production - Maps and Graphics at UNEP/GRID-Arendal," Maps & Graphics, n.d., http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/waste_and_car_production
(6) "URBEE car - 3D Printed Body," Resources: Case Studies, n.d., http://www.stratasys.com/Resources/Case-Studies/Automotive-FDM-Technology-Case-Studies/Urbee.aspx
(7) "Shapeways | creating hollow objects," Creating Hollow Objects, n.d., http://www.shapeways.com/tutorials/creating-hollow-objects
(8) OgilvyEarth research is one important source http://www.ogilvyearth.com/thought-leadership/latest-research
(9) Alexa Clay and Jon Carnfield, "5 Big Ideas for a New Economy", Co.Exist Blog http://www.fastcoexist.com/1679221/5-big-ideas-for-a-new-economy
(11) 3-D printer is featured in Fortune Magazine’s "Brave New Work: The Office of Tomorrow" photo essay (pg. 49-55) in its January 16, 2012 "The Future Issue"
Daniel Riley (email: email@example.com) is a senior studying Environmental Management at Green Mountain College. After graduation he plans to start a business using 3D printing as a way to solve current environmental issues of resource use and material efficiency.
Jacob Park (email:firstname.lastname@example.org), Associate Professor of Business Strategy and Sustainability at Green Mountain College, specializes in the business of social and environmental innovation and entrepreneurship in emerging economies.
By Jennifer Huebert Forgotten or fading traditional agricultural practices may be able to address modern-day agricultural challenges. In this series, several recent efforts to re-establish such practices are reviewed. Each example illustrates a distinct problem, and has a unique history to consider. In the last issue, key criteria for an effective revival of forgotten agricultural technologies were outlined, and a case study from an Israeli desert was presented. This second installment highlights two additional case studies: one from the forests of Central America and another from the Andean highlands.
Case Study #2: Mayan forest gardening in Belize at El Pilar
The Mayan people have lived in the lowlands of the Belize - Guatemala border for several millennia. This region is home to a subtropical forest that stretches into southern Mexico. Mayan farmers have traditionally practiced a method of agriculture that is centred on the cultivation of forests which produce food, building materials, medicine and other plant products (1, 2). The Mayan language reflects an intimate knowledge of the natural environment, including subtle distinctions of land in various stages of cultivation (3).
El Pilar has always been remote. In ancient times, it was at the edge of the large Mayan civilization of Tikal. It was of little interest to the Spanish who controlled the area after conquest in the 16th century. In the 19th century the area became known as a resource for mahogany wood, ingredients to make dye, and chicle, which was used to make chewing gum. There is evidence that most of the plants utilized for commercial purposes were the result of relict Mayan agricultural activities (1, 4). For centuries after Western contact, the Maya migrated in small groups throughout the area, largely avoiding notice until both government harassment and paying work opportunities drew them into larger settlements in the 19th century. Their traditional agricultural practices were then discouraged to weaken indigenous claims to the land. In the mid 20th century, indigenous Mayans returned to the region after land reform laws were passed, but there is a concern that traditional Mayan culture is breaking down as traditions, such as forest gardening, are forgotten (4).
A multi-tiered version of agroforestry termed forest gardening is an important traditional Mayan agricultural practice. This type of agroforest is not often easy to discern from the surrounding forest. Crops are tended by subtle manipulations of the environment, ranging from merely encouraging plant growth to sowing seeds in ordered rows. Though no specialized equipment is needed, farmers practicing these techniques draw on an extensive knowledge of plants and the environment in their techniques (1). Hundreds of different crops are raised with these methods, including tamarind, mango, cacao and papaya, and various spices as well as dyes, wood, fodder and ornamental flowers.
Archaeological excavations of household complexes and surveys of the surrounding vegetation indicate that most of the area consists of anthropogenic forest, modified by residents over many thousands of years. Higher densities of useful crop plants are found in areas where forest gardens were thought to exist in the past (1). Archaeological surveys have uncovered patterns of ancient Mayan land use, which will be easier to interpret as knowledge of forest gardening practices grow. Over the years, extensive excavation and restoration of temple complexes near the site has taken place, and the excavation team is still studying the chronology of the area as part of the larger goal of understanding El Pilar in relation to the major ancient centres of Mayan civilization (4).
The El Pilar project that initiated this revival effort was founded by American archaeologist Anabel Ford, who has been working in this region since the early 1980s. The project was founded in 1992 and is sponsored in part by the University of California, Santa Barbara. It includes restored Mayan temples, surrounding houses, and forest gardens near thetemple and plaza remains of El Pilar. The site also includes an informational trail through an example forest garden and a cultural centre that hosts community educational workshops (2).
The project aims to support the application of indigenous knowledge to modern day concerns for conservation and development in the region (4). In order to preserve the environment, Ford has campaigned for government protection of the forests and advocates community leadership to sustain these efforts. Local college graduates have been brought on as part of the project staff. Several goals for the forest garden project were defined in collaboration with local community members; these include promoting the forest gardens as a sustainable alternative to the slash and burn agriculture practiced in much of the area today, and a means to resist outside pressure to raise single crops and invest in expensive technology to increase yields.
The community has also expressed interest in promoting these techniques as an honoured skill, rather than a simple peasant tradition. Part of the El Pilar program consists of teaching the methods to others by hosting training seminars and constructing a demonstration garden. An illustrated plant database and informational web site have been produced with data collected from present-day forest gardens. Over 400 different cultivated plants from two dozen forest gardens are recorded, along with their uses and photographs. The cultivars of each field can be searched, compared and contrasted to better understand the intricacy and diversity of this method of agriculture (5).
Case Study #3: Raised field agriculture on the Andean altiplano
Lake Titicaca sits high in the Andes Mountains of South America on the altiplano, a high-altitude plateau on the border between Bolivia and Peru. The basin surrounding this lake receives irregular rainfall, suffers unpredictable frosts and has generally poor soil for growing crops (6, 7). It has been home to indigenous populations who have farmed the land for thousands of years. These peoples endured the rise and fall of the powerful Tiwanaku state in prehistoric times and later endured conquest by the Inca and Spanish (8). The Quecha and Aymara peoples who live in this region have long subsisted on agricultural crops and livestock such as llama, alpaca and guinea pig. However, today the growing population relies heavily on imported food, as productivity is limited by poor soils and climatic extremes (6, 7).
Agriculture in this region takes place on hilly upland slopes and, to a lesser degree, on grassy, seasonally flooded plains called pampa. Potatoes and quinoa, crops first domesticated in the Titicaca Basin, are the primary cultivars (6). The farming methods used on the altiplano don’t make for easy work. A variety of hand-held hoes and a traditional foot plow, which consists of a digging stick with a paddle attached for the foot, are used to till the soil (7). In this region, there is a wet season and a dry season, each lasting for approximately half of the year. Unexpected dry spells and frosts make this a high-risk area for agriculture (6).
In recent decades, there had been attempts to introduce modern agricultural technologies in this area. Most met with failure, as the costs of implementing the practices were too high or the schemes judged too risky. One challenge has been the size of land holdings in the region (7, 9). Most families own small parcels of land, and choosing to raise cash crops instead of food crops would pose a serious food security risk. Another challenge has been presented by the government, which encourages the use of expensive modern machinery, fertilizers and pesticides. The majority of the rural population in the Andes do not have an outside income and cannot afford to own, operate or invest in such yield-improving technologies (6).
Raised agricultural field relicts have been found extensively throughout the Titicaca basin on the pampa plains (7, 9). By all current observations, such a practice has been long forgotten by the indigenous people in the region. The methods were not noted even by Spanish explorers in the 16th century (6). In the 1980s, two separate teams of American academics, led by Clark Erickson and Alan Kolata, visited the region and conducted experiments in attempts to resurrect these agricultural fields and provide a new method of subsistence to the indigenous population.
Archaeological excavations of these relict fields have uncovered a system of high, raised beds with deep canals. Pollen and soil analysis of ancient canal sediments has shown these to be rich soils cycled from canal to field bed. Erickson and his team also located and excavated farm settlements near the fields. They studied subsistence patterns and agriculture in these areas by examining plant remains from middens and fill. Remains of potatoes, quinoa, fish, camelids, bird, guinea pig and lake plants represented a diet similar to that of people in the region today. They also found many stone fragments from broken hoes (6).
A rough chronology of the fields was established by dating potsherds present in the ancient field soil. A date range of 3000 before present (BP) was established as the inception of the agricultural beds, and cultivation appears to have continued for several thousand years (6, 7). The precise reasons for adoption of raised-bed agriculture are not clear, though Erickson and Kolata agree that widespread development and use of these fields was tied in some ways to population growth and the influence of the Tiwanaku state, and later the Aymara kingdoms in the region (6, 10). At its height the region supported more than 350,000 people; these numbers dwindled considerably after Spanish conquest (8).
Raised agricultural fields consist of elevated beds surrounded by water canals. Earth dug from the canals is mounded to create beds for planting crops. The canals are flooded with water, providing irrigation in times of drought and protection from unexpected frosts (6). Green manure is created from canal sediment including algae, and there is some speculation that canals may have also supported fish in ancient times (6, 9). Fields were further fertilized with animal dung, as livestock was allowed to graze on them after harvest (7). However, Erickson and Chandler (9) discouraged this practice as it was destructive to the field platforms.
Both teams determined that raised-bed agriculture could be revived as a highly productive, economical and sustainable solution appropriate to the region (6, 7, 9). They hypothesized that these methods were well suited to the altiplano environment and the technologies people were using there today. They also believed that the population, though financially poor, had a surplus of labour available to invest in these practices and that the effort required to cultivate the fields would fit well with the tradition of communal social groups in the culture.
Erickson undertook the first raised-bed experiments in this region in the early 1980s in conjunction with colleagues in Peru and with funding from the Peruvian government. This project was admittedly a small-scale experiment, involving 10 hectares in the northern area of the lake basin (6, 9). Erickson formed a team of anthropologists, archaeologists and agronomists to work with Quecaha and Aymara volunteers on the experimental test beds over the course of five years. Metrics for the bed and canal sizes were based on data from archaeological excavations of the relict fields. Traditional tools were utilized to cultivate the soil. Considerable labour was required to reconstruct fields, but after the initial investment annual maintenance and rebuilding efforts were considered manageable tasks. Crops were chosen with the help of the community. For the duration of the experiment, potato and grains such as quinoa produced yields that far exceeded those achieved by modern methods used by farmers in the region today (6).
Alan Kolata organized a larger-scale, systematic project on the south side of the lake in the area near the ruins of Tiwanaku. Scientific analyses of the soils, water and climate were conducted to study the growing conditions of the area, and 50 hectares were planted with the involvement of 22 communities. Training materials were developed including multilingual videos, texts and hands-on instruction in the fields. Leaders of the local indigenous communities were involved to convey the potential of these methods to their people, with the intention of motivating groups to participate in the project. A formal agreement with these community leaders included a supply of seed and hand tools in exchange for participation in the project. The selection of crops took place with community members, and included primarily potatoes, grains and vegetables to a smaller extent (7).
Climate and politics halted both projects intermittently, as a severe drought and later political unrest swept through the region in the mid-1980s. However, by the end of the decade Erickson considered his team’s experiments a success (6). Kolata and his team reported high but widely variable yields in the 1991-92 seasons. He claims that this is due to variable compliance with the suggested practices and the uneven distribution of natural resources such as good soils and access to reliable sources of water (7). Practical problems were encountered, such as the draining of the canals to water livestock and resistance by some groups to invest labour in mucking out canal sediments. While some communities were enthusiastic and managed labour well, others were poorly organized and missed key milestones that affected crop yields. The yields from Erickson’s experiments were larger than those achieved by Kolata. Both were widely variable across the different communities. Ultimately, these experiments yielded crops two to three times larger than those raised with traditional methods (7, 11).
Kolata concludes that his project is a success in the short term, where program compliance fostered high crop yields for some participant groups, and the potential benefits of raised-bed agriculture were clearly demonstrated. However, he also expressed serious considerations regarding the long-term sustainability of this agricultural technique in the region. Both Kolata and Erickson suggest that agricultural practices need to be considered in the larger context of society, including considerations of economics, politics, technology and the environment (7, 12). Erickson and Chandler (9) point out that experiments such as these can generate the interest of the local community and stimulate change, but that lasting change must arise from within communities.
Part three in this series will compare and contrast these case studies, and evaluate their potential to affect change in global food-production practices today.
1. Ford A (2004) Human Impacts on the Maya Forest Linking the Past with the Present for the Future of El Pilar, Report on the 2004 Field Season. (The BRASS/El Pilar Program, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara).
2. Ford A (2008) The BRASS / El Pilar Program: Archaeology Under the Canopy. (MesoAmerican Research Center, University of California Santa Barbara).
3. Flannery KV ed (1982) Maya Subsistence (Academic Press, New York).
4. Ford A, Egerer C, Moore K, & Stanley E (2005) Culture & Nature in the Maya Forest: A Report on the 2005 Field Season - El Pilar. (Maya Forest Alliance & ISBER/MesoAmerican Research Center, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara).
5. Anonymous (2008) The El Pilar Forest Garden Network.
6. Erickson C (1988) Raised Field Agriculture in the Lake Titicaca Basin. Expedition 30(3):8-16.
7. Kolata AL, Rivera O, Ramirez JC, & Gemio E (1996) Rehabilitating Raised-Field Agriculture in the Southern Lake Titicaca Basin of Bolivia. Tiwanaku and its Hinterland : Archaeology and Paleoecology of an Andean Civilization, ed Kolata AL (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington), Vol 1: Agroecology, pp 203-230.
8. Binford MW & Kolata AL (1996) The Natural and Human Setting. Tiwanaku and its Hinterland : Archaeology and Paleoecology of an Andean Civilization, ed Kolata AL (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington), Vol 1: Agroecology, pp 23-56.
9. Erickson C & Chandler K (1989) Raised Fields and Sustainable Agriculture in the Lake Titicaca Basin of Peru. Fragile Lands of Latin America: Strategies for Sustainable Development, ed Browder JO (Westview Press, Boulder), pp 230-248.
10. Janusek JW & Kolata AL (2004) Top-down or bottom-up: rural settlement and raised field agriculture in the Lake Titicaca Basin, Bolivia. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 23(4):404-430.
11. Erickson C (2003) Agricultural Landscapes as World Heritage: Raised Field Agriculture in Bolivia and Peru. Managing Change: Sustainable Approaches to the Conservation of the Built Environment. The 4th Annual US/ICOMOS International Symposium 6-8 April 2001, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, eds Teutonico JM & Matero FG (Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles), pp 181-204.
12. Erickson C (1998) Appllied Archaeology and Rural Development. Crossing Currents: Continuity and Change in Latin America, eds Whiteford MB & Whiteford S (Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River), pp 34-45.
Jennifer Huebert is a doctoral candidate in archaeology at the Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland, New Zealand. She is an archaeobotanist with a particular interest in the identification and analysis of archaeological wood charcoal. Her primary research topics include the study of human palaeoecology and the development of arboriculture in the archipelagos of East Polynesia.
By Colin Kunzweiler Sustainability has been called both a buzzword and the issue of our age, but the field’s explosive growth demonstrates that it is also an "infectious" concept and field. Through a population model that included states of susceptibility, exposure and infectiousness (Figure 1), two authors recently explored individuals’ introduction to and progression within the emerging discipline of sustainability science (1). To summarize, susceptible individuals may understand sustainability to a certain extent or are interested in what the field has to offer, but they simply have not had enough contact with the concept or the field’s members to be sufficiently exposed to the idea. Exposure occurs through education and action, and the susceptible individual soon becomes capable of harboring and supporting the concept of sustainability. After extensive contact with infectious members (professors, researchers, or practitioners) the individual becomes a true member capable of infecting, or recruiting, others. While the authors use this model to describe the field’s rapid growth, they fail to describe the exit rate of individuals, which limits the field’s expansion and growth. Too often these exit rates, and the factors that influence them, are ignored. In this piece, I address this deficit and explore some of the challenges that may drive students, researchers, and practitioners away from or out of the field of sustainability science.
Two years ago, I was a susceptible individual assessing a future in sustainability science in light of many factors that could have resulted in a quick exit from the field. At the forefront of my mind, what exactly does a degree in sustainability entail? I come from a life sciences background so while I understand to a certain extent what biologists and ecologists study, what exactly do sustainability scientists study; what would I "sustain?" To the sustainability student, questions like "what are you studying" become antagonizing when they are coupled with "is sustainability science just learning how to go green?" An early mentor, however, was able to help me make sense of the many perspectives and worldviews within the field. Through challenging interactions with sustainability scientists and practitioners, I became convinced that the field was more than simply "studying recycling," it was a field dedicated to addressing the "wicked" problems of our time. In my mind, I had negotiated the factors that might drive susceptible individuals away from the field and soon became excited for an intense exposure to the concepts of sustainability.
What started as excitement for a new discipline; however, quickly turned into frustration. While my program attempted to overcome the ossification of stand-alone academic departments, what seemed to result was a haphazard introduction to entirely foreign theoretical and methodological frameworks. In my first year, I began to question what the skills of a sustainability scientist were and how my instruction was providing me with the appropriate theories and methods to address "wicked" sustainability problems. More importantly, I was concerned how the knowledge and skills I was supposedly gaining would help me achieve my own professional and academic goals.
I found out my frustrations were not unique and that sustainability scientists are currently addressing these very concerns. While still a work in progress, the field has taken a first step towards developing key competencies that enable students and practitioners to appropriately address sustainability challenges (2). While the competencies of sustainability science have been identified, it remains a daunting task to find sufficient theoretical and methodological inputs. This challenge is overcome only with the help of vetted sustainability scientists who have likewise struggled, yet have emerged prepared to address real world problems.
From my experience, exposed students and infectious researchers and practitioners of sustainability science encounter one additional challenge, navigating the tension between use-driven and theory-driven research. Researchers and academics are required to explore social-ecological systems and produce reliable results, but they cannot do so from their ivory tower. Practitioners need to address on-the-ground, contextual problems, but action without an understanding of complex nature-society interactions may lead to inappropriate responses and unintended consequences. From my disciplinary background, I have found it difficult negotiating not only what the output of my research will be, but also who will benefit from it. The ability of sustainability science to bridge knowledge creation and informed action provides members of the field the flexibility and power to address urgent human needs. Individuals must recognize, however, that as both a fundamental and an applied research, sustainability science is unlike traditional disciplines or sectors.
Nobody promised me that studying sustainability would be easy, but then again, nobody warned me of the pitfalls associated with the field, either. The field has grown exponentially over the last few decades, yet the sampling of challenges I have described here are real and may ultimately hinder the continued growth of the field. For this field to continue to progress, it is my opinion that the challenges described here that impact the exit rates of susceptible, exposed, and infectious individuals within sustainability science must be acknowledged in order to be successfully negotiated.
1. Bettencourt LMA, Kaur J (2011) Evolution and structure of sustainability science. Proc Natl Acad Sci 108:19540-19545.
2. Wiek A, Withycombe L, Redman CL (2011). Key competencies in sustainability: a reference framework for academic program development. Sustain Sci 6:203-218.
Contributor's Biography Colin Kunzweiler is a graduate student in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. His research explores the perceived risk and adaptation strategies of residents of Maricopa County, Arizona regarding mosquito-borne infectious diseases.
By Amber Hasselbring In her first solo exhibition at SF Arts Commission Gallery in 2007, Hasselbring launched the Mission Greenbelt project, an ongoing public artwork inspired by the city’s Sidewalk Landscaping Permit, made available in 2006. The permit process allows residents to replace portions of sidewalk concrete with gardens. The Mission Greenbelt project’s goal was to build contiguous habitat gardens in SF’s Mission District, connecting Dolores Park (19th & Dolores) to Franklin Square Park (16th & Bryant). The interactive SFAC Gallery exhibition featured mixed media artworks (see image: mission greenbelt puzzle), bilingual sidewalk landscaping permit applications, a temporary CA native garden, as well as events including a campaign kick-off celebration, workshops, public school visits, plant sales and tours of the proposed Mission Greenbelt route.
Over the past five years, the Mission Greenbelt project has partnered with others to build gardens in SF sidewalks, backyards, park edges and parking spaces (see image: park(ing) day 2008) throughout the Mission, SOMA, Central Market, Bernal Heights and Noe Valley neighborhoods. These Mission Greenbelt gardens, with plentiful pollen and nectar resources, provide forage and habitat for pollinators and songbirds. The Mission Greenbelt project also fosters participation, from garden design, building and maintenance, to public enjoyment and the creation of new artwork in the form of signage, temporary graffiti, outdoor music, dance and performance.
In a Mission Greenbelt-related project, Seeding Lower 24th St., Hasselbring sowed wildflower seeds in tree basins along this busy commercial corridor. For the project, Hasselbring solicited businesses along Lower 24th St. to contribute five to 20 dollars to purchase soil and seed. Then, with borrowed tools and help from volunteers, she amended existing soil and planted hand-collected CA native wildflower seeds. The following spring, Hasselbring photographed the results, which numbered very few wildflower starts (see image collage: seeding lower 24th st.).
In fall 2010, Hasselbring partnered with Michael Zheng’s LiVE WORK art space to install an outdoor bee habitat garden. Hasselbring designed the garden with aggregations of flowering plants, with bloom times from April through October to attract an assortment of wild bees (see image: bumblebee gathering pollen). The garden also incorporated patches of bare soil in full sun to anticipate the arrival of ground nesting bumblebees Apidae or sweat bees Halictidae. For more information on building your own urban bee garden, visit http://nature.berkeley.edu/urbanbeegardens/.
Most recently, Hasselbring participated in projects along SF’s Market Street corridor in partnership with the SF Arts Commission, Studio for Urban Projects, and SPUR (SF Planning + Urban Research Association). During the flight of the western tiger swallowtail butterfly Papilio rutulus, Hasselbring designed a street-level billboard illustrating the butterfly’s life cycle and relationship to the London Plane trees Platanus × acerifolia (see image: swallowtails and sycamores). These trees, when planted along both sides of Market St. after the completion of the Bay Area Rapid Transit tunnel system, produced an annual flush of large yellow and black butterflies from early July through late October. Hasselbring then worked with Lisa Lee Benjamin, Bay Natives Nursery, Natures Acres Nursery, Moose Curtis, Tim Armstrong and volunteers to Reclaim Market St. at Civic Center. This work, entitled Thin Green Line, began in the fountain where leaf and flower patterns emerged out of the algae, continued as a narrow sod lawn surrounded by CA native plants, and marched out to Market St. with moss packed into cracks in the brickwork (see image collage: reclaim market street: thin green line).
And there’s more to come:
• This spring, if you’re in SF, please join Hasselbring for a bike tour of private Pacific chorus frog Pseudacris regilla ponds followed by a frog pond building workshop (April 15, 2012). For more information, visit http://golden-gate-nature-fest.posterous.com/.
• Hasselbring and Lisa Lee Benjamin are working as lead artists with a team on a project that will fill the SFMOMA windows along Minna and Natoma Streets at 3rd St. with an insect habitat. This work called Urban Hedgerow will be installed from January – July 2013. For more information and updates, visit http://www.urbanhedgerow.com/ and http://www.art-ecology.com/.
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Amber Hasselbring is a San Francisco-based artist making work about ecological relationships. Her work samples surrounding ecosystems to design public art, sidewalk gardens, backyards, and open spaces to establish contiguous habitat for pollinators and songbirds. Since moving to SF in 2005, Hasselbring has produced collaborative, project-based works that involve participation by invited and circumstantial audiences. The goal of her work is to incite curiosity in urban dwellers by helping them discover the natural world just outside their doorstep.
By Amy Youngs The Worm Share project encourages symbiotic relationships between humans and worms. Through experimental artworks, participatory designs, workshops and networking technologies, I facilitate the travel and propagation of composting worms into domestic spaces and encourage others to do the same. In exchange, the worm colonies provide valuable ecosystem services.
Eisenia Foetida is a species of worm suited to living in a wide variety of situations, including domestic spaces. These hearty creatures are able to efficiently turn our food and paper waste into plant fertilizer. Vermicomposting (worm composting) can happen in a very local way—in a kitchen, a basement, an office or in a bin embedded in furniture—and it can empower individuals to participate in the reduction of greenhouse gases. Landfills and organic wastes thrown in traditional composting bins decompose and emit methane, a greenhouse gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide. On the contrary, the process of vermicomposting emits no harmful gas or unpleasant odors. The byproduct of worms is a nutrient-rich material that looks and smells like soil.
The project began with artworks that integrated live worms into sculptures and furniture within domestic spaces. In my sculpture Digestive Table, for instance, a flow-through worm bag was built into a functional table so humans could literally share a meal with worms. People observed the composting activity of the worms on an LCD screen built into the table surface and connected to an infrared camera that monitored the worms’ activity below. I posted the building plans for this sculpture online to help popularize vermicomposting by inspiring others, who might also have desired a useful and aesthetically pleasing worm home, to reproduce the table. I soon discovered that there was far more demand for a simpler, utilitarian version of the flow-through worm bag—one without the table or the camera technology. Once I posted my simplified worm bag designs online, a community of builders developed. People I’d never met began to construct their own bags, ask me questions, post suggestions and upload photos of their finished projects—many of which, based upon a builder’s needs or the materials available, diverged widely from the original. I was impressed with the improvements and evolution of the design that spontaneously occurred just within the comments section of the instructions webpage: http://www.instructables.com/id/Worm-bin-bag-for-indoor-vermicomposting-and-easy-s/. With more than 59,000 viewers and 160 public comments, this project has had more exposure than most of my gallery exhibitions.
Recently, Worm Share has taken on the form of workshops that encourage people to design their own creative worm bins to fit their lifestyles and the needs of the worms. Everything from custom kitchen cabinets to bike trailer bins have been imagined and some of the new designs are being field tested now. All of the workshop participants who are ready to build their bins, are encouraged to take home a pound of free starter worms, which come from my own worm colony. Worms are a never-ending, regenerative source, multiplying based on the amount of food and space available. Workshop participants also learn how they can double their efforts to reduce greenhouse gases by freely sharing their worms with friends and strangers. Worldwide worm sharing is possible through the online network, Vermicomposters.com, which encourages people to identify their general location on a map and willingness to share worms with others. Free and anonymous worm sharing regularly takes place in my town via porch drop-offs. In exchange, I encourage the people receiving starter worms to "pay it forward" and become a future worm-sharing node within this community of creative design and open-source sharing.
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[/aslideshow] World map of vermicomposters (red markers identify a person willing to share): http://vermicomposters.com/
Photos of Worm Share Workshop at Spaces Gallery in Cleveland, OH: http://hypernatural.com/wormshare.html
Digestive Table sculpture and worm bag construction plans: http://hypernatural.com/digestive.html
Contributor’s biography Amy M. Youngs creates biological art, interactive sculptures and digital media works that explore the complex relationship between technology and our changing concept of nature and self. Obsessions include creating artificial nature experiences, spying on worms and constructing indoor, edible ecosystems. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, where she is an Associate Professor of Art and Technology at The Ohio State University. To learn more about her, please visit her website at http://hypernatural.com.
Photo Credits: Photo 05 is a compilation of photos that were posted to the comments page of Young's "Instructable" for building a worm bin. Photo 08 from Spaces Gallery Staff.
By Dr. Gary Brinker Coal and oil have always been the life-blood of the industrial economy. Historically, these energy resources had been so plentiful that, until the latter part of the 20th century, few believed that we could exhaust their supply. And although the chronic negative health effects from inhaling coal dust and the exhaust of burning fossil fuels were recognized early in the industrial era, the full extent of the threat to human health and survival has only recently been realized and acknowledged. The most recent threat to the global ecology in the form of global climate change has energized a social movement to convert energy production to non-fossil sources deemed more environmentally friendly and biologically benign, such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and bio-fuels.
There have been political initiatives to convert to non-fossil energy sources, especially among highly industrialized nation states with limited domestic sources. Heavy dependence on foreign energy sources means nations must invest huge military and economic resources to secure the flow of these fuels into their industrial machines. The costs are often hidden in the form of higher taxes, fiscal debt and human casualties of war and terrorism, but are manifest enough to drive efforts to reduce foreign dependency through higher domestic production and alternative domestic sources. At face value, this seems a viable and attractive solution. Yet domestic oil production remains stagnate, alternative energy remains marginally profitable and the massive importation of foreign oil continues. The validity of widely accepted theories of global climate change, supported by the majority of research showing increasing global temperatures and concentrations of CO2, melting polar ice and rising sea levels, are being challenged and disregarded by conservative politicians. Even though the extent to which these phenomena are causally rooted in the human consumption of fossil fuels versus naturally and historically occurring global biogeochemical cycles can be debated, there is little doubt that human activities contribute to some extent or that human technology and that intervention is the only real hope for altering these potentially disastrous climatic trends.
This paper explores the theory that the bureaucratic inertia of the fossil fuel industry explains the apparent reluctance by some to accept the conclusions of many scientists that human emission of carbon dioxide is a force in global warming and that conversion to renewable and environmentally friendly alternative energy sources is the solution to this and several other environmental problems. It presents tests of the hypotheses that people living in geographic regions with high production of fossil fuels will express low support for alternative energy development and that there will be an inverse correlation between support for fossil fuels and support for alternative energy. The hypotheses are tested using random sample survey data from a statewide telephone survey and secondary data on energy production collected from government and private industry sources.
In assessing the degree to which renewable energy sources have performed, both with respect to economic efficiency and market penetration, McVeigh et al. concluded that, "In general, renewable technologies have failed to meet expectations with respect to market penetration. They have succeeded, however, in meeting or exceeding expectations with respect to their cost" (1). They attribute this apparent discrepancy to a "declining price in conventional generation," which tends to alter the target cost for making renewable forms competitive (1).
Anderson and Newell assessed the economic feasibility of carbon capture sequestration as a means of reducing the carbon footprint of coal powered electricity and found it too expensive to compete with other renewable sources (2). They concluded that it would only be an economically viable option if the price of competitive alternative energy rose sharply (2).
Azar and Dowlatabadi concluded that the only way to stabilize the long-term global climate, given widely accepted models of population growth and industrialization, is through rapid conversion to non-carbon based energy sources (3). They found that, historically, the rate of structural and economic change necessary for rapid conversion has only occurred in the wake of economic or resource crises for periods of several years or more. Dyson reached similar conclusions, going on to speculate that the lack of a contemporary structural or economic crisis and the typical way in which humans respond to difficult, long-run problems such as AIDS—denial, avoidance, recrimination—will result in no significant behavioral change in carbon emissions in the near future (4).
There is literature referencing the cost of fossil fuels as a determinant of the profitability of wind energy (5), but little discussing the cost of wind energy as a determinant of the profitability of oil production. One way to encourage capital investment in wind energy that has been explored is to require large utilities to offer long-term contracts to wind developers and purchase surplus electricity from companies generating electricity for their own purposes from wind turbines, as California did in 1983 (5).
Quantitative analysis was performed on survey opinion data collected by the author in 2010 from a large random sample of Kansas residents (n = 1,200) and on secondary data on various forms of energy production at the state and county level collected by the Kansas Geological Survey and the American Wind Energy Association (6,7). Qualitative data are from interviews conducted by the author with two key informants currently developing wind farms in western Kansas. The first key informant is a community leader in a rural western Kansas county interested in local economic development and curbing population loss. The second is the City Manager of a city located in a more urbanized county of western Kansas considering a wind farm.
Univariate analysis showed that most respondents think devoting resources to producing wind (62%) and solar power (49%) is "extremely important," while few were likely to say developing coal (21%) and nuclear energy (21%) is "extremely important." Natural gas and oil fell in the middle. Most respondents’ concerns with wind farms revolved around aesthetics and danger to wildlife. Few (5%) felt wind farms were a threat to the local economy. When asked specifically if the need for coal and oil energy outweighs environmental concerns, just over half agreed.
Bivariate analysis of variables measuring support for developing the various energy sources revealed that support for wind energy development was positively correlated with support for solar and bio-fuels. Support for wind energy development was negatively correlated with support for development of coal. Although the Pearson’s r p-significance does not quite meet the 0.05 criterion, support for wind energy development was also negatively correlated with support for oil development.
There was a moderately strong correlation indicating that respondents who felt it was not important to develop wind energy were more likely to also say that the benefits of oil (r = .286) and coal (r = .278) outweigh environmental concerns. These results, together with high covariance between support for the fossil fuels, as well as covariance between support for the various alternative fuels, indicate a tendency of people to support one or the other, and suggests a perceived conflict of interest in supporting fossil and alternative fuels among a faction of respondents.
Correlation analysis was performed on a combination of survey data measuring support for wind energy development and aggregated county-level data on oil and gas production for each respondent’s county of residence (8). Table 4 shows that three of the four correlations are in the hypothesized direction, but are weak and statistically insignificant. Respondents residing in counties with high gas and oil production were slightly more likely to say wind energy development is unimportant. Those in high oil producing counties were slightly more likely to agree that wind farms are bad for the Kansas economy. The correlation for gas was very near zero in strength.
Another way to test the theory that wind energy development is impeded by concerns that it may be a threat to fossil fuel prices is to examine the relationship between the level of fossil fuel production and the percentage of potential wind development realized in each county. If fossil fuel interests impede wind energy production, then one might hypothesize that the greater the amount of fossil fuel production in a county, the lower the percentage of potential wind energy will be realized. Table 3 shows the correlation coefficients for these dependent and independent variables. Here again, we see the evidence of weak relationships in the hypothesized direction.
Key informant #1 is a local investor who had been heavily involved in promoting wind farm construction in a county with high oil production, but little gas production. Presented with the thesis of this paper, he was asked to comment based on his observations. In his opinion, the major obstacle to the development of wind energy was not related to economic conflicts of interest, but the cultural aversion to change held by many rural Kansans. Uncertainty about changes in the landscape and economy make many local residents reluctant to embrace a new means of generating power.
Key informant #2 is the City Manager of a city of approximately 20,000 located next to an area designated by developers for construction of a wind farm that incurred significant political opposition. He agreed with Key Informant #1 that a reluctance to embrace change was a salient cultural characteristic of the established regional population, and that was a major force in apathy, if not opposition, towards development of wind farms.
He also believed that much of the source of opposition to wind farms came from a faction of local residents living in the rural areas surrounding the proposed location. This faction tends to be in the upper end of the class spectrum, well educated and politically powerful. Wind towers can be hundreds of feet high; a typical wind farm contains dozens of these towers, so their construction involves a drastic change in the landscape for residents that live up to several miles away. The pristine prairie panorama is often a major feature that rural Kansans value in choosing residential property. Under the proposed agreement, a majority of the economic benefits of the wind farm would go to property owners on which the wind turbines would be located, and only relatively small tax advantages are enjoyed by those residing adjacent to or near the wind farm. Key informant #2 saw evidence that many of these politically powerful residents living near the proposed wind farm felt they would lose the aesthetic qualities of their property and would suffer a potential drop in the value of their property with the construction of the wind farm, while those few land owners fortunate enough to have the ideal locations for wind turbines enjoyed all of the economic benefits.
Analysis of survey data, fossil fuel production levels and opinions of key informants in areas where wind farms have been proposed revealed evidence to support the theory that bureaucratic inertia in the fossil fuel industry is an obstacle to timely conversion to alternative energy, but also identified other factors related to the regional culture that explain reluctance to accept construction of the required infrastructure for wind energy production and delivery.
Univariate analysis has provided evidence that only a relatively small proportion of Kansans exhibit opposition to wind energy development, and that the rationales for opposition are such that strategic location of wind farms and modest advances in biological technology could minimize these concerns.
Correlation analysis of variables measuring the importance of public support for the various forms of energy production showed that support for fossil fuel development tends to be inversely related to support for alternative fuels, especially coal. Strong positive relationships between support for wind, solar and bio-fuels suggest that a faction of Kansans is supportive of all forms of alternative energy, while strong positive correlations between support for oil, coal and gas suggest that a second faction of Kansans is strongly committed to fossil fuel development. So there is evidence here that many Kansans tend to support either fossil fuels or alternative fuels. Environmental concerns explain the preference for alternative fuels, while the most obvious rationale for support of only fossil fuels would be economic interests, since fossil fuel production also harms animal life and blights the landscape, the most common reasons to oppose wind energy.
The fact that relatively few Kansans have direct investments in fossil fuels might explain weak correlations in Table 3. The general public might not readily make the connection between the levels of fossil fuel production within their own residential regions and the overall health of their local economies, even though there may be a causal impact. However, one may make a fair assumption that the small percentage of Kansans who do have vested interest in fossil fuels tend to be landowners, and thus have at least moderate political power and influence.
Finally, the observation that a county’s oil and gas production is negatively correlated to the percentage of potential wind energy development suggests that oil and gas interests are political obstacles to wind energy development. The relatively weak strength of these correlations can be explained by the fact that many counties in Kansas have both high fossil fuel reserves and abundant wind, so the economic and political forces in many counties are comparable and offsetting. This may not be the case in other geographic areas suitable for wind farms. But there is some tendency for counties with low fossil fuel production to be more likely to fully develop their potential for wind energy.
Wind energy is likely to remain to be seen as a viable competitor to the fossil fuel industry, especially as it becomes an increasing source of electrical power and as demand for coal-based electricity declines. As more cars become propelled by electricity, wind will increasingly usurp demand for oil. However, wind is an unreliable, intermittent source, and most experts believe that coal-powered plants will continue to be needed. Similarly, petroleum is used for producing many commodities other than fuel, not least of which is plastics. The non-energy uses of fossil fuels, together with greatly increasing global demand for energy as underdeveloped countries industrialize, may result in a negligible effect on current fossil fuel demand and prices. Even with moderate growth in wind production, it may negate increasing demand and higher prices. But as long combustion of fossil fuels declines, many of the health and environmental concerns will be addressed.
The study does suggest one immediate obstacle to wind energy development. Means are needed to equalize the compensation/liability equation, so that everyone who suffers economic or aesthetic losses from the construction of a wind farm is fairly compensated. One way this could be accomplished is through differential tax breaks, funded through revenues generated by taxing the electricity produced, to residents around a wind farm based on the distance of their property from the nearest turbines or reduction in the assessed value of the property. Another option would be to offer residents near the wind farm reduced electricity rates. With an equitable compensation structure, wind farms should become an attractive option for any community with enough wind to drive them. The research of McVeigh et al. also suggests that reductions in government subsidies for fossil fuel production should be eliminated to allow renewable sources to be more competitive (1). The research of Loiter and Norberg-Boh showed that mandates requiring large power companies, especially those owning large coal-burning plants, to purchase electricity at competitive rates from wind farms would also promote conversion to renewable energy.
Current fossil fuel subsidies and a well-developed infrastructure currently make fossil fuels a very profitable option for investors. Building an alternative energy infrastructure will require considerable investments that may take many years to produce comparable profits. This study suggests that if conversion to clean, renewable energy sources is to be the solution to reducing levels of CO2, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and the many other hazardous environmental pollutants resulting from production and usage of fossil fuels, regulations and tax policies must discourage future capital investment in oil, gas and coal. Additionally, the study suggests that public resources will be needed to jump-start alternative energy production to build infrastructure that can produce and deliver abundant, clean, profitable and sustainable energy indefinitely.
1. McVeigh JJ, Burtraw DD, Darmstadter J, & Palmer K (2000) Winner, loser, or innocent victim? Has renewable energy performed as expected? Solar Energy 68(3):237-255.
2. Anderson S & Newell R (2004) PROSPECTS FOR CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE TECHNOLOGIES. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 29(1):109-142.
3. Azar C & Dowlatabadi H (1999) A REVIEW OF TECHNICAL CHANGE IN ASSESSMENT OF CLIMATE POLICY. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment 24(1):513-544.
4. Dyson T (2005) On Development, Demography and Climate Change: The End of the World as We Know it? Population & Environment 27(2):117-149.
5. Loiter JM & Norberg-Bohm V (1999) Technology policy and renewable energy: public roles in the development of new energy technologies. Energy Policy 27(2):85-97.
6. American Wind Energy Association FS (2012) Fact Sheet.
7. Kansas Geological Society (2005) Production from Kansas Oil and Gas Leases.
8. The Docking Institute of Public Affairs (2010) Kansas Speaks 2010 - Statewide Public Opinion Survey. (Fort Hayes State University, Hays, KS).
Dr. Gary Brinker is the Director of the Docking Institute and a Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology and Social Work at Fort Hays State University. His teaching interests include research methods, social problems and quantitative analysis. His sponsored research projects define an eclectic research agenda. Dr. Brinker has been the principal investigator for more than 75 applied research projects, including program evaluations, needs assessments, economic impact studies, population projections and public opinion surveys in the areas of education, substance abuse, environment, education, politics, family planning, aging, community health and marketing. He earned a Master of Arts degree in sociology in 1994 and a Doctorate Degree in Applied Sociology in 1997 at Baylor University.
By Rev. Doug Bland Standing on the steps of the Newman Catholic Student Center across the street from ASU’s campus and the Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS), Rev. Jan Olav Flaaten told the story of climate refugees in the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. As he recounted the story of rising sea levels, Flaaten grasped the blue shower curtain that encircled him and slowly raised it from his knees to his waist to his chest. He finished the story with only his nose sticking above the rising cloth waves.
The 350.org "Moving Planet" march on September 24, 2011, at which this dramatic recitation occurred, was co-sponsored by GIOS and Arizona Interfaith Power & Light (a coalition of religious communities concerned about climate change). It happened because Lauren Kuby of GIOS brought sustainability students and staff together with people from the faith community. Rev. Flaaten, Executive Director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council, was one of several religious leaders who facilitated the event.
The "Moving Planet" march united people of faith with those who claim no religious affiliation in a walk from the Newman Catholic Center to the Tempe Mosque to the Hillel Jewish Center and finally to the First United Methodist Church. At each stop we told stories of some of the world’s environmental refugees, including the forced migration of the Bog Copper Butterfly populations, disappearing glaciers, and refugees from Ethiopia’s drought. We honored the suffering, mourned the losses and shared confessions of our own complicity.
Religion and spirituality are some of the most significant influences on environmental values—both good and ill. Lynn White Jr. famously argued that Western Christianity "bears a huge burden of guilt" for the contemporary environmental crisis. He went on to explain: "What people do about their ecology depends on what they think about themselves in relation to things around them. Human ecology is deeply conditioned by beliefs about our nature and destiny—that is, by religion" (1).
Today, religious communities are increasingly providing resources and teachings to affirm and deepen environmental ethics. Whether in the Vatican’s bid to become the world’s first carbon-neutral state, the host of environmental policy statements generated by religious denominations, the embrace of "creation care" by evangelical Christians, or the rise of faith-based environmental organizations, religious worldviews are being applied as never before to help solve environmental problems and preserve ecological integrity.
Just as healthy religion fosters healthy ecology, noxious religion fosters noxious ecology. For the environment, the most menacing religion of them all is the Materialism and Consumerism of western civilization. One of the reasons that our culture is so impervious to the scientific data that verify anthropogenic climate change is, at its core, religious. As a society, regardless of our stated creeds, we are inclined to idolize the same bottom line that Exxon worships.
Frank conversation about climate change has stalled because we keep debating whether climate mitigation makes economic sense (jobs, jobs, jobs) and whether the scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change is settled. We need to ask deeper questions: ethical questions, religious questions. Questions investigating why we have developed ethics for suicide, homicide and genocide, but not for biocide or geo-cide (2).
At the most fundamental level, climate change is not a scientific, political, economic or energy problem. It is a moral and ethical crisis. Our energy use and consumption threaten life as we know it. Solutions won’t come simply by stacking up more scientific facts or technical arguments. From civil rights to women’s suffrage, history has shown that toxic pieties, practices and policies can be overcome only when they are recognized to be morally wrong and decidedly unjust (climateethicscampaign.org).
We need a religious and ethical revolution. Occupy Creation! Let the human 1 percent listen to the flora and fauna of the 99 percent. As the writer of Job suggests, "Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you" (Job 12:7).
Gus Speth, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and the Environment said, "Thirty years ago, I thought that with enough good science, we would be able to solve the environmental crisis. I was wrong. I used to think the greatest problems threatening the planet were pollution, bio-diversity loss and climate change. I was wrong there, too. I now believe that the greatest problems are pride, apathy and greed." Speth called for "a cultural and spiritual transformation" and admitted "we in the scientific community don’t know how to do that" but religious teachers do (3).
As a religious leader in our community it is my intention to be part of the sustainability dialogue that GIOS helps to foster. Learning to live sustainably is not just the work of the "The Great American University"; it is "The Great Work" (4) for all of us, and it is Holy.
1. White, L (1967) The Historical Roots of the Environmental Crisis. Science 155: 1203-1207.
2. Rasmussen, L (2010) An Earth-Honoring Faith. Sojourners. June 2010.
3. Richard, C (2009) "What If?" in Love God Heal Earth, ed. Bingham, SG (St Lynn's Press, Pittsburgh, PA), pp 9.
4. Berry, T (2000) The Great Work: Our Way into the Future. (Harmony Books, New York).
Doug Bland is Pastor of the Tempe Community Christian Church. He serves as Executive Director for Arizona Interfaith Power & Light and teaches storytelling classes at South Mountain Community College.
By Jennifer Huebert Editor’s Note: This article is the first of three case studies investigating ancient agricultural practices. Look for the next installment in the Winter 2012 issue.
One of today’s most pressing global issues is the need to produce food more efficiently in order to feed the growing world population (1). This issue has been addressed with solutions ranging from genetically modified food plants to mechanized large-scale monoculture cropping practices. However, modifications people make to the landscape to cultivate food create significant and often destructive changes in the environment (2). Conscious efforts must be made to sustain agroecosystems and conserve natural resources so they can function in perpetuity.
There are important reasons to look to the ancient past for possible solutions to today’s agricultural problems. The environmental and social problems humans face today are not new. In fact, humanity may have faced the very same challenges millennia ago; people developed strategies to survive, and, at other times, the choices they made led to their ultimate demise. By looking at the past, we can see that cultures that modified ecosystems in environmentally unsustainable ways did not endure (e.g. 3, 4). We must study challenges faced in the past and attempt to learn from mistakes. In doing so, we can learn how to deal effectively with today’s problems.
Forces both cultural and natural—climate fluctuations, shifting dunes, geographic exploration, wars—acting over widely varying spans of time combine to make the world an unpredictable and constantly changing place (5). Cultures must be able to adapt because the environment and the world around us are continually changing; I argue that cultures must also adopt environmentally sustainable subsistence practices to ensure their long-term survival. In order to effectively implement change, these practices must fit within the social and economic systems of the cultures that use them (6).
In the distant past, when civilizations survived hard times there was often no record of their successes. Strategies once used to survive in difficult environments may be long forgotten; adaptive strategies may have occurred as an accumulation of subtle changes over long spans of time. When faced with looking at cultural and environmental changes over the long durée, archaeology can provide a unique perspective (7). As an interdisciplinary field, it also has the ability to bring together humanist and scientific disciplines in its pursuit. All of these attributes make archaeology especially suited to help people understand the consequences of the changes they consider effecting in the modern world (2, 4).
The study of ancient agricultural practices can thus provide valuable data to modern-day farmers, crop scientists and policy makers. Some agronomists have advocated that participatory development that uses sustainable practices is the answer. These practices encourage people to be self-sufficient in their means of food production, and ensure local control over resources and techniques used to raise crops (8, 9). An added benefit is the ability to apply a uniquely local perspective to management strategies that mitigate risks (10). This review, presented in three installments, explores case studies where forgotten or fading traditional agricultural practices were revived to address modern-day agricultural challenges. Examples were chosen to compare and contrast these initiatives in different cultures and geographic regions of the world. Each example illustrates a distinct problem to solve, and has a unique history to consider. Additionally, the teams all take different approaches to planning and implementing their projects. All face significant challenges and meet with varying degrees of success.
There are several key questions that should be addressed when considering the successful revival of forgotten agricultural technologies (4, 8-10).
• First, is the practice appropriate for current environmental conditions? A landscape that once may have been a green pasture may now be a barren desert.
• Second, is the practice sustainable? This answer may not be easy to discern without extensive study and experimentation.
• Third, is there a clear benefit for the cost of implementing the practice? The practice may be very labour intensive to initiate, but if the returns are significant perhaps the investment is justified.
• Fourth, is the technology accessible and are methods to implement it appropriate for this culture? Methods that require exotic tools and equipment may not be sustainable, and techniques that are unknown may be deemed risky or met with cultural resistance.
• Finally, the ideology of the present society must be taken into account. The social networks that structure society and the motivations and needs of groups within must be understood, both for effective learning and to continue teaching these practices to the next generation (6).
Three case studies will ultimately be presented, along with a review of how effectively each initiative addressed the foregoing concerns. The projects will also be revisited to establish where they are today, and to assess whether these resurrected agricultural practices have benefitted modern-day societies.
Case Study #1: Runoff agriculture in the Negev Desert, Israel
Despite perceptions that the desert is a barren landscape, various forms of agriculture have been utilized to make desert areas productive. Modern irrigation systems have often been seen as the only solution to solving water problems in these areas, however these systems can be economically and technologically unattainable for many people (11). The techniques of runoff agriculture can provide an alternative. These techniques involve either channeling and storing seasonal desert floodwaters, or pumping the water through a system of chained wells to irrigate fields (12).
The remains of large-scale agriculture are seen throughout the Negev Desert of southern Israel, including thousands of hectares of stone walls and farmsteads, although the tradition and techniques have largely passed from memory. These remains were the source of scholarly speculation about the effects of severe erosion and climate change for more than a century before attracting the attention of a young Israeli botanist, Michael Evenari. Evenari considered that if the desert had once been farmed, it had the potential to be productive again (12). Evenari and an interdisciplinary team of scientists including archaeologists, agronomists, geologists and hydrologists, set out to study the remains of these ancient farms in the mid-20th century. Initially, the team’s goal was to prove theories about the effectiveness of runoff agriculture, rather than to revive ancient farming practices in this region. However, the project was later expanded to include extensive study of the desert climate, rainfall patterns and plants that could thrive under arid conditions.
After defining their project, the team set up a base at one of the ancient farmsteads and began to study the desert environment (see image 2). They first had to establish that the Negev had actually been a desert in ancient times, putting to rest speculations regarding a collapsed environment caused by erosion or climate change. Using archaeological excavation and aerial reconnaissance techniques, the team mapped stone walls, mounds, channels and dams that had been used to control seasonal flood waters in the desert (12). They discovered that water was channeled to the farms and, through varying arrangements, conveyed directly onto the fields or into cisterns where it was later distributed during the growing season. Three basic types of farms were identified. One involved simple terraces of low stone walls called wadis, which resemble a series of steps (see image 1). Wadis channeled floodwaters and prevented erosion. Another type of farm consisted of terraced fields and a farmhouse or watchtower, all surrounded by a stone fence. Hillside channels directed water to the terraces, and a series of stepped channels intricately directed the flow of floodwaters and pooled it for later use. The third type of farm was larger and far more elaborate, designed to catch runoff from very large wadis and direct it through a series of canals.
What were at first thought to be simple remains of single-occupation farm settlements were actually the layered remains of numerous, subsequent occupations. Archaeological excavations assisted the team in understanding the patterning and duration of human occupation dating back more than 10,000 years. While early residents settled near water sources, later residents settled along desert trade routes. Historical records, including ancient papyri discovered during archaeological excavations (12) indicated that this area was extensively settled to protect Nabataen trade routes across the desert, and later to support Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Desert farming was intensely practiced over these time periods. Historical documents indicate that the Negev desert was intricately divided up based on water rights enforced by law. After about AD 700, the desert region was taken over by people who did not need to protect these routes. Traffic decreased, and the farms were abandoned. The area has since been home to Bedouin, a traditionally nomadic peoples who occasionally farm small plots of land.
Two ancient farms were reconstructed in the team’s initial field season. These were highly experimental projects intended to collect data about rainfall volume and to observe water runoff patterns. Water was collected from the first seasonal flood and a test planting of trees and crops took place. Crops planted included grapes, almonds, olives, fruit trees and barley. Fodder crops, legumes, fibre plants and vegetables were added in subsequent seasons. Fields were fertilized with animal dung left in the area by Bedouin animal herds, with the addition of some modern fertilizers. Bedouin residing in the area assisted with the first planting (12).
The team’s first experimental season did well despite a severe drought that followed. Evenari and his team took on a larger-scale project of 80 plots of land, planted extensive fruit tree groves the following season, and reported successful harvests. Systematic evaluation of these desert runoff collection systems indicated that over 50 percent of rainwater could be collected with these methods (13). Over the next 15 years, the team continued to cultivate, observe rainfall patterns and study desert crop plants on the reconstructed farms. In 1970, one farm became a training centre to teach others how to use these methods to cultivate crops in arid areas (12).
Did this case study satisfy the criteria outlined for a successful revival of forgotten agricultural technologies? After much research, Evenari’s project team concluded that these practices were sustainable in a desert environment. It was remarkable that even unattended for many hundreds of years, water was still being channeled to the ancient cisterns during heavy rainfall. The team concluded, after examining historical documents and archaeological investigations, that desert farming had actually been practiced extensively here for a very long time. It only became a forgotten technology when trade routes through the desert were abandoned and / or remote borders were no longer maintained.
The team performed background research and experimented for several seasons to establish that these practices were appropriate for the current environmental conditions. They concluded that these cultivation techniques were still viable and productive in the Negev.
The immense effort and skill required to initially build walls and terraces throughout the desert in ancient times is thought to have involved labour coordinated from a state centre (14). Once these cultivation structures were in place, however, no extraordinary amount of labour was needed to farm the desert. Additionally, the cultivation techniques used in these systems did not require tools or technology that was out of reach for the Israeli food producers of the region.
Evenari’s project was conducted in large part to benefit the then newly formed state of Israel, and because of this, the initiative was well-supported on many levels. It should be noted, however, that the desert is also home to Bedouin. In his concluding remarks on the Negev project, Evenari mused that it would have been ideal to turn the desert into a productive environment for the Bedouins while preserving their cultural heritage (15). While it is not clear whether this aim was achieved, the model farm is now a worldwide teaching and research centre for the study of agronomy, plant and soil sciences in arid environments. It has affected change in arid farming practices in ten different countries (16), making it by all measures a successful re-establishment.
Part Two in this series will present a case study focusing on the revival of raised-bed agriculture in the Lake Titicaca basin of Peru.
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2. Rogers JD (2004) The global environmental crisis: an archaeological agenda for the 21st century. The Archaeology of Global Change: The Impact of Humans on Their Environment, ed C. Redman SRJ, P.R. Fish, and J. D. Rogers (Smithsonian Books, Washington), pp 271-277.
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7. Kirch PV & Sahlins MD (1992) Anahulu: The Anthropology of History in the Kingdom of Hawaii (University of Chicago Press, Chicago).
8. Browder JO (1989) Introduction. Fragile Lands of Latin America: Strategies for Sustainable Development, ed Browder JO (Westview Press, Boulder), pp 1-10.
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10. Wilken GC (1989) Transferring Traditional Technology: A Bottom-Up Approach for Fragile Lands. Fragile lands of Latin America: Strategies for Sustainable Development, ed Browder JO (Westview Press, Boulder), pp 44-60.
11. Fernandes E, Pell A, & Uphoff N (2002) Rethinking Agriculture for New Opportunities. Agroecological Innovations: Increasing Food Production With Participatory Development, ed Uphoff NT (Earthscan, London), pp 21-30.
12. Evenari M, Shanan L, & Tadmor N (1982) The Negev: The Challenge of a Desert (Harvard University Press, Cambridge).
13. Evenari M (1974) Desert Farmers: Ancient and Modern. Natural History 83(7):42-49.
14. Haiman M (2006) ADASR - Ancient Desert Agriculture Systems Revived.
15. Evenari M, Shanan L, Tadmor N, & Aharoni Y (1961) Ancient Agriculture in the Negev. Science 133(3457):979-996.
16. Lange OL & Schulze E-D (1989) In memoriam Michael Evenari (formerly Walter Schwarz) 1904–1989. Oecologia 81(4):433-436.
Jennifer Huebert is a doctoral candidate in archaeology at the Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland, New Zealand. She is an archaeobotanist with a particular interest in the identification and analysis of archaeological wood charcoal. Her primary research topics include the study of human palaeoecology and the development of arboriculture in the archipelagos of East Polynesia.
Georg Gerster (Image 1) www.georggerster.com
By Ameret Vahle While working with cutouts and stencils of human chains in my paintings, I got the idea to put a call out asking people for cutouts of their own. Participants could make them out of many different materials such as waste paper, advertisement posters or plastics for inclusion in the installation of "The world in my backyard.’’ I received numerous cutout chains of various forms, dimensions and materials from nearly all over the world and from people of all ages and professions.
In Berlin, I installed these cutouts on the garbage cage in my backyard. The cage was illuminated from within for an event on March 12, 2011. Then, something unexpected happened as a result of the recent news of the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan: visitors began to spontaneously build human chains, reflected as shadows on the surrounding walls.
The day of the event, a young lady in the street who had never before taken part in creating art or in building human chains stated, "When we took each other by the hand, I felt a deep and touching energy of solidarity I never had before. Now I feel the power of this kind of manifestation and start to understand and will participate more." This was one of the most touching statements I received for the project.
The dialogue of the garbage cage and symbolism of human chains came to represent barriers against the use of nuclear energy in Germany before the Fukushima event, and after, in Japan. It became a sign of solidarity, even for those who had not participated before, creating discussion, reflection and engagement.
These chains symbolize democracy and real human chains, and are organized to express political opinions and demands. The feeling of taking somebody by the hand and building a real chain conveys a special experience that can make us feel related and united. Further, the making of chains cut out of paper, a form of play by children in many cultures, is a contemplative way to tap into one’s childhood roots.
The qualities of interactive performance and ephemeral installation reflect actual problems and demands, discussed in a lively way during and after the event, and encourage material, as well as mental, sustainability.
Born in Dortmund, Germany, Ameret lives and works primarily in Berlin. She has studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf and as guest at the Académie des Beaux Arts of Paris. She has participated in, among others, the 15th International Visual Arts Symposium in Padgorica/Serbia and Cetinje/Montenegro, and was an invited artist to the Beijing Art Space. Recent works include a street project titled, "I am here," in Nice, France, and "Shadows," a street project and exposition with the people of Berlin/Spandau. To view more of her work, please visit www.ameret.eu.
By The Migrant Ecologies Project (Lucy Davis & Collaborators) Jalan Jati or "Teak Road" is a visual art, science and ecology project tracing the historic, material and poetic journeys of a 1950’s teak bed, found in a Singapore karang guni junk store, back to a location in Southeast Asia where the original teak tree may have grown. Jalan Jati brings together cross-cultural natural histories, micro and macro arboreal influences and DNA timber tracking technology. The project carries a message about deforestation and the importance of consuming certified timber. The exhibition media comprises photography, woodprint collage and stop-motion animation.
The project is the latest evolution of a material-led investigation that started in 2009. The objective of the initiative was to recast the form and content of the historic 1950s to 1960s Singapore/Malayan Modern Woodcut Movement in a contemporary context of, "cutting of wood," or rainforest destruction.
Jalan Jati is situated in a macro-scale, global context of deforestation and illegal logging. The resulting works, publications and educational materials contain messages targeted at developed countries and their consumers, informing these parties of the importance of knowing where products come from and of purchasing legally certified timber.
The artistic approach to this project is on a micro-level—intimate and poetic. Jalan Jati is about multiple arborealities. It is about tracing and communicating an ecology of many-layered, contradictory, competing, aerial and subterranean networks of stories about trees, about people and their relationship to trees and to wood; of what happens when fingerprints meet wood-grain; of how plants, trees and forest materials have "used people" to migrate across continents; and of how these stories and plants have taken root in foreign soils. The project is on a micro-level communicating what one might call an "agency" of nature; it conveys what nature does to us—what trees and forest materials inspire us to do as much as what we do to nature.
This inquiry into "woodcut" and "cutting of wood" led to an investigation of artist’s materials—in this case of the wood blocks used by artists in Singapore, which are largely comprised of jelutong, a timber used extensively in pencils and art supplies and associated with deforestation. A search for more sustainable materials for a 21st century woodcut project led to an investigation into the stories of timber objects that migrate to Singapore.
The first exhibition of works from this inquiry was Together Again (Wood:Cut) I NATURAL HISTORY, which was exhibited at Post Museum Singapore in 2009. The exhibition attempted to recreate, in "humpty dumpty style," the original trees from "natural history prints" of wood objects found on the streets of Little India, Singapore.
A second exhibition, Together Again (Wood:Cut) II MAGIC exhibited at The Substation in Singapore 2010, conjured magic-realist histories of Southeast Asian forests from the grain of one particular teak bed (the same bed we have DNA tested for Jalan Jati). Research for these exhibitions grew into an Artist-in-Residency agreement between the artist, Lucy Davis, and Double Helix Tracking Technologies Pte Ltd.
As the genealogy of Jalan Jati is led by material and art-historical interests (i.e. an interest in and reverence for the Malayan modern woodcut), it subsequently privileges an organic, "wooden" aesthetic, which contrasts with the "clean" or "ethereal" aesthetic of new media or art-science initiatives. This aesthetic is also in keeping with our objective: a conceptual and material recasting of the histories and sensual knowledge at stake in woodcut and woodprints in a contest of deforestation and the illegal timber trade.