Our Sustainable Future Beyond Earth Day

Earth Day is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world, encouraging humans to seriously consider the impact we have on the environment and to act—or change—accordingly. We encourage you to critically engage with emerging issues in social and ecological sustainability, not just on April 22, but every day with the Our Sustainable Futures series.

These books pay special attention to the intersection of agrarian studies and political ecology. They address new and interdisciplinary approaches to topics related to sustainable food and agricultural systems, including dimensions of power (knowledge production, social justice and inequality, cultural change, and public policy) and resource dimensions (water, energy, soil and nutrient flows, pollutants, and agroecology).

 

Our Sustainable Future


In Defense of Farmers: The Future of Agriculture in the Shadow of Corporate Power
Edited by Jane W. Gibson and Sara E. Alexander
Foreword by John K. Hansen

Industrial agriculture is generally characterized as either the salvation of a growing, hungry, global population or as socially and environmentally irresponsible. Despite elements of truth in this polarization, it fails to focus on the particular vulnerabilities and potentials of industrial agriculture. Both representations obscure individual farmers, their families, their communities, and the risks they face from unpredictable local, national, and global conditions. In Defense of Farmers illuminates anew the critical role that farmers play in the future of agriculture and examines the social, economic, and environmental vulnerabilities of industrial agriculture, as well as its adaptations and evolution. Contextualizing the conversations about agriculture and rural societies within the disciplines of sociology, geography, economics, and anthropology, this volume addresses specific challenges farmers face in four countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, and the United States…. The case studies here acknowledge the agency of farmers and offer ways forward in the direction of sustainable agriculture.

Ogallala: Water for a Dry Land, Third Edition
By John Opie, Char Miller, and Kenna Lang Archer

The Ogallala aquifer, a vast underground water reserve extending from South Dakota through Texas, is the product of eons of accumulated glacial melts, ancient Rocky Mountain snowmelts, and rainfall, all percolating slowly through gravel beds hundreds of feet thick. Ogallala: Water for a Dry Land is an environmental history and historical geography that tells the story of human defiance and human commitment within the Ogallala region. It describes the Great Plains’ natural resources, the history of settlement and dryland farming, and the remarkable irrigation technologies that have industrialized farming in the region… This edition also describes the fierce independence of Texas ranchers and farmers who reject any governmental or bureaucratic intervention in their use of water, and it updates information about the impact of climate change on the aquifer and agriculture.

Growing Local: Case Studies on Local Food Supply Chains
Edited by Robert P. King, Michael S. Hand, and Miguel I. Gómez

In an increasingly commercialized world, the demand for better quality, healthier food has given rise to one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. food system: locally grown food. Many believe that “relocalization” of the food system will provide a range of public benefits, including lower carbon emissions, increased local economic activity, and closer connections between consumers, farmers, and communities. The structure of local food supply chains, however, may not always be capable of generating these perceived benefits. Growing Local provides a foundation for a better understanding of the characteristics of local food production and emphasizes the realities of operating local food supply chains.

Sustainable Compromises: A Yurt, a Straw Bale House, and Ecological Living
By Alan Boye

When Alan Boye first lived in sustainable housing, he was young, idealistic, and not much susceptible to compromise—until rattlesnakes, black widow spiders, and loneliness drove him out of the utilities-free yurt he’d built in New Mexico. Thirty-five years later, he decided to try again. This time, with an idealism tempered by experience and practical considerations, Boye and his wife constructed an off-the-grid, energy-efficient, straw bale house in Vermont. Sustainable Compromises chronicles these two remarkable attempts to live simply in two disparate American eras. Writing with hard-won authority and humor, Boye takes up the “how-to” practicalities of “building green,” from finances to nuts and bolts to strains on friends and family.

Crisis and Opportunity: Sustainability in American Agriculture
By John E. Ikerd

These engaging essays describe what sustainable agriculture is, why it began, and how it can succeed. Together they constitute a clear and compelling vision for rebalancing the ecological, economic, and social dimensions of agriculture to meet the needs of the present without compromising the future. In Crisis and Opportunity, John E. Ikerd outlines the consequences of agricultural industrialization, then details the methods that can restore economic viability, ecological soundness, and social responsibility to our agricultural system and thus ensure sustainable agriculture as the foundation of a sustainable food system and a sustainable society. 

Roots of Change: Nebraska’s New Agriculture
By Mary Ridder

Among the vast corporate and smaller family-sized farms and agribusinesses of Nebraska, the old pioneering spirit of entrepreneurship is rising again, this time in the form of sustainable and organic growers, cooperatives, artisans, and visionaries—those who seek to enhance the quality of life and ensure its future on the farm, in the community, and throughout the world. Mary Ridder profiles these enterprises in Roots of Change, a project that took her down Nebraska’s highways and byways for more than two years as she sought out, interviewed, and photographed producers of meats and wines, makers of wood products, ethanol visionaries, the patrons of a community-owned grocery story, the folks behind the state’s first year-round, locally produced food market, and the owners of a sheep’s milk dairy turned soap business. The result is a map of the future for those who wish to regain control of, and add profit to, the products of their land and their labor.

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