Publications (Paul's Blog)

November 19, 2009

IT’S ABOUT TIME

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul Dowlearn @ 10:40 pm

As we begin a new year most of us will pause at some time or other to reflect on the past and give some thought to the future. So I would like to take this opportunity to do some reminiscing and share a few thoughts.
Not too very long ago, organic gardeners were looked upon as being a bit weird. New wave, hippie cult, baby boom, vegetable gardeners who enjoyed sticking their hands in manure. I was part of the movement back then. In those days one had to learn how to keep their mouth shut at gardening seminars or be prepared for inevitable snickers from the audience and perhaps an outright drubbing from the expert speakers of the day. Even within the past decade, I have talked with graduate students who told horror stories of being singled out among their classmates by agriculture and horticulture professors for the mere mention of organic alternatives. Thankfully that has begun to change. I even heard from a friend who happens to be an A&M Extension Horticulturist that Texas A&M was set to do some “in-depth” studies on compost. This was a couple years ago. I haven’t heard any feedback on this yet, but what I said then was……….”It’s about time.”
At present there is this one common thread among gardeners. It is that compost is the absolute best thing for all plants and all soils. Regardless of one’s academic history, personal experience, or beliefs, compost has become a “given” among avid gardeners and horticulture experts alike.
Lately my colleagues who still adhere to the old petrochemical gardening products seem reluctant to debate the issue of “chemicals vs. organics.” I believe that this is due to the fact that most folks care not to handle toxic chemicals when given a choice and secondly the bulk of our latest research has proven that natural products and systems work much better than the synthetic products. Put bluntly, when organic fertilizers and pest controls have been tested side by side with synthetics, the chemical products tend to only produce short term results with very real health and environmental concerns as a side effect in the long term. Organics are getting higher marks especially when long term effects are considered. These are facts reported by leading universities (including Texas A&M) who are historically biased towards petrochemicals. All I can say is,…..”It’s about time.”
Another little item that has cropped up in recent years our use of the word “sustainable.” We are finally beginning to think in terms of a sustainable future. With the number crunching abilities of our modern day computers we have been able to extrapolate future scenarios and impacts with amazing accuracy given correct data. Satellite imagery is another technology that has shown us a broader view of the planet. These high tech tools have given us a much better idea of where we have been and where we are going. The future we are seeing at present is not good. We can actually see the forests dwindling and the deserts expanding. We have a much better idea of the impact we humans are having on our resources and environment. Because of this we have begun to think about how much longer we can afford to let things continue as they are. We know that fossil fuels and mineral resources have their limits. We know about the melting ice caps and global warming. We know about loss of topsoil, erosion, and the siltation of our rivers, lakes, and estuaries. “Sustainability” may well become the most important word in the 21st century.
As long as the earth exists there will be sun, wind, water, and plant life. These all can produce truly sustainable energy. These are vital to all life on the planet. All other things pale in comparison. Scientists, politicians, engineers, and investors are all working to improve technology and explore renewable resources before our consumption of finite resources and the resulting pollution reaches critical mass. Some say this has already happened. Others say it is going to happen soon. It is for certain and inevitable that unless we change it will happen. We know this as fact. Twenty years ago we began recycling and it has had a positive impact. Now we must embrace sustainability. I say……….”It’s about time.”
In this new century we find most people are aware of our past mistakes and the challenges we face in the near future. Put simply, we know we are our own worst enemy. Our population has reached the point that we know we cannot afford to go on building more cities, roads, factories, while continuing to plunder our natural resources. At some point we must stop and begin to think and act responsibly. Some folks feel that these problems will not affect them in their lifetime so they are content to go on with “business as usual.” However, the majority of us are at least open to new ideas and expect change for the better. Again I say……….”It’s about time.”
Perhaps the largest stumbling block is stopping or slowing this huge juggernaut of big business that now controls our economy and holds the dagger to the throats of most of our decision makers in Washington D.C. No easy task. It comes as no surprise that we now have five major political parties instead of two. This is a sure sign that the voting public is no longer satisfied with choosing the lesser of two evils. We (the people) truly want politicians who answer to the majority rather than the handful of super wealthy special interests.
Send a positive message the next time you vote. In a true democracy we should be able to turn things around if we will deny our apathy and just get out there and do it. Better yet, we can have major impact regardless of who is in control by using our power as consumers. Get the dust off the old bicycle, buy a hybrid car, refuse to eat unhealthy foods, don’t shop in big chain stores, support your local economy (especially local agriculture), and by all means invest in new technology (especially sustainable energy).
The organic movement, healthier lifestyles, and the latest boom in local farmers markets have all been driven by demand from consumers. None of this was politically motivated. Investing our hard earned money drives the market and sends a message that cannot be denied. We now have the technology to live better and in closer harmony with Nature. The choice is ours to make. As we invest, better technologies will emerge. New technology will be born. I for one am happy to be alive at this time in our history to help bring about these changes. This is not the beginning of the end as some see it. It is instead the beginning of a sustainable future, and I say………..”It’s about time.”

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