Monday, February 28, 2011

Balanced Cycle

I'm a member of the current Agricultural Leadership Program of Hawaii (ALPH) class - which is an experience I highly recommend. We visited Kauai in January for four days of farm tours and intense discussion (always) between the class-members and the farmers we visit. One of the most intense was a talk by my fellow Board of Agriculture member Jerry Ornellas. Jerry talked about virtuous and vicious cycles and challenged us with the question: "what does a balanced cycle look like?" No one had an answer then, but I've been thinking about it ever since.

What seems pretty clear is that we need to balance extraction with regeneration. Unfortunately our present system provides very little incentive for regeneration of any kind. At least formally. We all know we have to regenerate our own private support systems, and that our" professional life" often conflicts with that need to regenerate our personal resources of energy, health, family.

Furthermore, the economics of almost any pursuit encourages, even demands, full-tilt resource stripping. If an enterprise understands the necessity of regeneration, it does so as an adjunct to the main task of transforming resources into wealth/power/survival as efficiently as possible. There is no margin for regeneration.

How do we balance efficiency and regeneration? How do we value an enterprises' return to its own ground, its regenerative power? How do we discourage irresponsible extraction? How do we articulate regenerative power as a source of pride and social prestige? How do we, at the very least, make some room for the regenerative cycles that Nature has developed over its billions of years of existence?

A lot of it comes down to social ethos - the way we think about ourselves, our way of making a living and consuming, thinking about the complexity of natural systems and our place in them, understanding the basics which we were all educated to forget. A lot of this will become much more clear as the Great Unwinding unwinds.

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