Friday, June 26, 2009

So I took my annual trip out of Hawai'i to the "mainland. I went to Albuquerque. I like Albuquerque quite a bit. First of all there was a lot of empty land all around the city. Desert for miles, punctuated by occasional geometries of green - irrigated alfalfa fields I'm assuming. Flying into the city there were more fields of green, this time with buildings and house interspersed. From the direction we took flying in, there were none of those tracts of pretentious houses built in the great Housing Bubble of the last 2o years. There were some pretentious country manor-type houses fronted by 5 acres of horse pasture, mixed in with fields of row crops and more alfalfa. This was a city with it's toes still in the country, which for me is a very good sign. I was visiting Albuquerque for the trienniel meeting of the National Association of Resource Conservation & Development Councils - a kind of NGO sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture.

I got to the conference late but just in time to hear the keynote speaker, Dr. Lowell Catlett, a agricultural economist, futurist, and Dean of the Department of Agriculture at the University of New Mexico. I fell in love instantly. Dr. Catlett took us on a roller-coaster ride of ideas and stories. Here's the refrain: "You cannot have healthy humans if they are separated from plants and animals!!!

He was preaching to the choir, of course. If there was one thing that binds the group of 800 representatives from councils across the country, it was that all of us, despite all societal clues and suggestions to go for the easy money, have chosen to live in the most intimate and strenuous relationhip to plants and animals possible - that of farmers and ranchers.

But Dr. Catlett made this point: science and the public are catching up to us. His speech was titled "The Greening of America." The largely instinctive choice we all made decades ago to attend to the plants and animals is now being played out as a national "green" trend.
This trend rides an inarticulate longing and a massive accumulation of wealth - "I want a farm - I don't know why." This presents, in Dr. Catlett's view, a huge opportunity for those in agriculture and conservation to provide these born-again farmers and ranchers with the services they need to fulfill their dreams. Interesting...

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