Part 2 – The Future
In 2017, the words sustainability and sustainable development just roll off the tongue. These terms are everywhere, marketable and often meaningless. Yes, the sad fact is my younger colleague is correct. At least on some levels. We really haven’t come that far. Sustainable development is an oxymoron. How can you sustain resources for use by the present and future generations while increasing development?
Part of the subject content has examined the role that agriculture plays in environmental degradation. There’s no sugar coating here. The evidence is clear and condemning. No two ways about it, agriculture is a major player both nationally and globally. But of course, we need agriculture, we need to feed the world so we just need to do it better, right?
There are a myriad of views as to how to shake this tree, how to feed the world while still protecting our resources for the current and future generations. When you cut through to the core the ideas with substance are the radical ones, the others ‘greenwash’.
By ‘greenwash’ I mean passing something off as environmentally sustainable when in fact it’s not. Sustainability appears to be in the eye of the beholder. i.e. there is no definition that actually has any tangibility that can be adequately measured. Some people see black and white, you either destroy mother earth or you don’t, but there are many shades of grey. What if sustainability means not destroying mother earth, but not replenishing it either? The second thing is that environmental sustainability always seems to come second to economic goals. The chicken before the egg scenario. The radical views about sustainability and sustainable development, turn this over. They place the social and environmental needs at the centre as the founding base to which economic output is subsequent. In the 1990’s that was way radical. Nowdays – hmmmm, out there – yes. Radical? I’m not so sure.
In more recent times there seems to be a renewed interest in consumers wanting to know where their food comes from. How it is produced. Here in the Barossa there are two weekly Farmers Markets. The paddock to plate revolution is in top gear. Consumers are willing to pay more for organic produce, and while their wallets drive markets they need to be wary that they are being sold what they really want and not a ‘greenwashed’ story.
Here we come back to our timeline. No, the last 20 something years were not for nothing. The agriculture – enviro divide has reduced. What was the cause of eye rolls in the 1990s appears to be more acceptable now. Although I’m not quite convinced that stonewash jeans will ever come back in fashion, society has moved on and sustainable agriculture is an accepted terminology. Even still, the relationship could be closer. Perhaps those radical ideas, aren’t so radical.
So, while you walk amongst the supermarket shelves look out for the greenwash. If my further study has taught me anything, it is that sometimes it is hard to grasp what is truly sustainable. A technique around this is to consider what is unsustainable. Start with the non-negotiables, and work out from there.