|Wise Elder John Ikerd|
|Written by Website Adminstrator Adminstrator|
|Thursday, 16 April 2009 22:09|
John Ikerd is a Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics at the University of Missouri, Columbia. He was raised on a small dairy farm in southwest Missouri and received his BS, MS, and Ph.D. degrees in agricultural economics from the University of Missouri. He worked in private industry for a time and spent thirty years in various professorial positions at North Carolina State University, Oklahoma State University, University of Georgia, and the University of Missouri before retiring in early 2000. Since retiring, he spends most of his time writing and speaking on issues related to sustainability with an emphasis on economics and agriculture. Ikerd is author of Sustainable Capitalism, A Return to Common Sense, Small Farms are Real Farms, and Crisis and Opportunity: Sustainability in American Agriculture.
John offered the following 2010 update:
At the 2009 MRCSE workshop, I shared with the group that I would soon be going into the hospital for heart surgery – to repair a damaged heart valve. So I feel I need share a bit about that ordeal. On August 17, I went into surgery at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. The surgery went fine but the hospital recovery was a bit problematic. I spent a week in intensive care waiting for my heart to reestablish a normal rhythm. During that time, my digestive system shut down and my body went into “starvation mode;” it started feeding off of itself. Part of the starvation process involves the accumulation of fluid. I gained more than 30-pounds in a week. I didn’t have room left inside to eat or breathe well enough to sleep. Sleep deprivation is torture; I would eventually pass out from exhaustion. My doctors were great surgeons, for that I am eternally grateful, but not great internists.
After nearly two weeks, I insisted they put in a pacemaker and let me go home. My doctor in Columbia put me on a more powerful diuretic; I lost 15 pound in 4 days. My wife insisted I eat all of the high protein foods I could force down. They eventually had to drain more than a gallon of fluid from my right chest cavity; I breathed much easier. I was then able to enter cardiac rehabilitation, which brought about a rapid and eventually complete recovery within about six months. I was able to make a week-long speaking trip to Scotland by the first week in November. I have had a very active speaking and travel schedule this past winter and spring and feel better and stronger than I have for the past four or five years. I appreciated the thoughts and prayers of the new friends I made at the 2009 MRCSE workshop and have appreciated their expressions of concern. There honestly were times when I didn’t know if I would live or die; they may have made the difference. Thankfully, I lived and hopefully will see many of those new friends again at the MRCSE workshop this summer.
The highlight of my professional activities probably was co-teaching an intensive block course in the Economics of Sustainability with Lonnie Gamble at Maharishi University last winter. I oriented the course on the career and life choices of the students. We used an approach called “just in time learning” to address the basic principles of economics and sustainability in relation to issues of current concern to the students. We used my book, Sustainable Capitalism, as a core text but relied on class discussion, with only a minimum of lecture, to cover the key concepts of economic sustainability. Lonnie and I plan to present a pre-conference workshop to share our experience and our ideas on how sustainability educators can address the economic dimension of sustainability at the MRCSE workshop in Wisconsin this summer. An introductory video, a syllabus and other class materials, and student responses to the course are available on the internet at http://sites.google.com/site/economicsofsustainability/home.
The highlights of my speaking schedule over the past year include the trip to Scotland, three separate trips to Canada, and a week in Costa Rica. I also had an opportunity to speak at a conference of Chinese academic and government scientists sponsored by the Institute for Postindustrial Development in Claremont, CA. All of these presentations related to economic and agricultural sustainability. There is growing concern about the encroachment of the U.S. model of industrial agriculture into other areas of the world through economic globalization.
I also have had opportunities to speak at a number of colleges and universities over the past year, including Texas A&M University, Missouri Western University, North Carolina State University, The Technological Institute of Costa Rica, Central Michigan University, Alma College, and Purdue University, in addition to public lectures at Maharishi University. I have taken these opportunities not only to speak about sustainable agriculture but also to talk about fundamentally new ways of thinking that will be required for sustainability, including new organismic approaches to science. I had an invitation to speak at the University of Illinois last fall that I regretfully was unable to accept due to the uncertainty of my recovery.
I have also had several speaking engagements at various agricultural conferences. The major issues of public concerns in agriculture continue to be the industrialization of agriculture, particularly large confinement animal feeding operations, and the negative consequences not only for the environment but also for nutrition, food safety, and public health in general. There is also continuing interest in the rapidly growing local food movement and the sustainability of smaller family farms.
Several of the papers I have prepared for these various speaking events are posted on my website at: http://web.missouri.edu/~ikerdj/ . Additional papers will be posted prior to the MRCSE workshop – probably in late May or early June. I also have several video clips from earlier presentations, a couple of radio interviews, and a couple of journal articles linked to my website. I placed a new series of short pieces, Sustaining our Democracy, on the website last fall as a prelude to posting my new book, A Revolution of the Middle and the Pursuit of Happiness, this spring. It is available at http://sites.google.com/site/revolutionofthemiddle/. All of the materials on my website, which includes more than one-hundred papers related to sustainability, as well as the new book, are available to download and use for educational or other noncommercial purposes without any charges or restrictions regarding copying or distribution.
John is please to be once again attending the MRCSE Workshop as a Wise Elder:
I am pleased to accept your invitation to be one of the"wise elders" at the Midwest Regional Collaboration on Sustainability Education. I don't mind being called an "elder" -- I hope to turn 71 near the end of this year -- and I am certainly honored to be considered among the "wise." It sounds like it could turn out to be a great event and I am honored to be asked to be a participant...I am looking forward to the opportunity to meet with your group in June. Take care, John I.
John sees"relationships" as one of the central values of MRCSE:
The challenges of sustainability cannot be addressed within the bounds or any specific discipline, area of expertise, or set of experiences. Sustainability it a characteristic of the whole, which depends as much as relationships among the parts as the parts that relate within the whole. Thus, collaboration -- meaning relationships -- is an essential dimension of sustainability, whether we are talking about research, education, or implementation of sustainable business strategies.
John suggests two questions for MRCSE to explore:
John offers the following resources to get a glimpse of his perspective of sustainability:In preparation for the 2010 Summer Conference Wise Elders and Story Teller are sharing their sources of inspiration in what often seems like troubled times and their gifts they share freely to others in the pursuit of a sustainable future. John shared the following...
My sources of inspiration are the people who are actually doing the things that we sustainability educators only talk about or write about. Most people in the general public seem to believe there is no real scarcity of fossil energy or other resources to sustain future economic growth. Many believe environmentalists are just trying to scare people into contributing money to their causes. Even if they believe we have significant ecological and social problems they don’t think there is anything they personally can do about it. They feel locked into a way of life that is largely beyond their control. The people who are “walking the talk” of sustainable agriculture are the most compelling evidence that a lot of common, ordinary people know that something is wrong but that we have a choice of doing something about it.
We who educate and advocate for sustainability are often labeled as out-of-touch, naïve, or idealistic. We just don’t understand their reality. If we listen to those with the greatest economic, political, or academic influence, we may begin to believe our critics, or even doubt our own sanity. But then, we see people around us who are actually doing things differently – who are working and living more sustainably. These people are validating our beliefs that the changes we talk and write about are both necessary and possible, even if not quick or easy. These people have heard the propaganda of endless prosperity and the inevitability of continuing economic growth. They instead have chosen to pursue a more desirable quality of life, respecting both the bounty and bounds of a finite and fragile ecological and social reality.
The people who inspire me in times of doubts or uncertainty are the people I meet, all across the continent and around the world, who are proving, day-after-day, that living and working sustainably is not only possible but also is a fundamentally better way to work and to live.
I believe my most valuable gifts with respect to sustainability education are my academic background in economics, including neoclassical economic theory, and my twenty-plus year professional and personal commitment to research and education related to issues of agricultural and economic sustainability. Through my years of writing for and public speaking experience, I feel I have gained an ability to communicate the fundamental concepts of sustainability in ways that seem to make sense to interested members of the general public. I have been told that I have the ability to inspire as well as inform. To the extent this is true it comes for a willing to write and speak “from the heart” rather than from any particularly literary or oratory talent. I am more than willing to share any personal and professional gifts I may bring to the 2010 MRCSE Workshop.
When asked "what are three questions that you are exploring in your work that would also be worthwhile for MRCSE members to consider in 2010?" John offered the following compelling response:
I believe it is important to link the unchanging ecological, social, and economic principles of sustainability to currently emerging public issues when carrying out sustainability education programs. People need to understand how the concepts of sustainability relate to their day-to-day personal and professional lives. I try to focus my writing and speaking on emerging public issues that fit my particular interest and expertise as well as my particular perspectives of sustainability.
First, one of the most important emerging issues related to my particular interest and expertise is the link between public health and our industrial food system. Increasing costs of health care and declining public health are among the most urgent problems facing our nation. Today’s children are the first generation that is expected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. Obesity, diabetes, heart problems, hypertension, ADHD, and a variety of cancers, all epidemic in America, are related directly to the foods we eat. Food recalls for salmonella, e-coli, and other food safety issues are becoming commonplace. There is growing evidence that Americans are the most overfed, malnourished people in the world.
All of these problems are related directly to systems of farming and food production that have focused on producing quick, convenient, and cheap food. We have destroyed the health of the soils on our farms, the healthfulness of the plants and animal products produced on those farms, the safety of foods that move through our food system, and as a consequence, the health of our society – all for the sake of greater economic efficiency. Our systems of farming and food production are neither ecologically or socially sustainable.
Second, the current lingering economic recession is a direct consequence of an unsustainable economy. All economic value must be derived from either natural or human resources. The economy creates nothing; it simply facilitates our economic relationships with each other and with the earth. Over the past two hundred years, our industrial economy has been depleting the productivity of our natural resources, particularly our energy resources, far faster than nature has been able to regenerate and restore them. Over the past hundred years we have been dumping more industrial waste into the natural environment faster than nature has been able to absorb and detoxify. Over the past fifty years we have abandoned our commitment to equity or opportunity and justice for all within our society and have been depleting the productivity of our human resources. Over the past twenty years we have created illusions of productivity – the technology and financial “bubbles” – to mask the lack of sustainability of our economy.
Today, the U.S. economy is hopelessly dependent on dwindling supplies of fossil energy, mostly controlled by other nations of the world with which we have conflicting values. We are exporting American jobs to other countries of the world simply because it is more profitable than paying the costs necessary to maintain the productivity of our own workforce. We will not experience real recovery from the current economic recession until we restore ecological and social integrity to our society and economy. We must renew and regenerate our ecological and social capital before we can restore our real economic capital.
Third, the recent catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a symptom of our desperate search for additional fossil energy to feed our energy addiction. Everything that is of any use to us, everything of any economic value to us, is derived from energy. All material things are simply concentrated energy. Even our human capacities to be useful, productive people depend on energy – specifically biological energy. Today’s economy is completely and totally dependent on fossil energy. Even the industry and government petroleum geologists understand that we are either at or very near a peak in global petroleum production. We are not running out of fossil energy, just out of abundant and cheap fossil energy.
Approximately one-half of the earth’s total petroleum supplies are still in the earth. However, the remaining supplies will be more difficult and costly to extract and the total potential production from the remaining of oil reserves will decline year-after-year until the recoverable reserves are depleted. All of the easy, cheap oil is gone. All of the other sources of fossil energy will be more difficult and costly to use because they all produce less energy and more pollution, particularly greenhouse gasses, per calorie of energy required for extraction and production. When the energy required for extraction and production rises to equal the useful energy extracted and produced, it makes no sense to try to recover the remainder. No one knows for sure just when that point will be reached but it is almost certain to be within this century and possibly within the next fifty years.
If we insist of wringing the last drop of recoverable energy from the earth, disasters such as the oil well blowout in the Gulf will become more and more common. As we drill deeper beneath deeper oceans and drill in the most remote and hostile regions of the world in search of the last drops and crumbs of fossil energy, the environmental, social, and economic costs will go higher and higher. Wars over the earth’s remnant fossil energy will be a continuing aspect of twenty-first century life. We are like an alcoholic, roaming the streets, mugging, and digging through the garbage to see if we can find a few drops left in a bottle that someone threw away in better times.
Time is running out. We have perhaps no more than fifty years to recreate our economy and our society. The transformation from fossil energy to a renewal solar energy society – to wind, water, and photovoltaic cells – is not an option; it is an absolute necessity. Sustainability is not just a question; it is the question of the twenty-first century.
Ecological Capitalism: John discusses the basic human moral
values and how this relates to sustainable capitalism.
The Real Cost of Food: John discusses the social and
environmental costs associated with our industrialized food system.
John encourages everyone to check out his website for more complete background information and selected writings: http://web.missouri.edu/~ikerdj/ .
|Last Updated on Friday, 16 July 2010 17:39|