Sustainable Agriculture


Governments serve as the structural framework for
the functioning of most societies and have a wide range of responsibilities. While there are many types of governments, they are concerned about similar
national issues from the economy to education to defense to health. Outside
of the government itself, so many other groups influence society. This includes
corporations, the media, nonprofits, clinics, lobbying groups, and the people
themselves. These groups have a lot of influence but instead of representing a
particular country or state or physical area, they often go beyond borders and
represent a set of values or an ideology. As a result these groups are called
non-state actors because they are separate from governments or states. Even
though these non-state actors aren’t affiliated with, directed by, or funded
through the government, they have a lot of power to facilitate change. Keep in
mind that a non-state actor in one country may actually be controlled by
the government in a different country. However, while non-state actors can be
influenced by the government, they still have their own agendas. This can be
clearly illustrated through the role played by non-state actors in various
social movements. A social movement is when a group of people and/or
organizations work towards a common goal. These goals are oriented around social change over a long period of time Often, the social movement doesn’t come from within
the government but rather outside of the government and this is where the non-state
actors come in. Unfortunately, things aren’t always straight forward. Sometimes
the non-state actor involved is working with the social movement to promote
change. Other times, the non-state actor is what
the people of a particular social movement are demanding action against. We
will look at various examples around the world of both of these cases. Sustainable agriculture movements across the world have many different goals, for example, promoting organic farming or
opposing deforestation, but they are united by a common objective: ensuring
that the way that we grow and produce food is environmentally, economically and
socially sustainable. With hundreds of millions of people around the world who
are hungry every day, how do we improve the way that we grow, share, and consume
food while at the same time not harming the environments, economies, and societies in
which we live? Agricultural practices have changed
dramatically in the last two centuries mainly due to industrialization. The
development of new technologies and agricultural methods have allowed
production of food to increase. In addition to reducing the amount of
labour needed to grow crops. But, these changes have also resulted in many
drawbacks that have had negative environmental and socio-economic effects
including top soil depletion, groundwater contamination, disintegration of rural
communities, worsening conditions for farm workers, and increased production
costs. Besides industrialization, one of the major drivers of unsustainable
agricultural practices was the Green Revolution. Although food production
increased rapidly as a result of the agricultural techniques that were
implemented in developing nations, many of these techniques relied on the heavy
use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides which were only later to be
found to be harmful to human health and the environment. Other harmful practices
included overuse of water for irrigation, using heavy machinery that required
fossil fuels, and planting many of the same varieties of crops leading to a
reduction in biodiversity. As more and more people are realizing the extent of
damage that these agricultural practices have caused, areas around the world have
begun to move towards more sustainable practices, for example reducing the use
of pesticides, implementing more efficient irrigation systems, and
planting genetically diverse varieties of crops. Besides these environmentally sustainable practices, people have also
begun to think about the social implications of changing agricultural
practices, especially for vulnerable rural communities. Green City Growers, an
organization based in Boston, is playing its own role in promoting sustainable
agriculture. The goal of the organization is to turn unused space in the city into
urban farms, increasing land efficiency while also teaching the local
community about nutrition, self-sufficiency and sustainable
agricultural practices. Stated by just one Boston resident, to date
Green City Growers has grown over 200,000 pounds of produce and worked
with over 7,500 individuals. Examples like this invite us to think
about how we in our everyday lives can participate in social movements that
change our communities for the better. In summary, sustainable agriculture movements really took off in the early 2000’s when their importance started to be recognized by the Department of Agriculture. Programs like SNAP (the
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) allowed people to have access to healthier foods and several working groups worked to promote more sustainable
agriculture. Their work resulted in Article 89 being passed into law in
December 2013, which allows Boston residents to grow food and maintain
farms in an urban setting. For example, Green City Growers built a rooftop farm at
Fenway Park in 2015 and supplies vegetables for Fenway’s restaurants. Any
leftover vegetables from the Fenway farm are donated to homeless shelters, crisis
centers, after-school programs, veteran service agencies, and elderly
service providers.

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