When the earth is passed on to the next generation, will those who last inhabited the space do so with any regrets? This grand question was asked by the director of UC's Agricultural Sustainability Institute, Tom Tomich, in an op-ed piece published in yesterday's Huffington Post.
Leaving with "no regrets," he wrote, goes beyond cloth grocery bags and compact fluorescent light bulbs. And for the ag community, "no regrets" strategies are particularly important.
"Agriculture is the largest industry in California and is among the most vulnerable to climate fluctuations," Tomich wrote. "Climate's impacts on our farms and ranches directly affect our economy, jobs and our food supply."
Tomich's essay touched on three key areas where agriculture impacts environment:
- Water - Farmers need the technology to produce more food with less water, homeowners and business should continue to increase water efficiency and water should be left over to ensure healthy rivers.
- Energy and nitrogen fertilizer - Nitrogen fertilizer helped drive spectacular increases in food production, but manufacturing the fertilizer gobbles energy. The nitrogen also holds risks as a greenhouse gas and source of water pollution.
- Farmland preservation and healthy children - Preservation of farmland could reduce sprawl and perhaps, along with "smart growth," foster walkable communities in the West.
Tomich said the "no regrets" strategies require Americans to raise their awareness about the links between food, agriculture and climate and he praised California's leadership on the issue, which was demonstrated by passage of the state's Global Warming Solutions Act in 2006.
"California's actions can't substitute for a comprehensive global approach," Tomich concluded, "but they are a start we won't regret."