Sustainability is a word that should be on everyone’s tongue these days, because it’s a virtue that we really, really, really need to cultivate if we’re going to survive as a nation, or as a species, or possibly as a planet.
Tom Philpott writes about the way maximum agriculture on the Great Plains is draining the region’s aquifer. I’ve read about this elsewhere, and it’s very, very frightening. And it’s not just the Great Plains; major aquifers in North America are being drained faster than they can re-fill.
… they’re on the verge of essentially sucking dry a large swath of the High Plains Aquifer, one of the United States’ greatest water resources. The researchers found that 30 percent of the region’s groundwater has been tapped out, and if present trends continue, another 39 percent will be gone within 50 years. As the water stock dwindles, of course, pumping what’s left gets more and more expensive—and farming becomes less profitable and ultimately uneconomical. But all isn’t necessarily lost. The authors calculate that if the region’s farmers can act collectively and cut their water use 20 percent now, their farms would produce less and generate lower profits in the short term, but could sustain corn and beef farming in the area into the next century.
Philpott points out that another part of the problem is that much of this agricultural effort is being put into raising corn and only corn, because that’s in demand. And most of this corn gets fed to cattle. See also “Wells Dry, Fertile Plains Turn to Dust.”
So we’ve got unsustainable agriculture, an unsustainable economy, unsustainable politics, and unsustainable energy sources on our increasingly unsustainable planet. Something’s got to stop.