I was absent from my blog because I was finishing up grad school. My apologies. But now that I have that box checked, onward with the original plan: tieing together business and social and environmental sustainability.
When it comes to environmental issues, there is a general consensus that human activity is adversely effecting our ability to survive on the planet. One of the many areas in which we are seeing significant degradation is food production, namely fruits and vegetables. Population growth and rising demand for staple crops like cotton and wheat are two often cited factors that push farmers into an unfortunate negative spiral. Farmers use some very toxic chemicals to turbo-charge plant development and to ward off crop damaging weeds and insects. Many of these chemicals are known to cause cancer and negatively affect the health of farmers, field hands, and people in the communities surrounding farmland. These chemicals also destroy the health of the soil and prevent it from providing the nutrients and minerals crops need to grow. So, farmers add more chemicals the next year further compromising the soil which encourages applying more chemicals and so on.
The spiral continues when you consider the agricultural products of companies like Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM). They bioengineer weed and insect toxins into crop seeds and, in so doing, have sparked a maelstrom of controversy. Opponents are concerned about these seeds, known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, because we do not have enough data on the total affect these new genetic strains have on an ecology. An interesting debate, yes, but I’m more interested in the medium in which seeds, GMO or not, grow. In this case, soil. (Note, plants can also grow in water or air.)
Did you know that the poop of earthworms is an amazing natural fertilizer?! Earthworms eat decaying organic matter and something magical happens as they digest the waste: it is converted into beneficial nutrients and minerals that help plants grow. This is known as vermicomposting! By harnessing the natural proclivity of earthworms, we can rejuvenate the natural health of farmland (CNN link) and increase crop yields in a more environmentally sustainable way. More to come!