Sunday, May 17, 2009

And we don't have this why?

Penn State has one of the "greatest" agriculture schools in the country and we are in the pockets of big energy (College of Engineering), big coal (College of Earth and Mineral Sciences), and big agriculture (College of Agriculture and College of Sciences). But we are alleged to be a beacon of sustainability. So why don't we have buildings that are sustainable systems and why aren't we feeding ourselves?

Maybe David Orr has something to say about it:

Like Zack, he sees that we might have to move toward urban agriculture because "the days of land-grant universities are over." Maybe we have something to say about that and maybe we have something to do about changing the nature of the educational system such that we transform schools into places that ensure not just existence buy abundance, not just the cessation of extinction but of the extension of biodiversity. What an awesome challenge.


  1. This video clip got me thinking.

    Orr argues that colleges/universities are situated to be leaders in the transformation to local food production. I agree that they have a role to play, but I feel that they should not be the focus of change for those who desire to localize the way we eat and live. As Orr himself states, the knowledge required to sustain local and intensive farming is, obviously, local. Therefore, the learning and work involved in such farming must be rooted in specific localities.

    Colleges are not local institutions. The majority of a college's "studious" population is transitory, and those who are not studying are employed in capacities that do not promote learning. I am thinking here of the custodians and other support staff who ensure that the insitution continues to support learned professors and their students.

    The education, and labor, for local farming must be rooted in specific communities, and must be shared among those who will continue living and working in that community. This is the work of neighborhood, or public, schools. Given the immense labor and knowledge required, the public school could integrate cerebral learning with the physical labor of farming, and be a year round endeavor, rooted in the seasons.

    As future teachers, it seems that we are really talking about being future farmers. I say this because as long as there is still a strong industrial division of labor in our communities, not everyone is going to be able to contribute equally to the production of food. Teachers could take on the majority of this work, making their community teaching be in part, or wholly, their community's farming.

    Youth are the other population readily available for intensive farm labor, as they are continuously present and, for the most part, unemployed. As with their teachers, their learning could be integrated with their community's farming. Local food production could also decrease the need for youth, especially in low-income communities, to take wage-earning jobs if growing your own food was an adequate means for reducing the drain on a family's income.

  2. I think you are really onto something here - that teachers might need to learn to be farmers. Schools, in some way, ought to really be located in place through the production, preparation, and sustaining of good food. Universities are often global or at least national institutions that seemingly accidentally serve the local community. Though, come to think of it, things like the Center for Sustainability Community Garden really can be a public service. Nevertheless, we have a problem of dealing with scale and mobility in this. On the one hand, the university is supposed to prepare you to serve anywhere. But that anywhere is its own particular place and the university can't do that unless it is in that particular place. It homogenizes while alleging to be responsive. Would preparing us for the cultivation of soil and child be any different?