I like your three dimensional box analogy much better than the three-legged
stool. I guess I'm not so much interested in measuring the outside of the
box as I am understanding how the box creates itself. Like many phenomena,
the important dimensions of sustainability are as yet undefined. These
dimensions could be said to be folded up inside the box--as in string
theory, we know time and three dimensions, but several more are inaccessible
to our observation.
The three dimensions are the results. What are the causes of
Let's hypothesize that the vital cultures discussed by Douglass and Bawden,
are at once the foundation and the generator of sustainability. Given that
notion, the task is to define the values, assumptions and habits of such
"learning communities" to determine which are causes of sustainability and
which are epiphenomena or even detract from sustainability.
Most people growing up on small farms close to no large cities, as you and I
did, experience something less than a "vital rural culture." Something like
the old German saying, "Cities make free" lead many to find vital community
away from the often stultifying rural areas.
So, "vital rural cultures" to many is a internal contradiction.
Do you think this line of thought is worth pursuing? If you do, how would
you do it?
----- Original Message -----
From: Ikerd, John E. <IkerdJ@missouri.edu>
To: 'jim worstell' <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Hal Hamilton
<email@example.com>; Wilson, Dale <WILSONDO@phibred.com>;
Sent: Thursday, July 08, 1999 2:33 PM
Subject: RE: Social and political aspects
> I think you raise an excellent point concerning the natural tendency of
> people to want to dissect sustainability into three parts - ecological,
> economic, and social. I try to avoid the habit of referring to
> sustainability as having three "parts" - although the reductionism habit
> hard to break. Instead, I think of sustainability as a single entity
> has three distinct "dimensions" -- in the same sense that a wooden box has
> three dimensions; height, length, and width. A box that lacks any one or
> two of these dimensions is not a box at all, but instead is an infinitely
> thin board or stick. We can't understand the fundamental nature of a box
> by taking it apart and looking at its height, length, or width separately.
> We have to understand the concept of a box as a whole. But, once we
> understand the holistic concept of a box; knowing its height, length, and
> width become important descriptive dimensions. A fundamental problem
> sustainability is that, unlike a box, we can't measure the three
> of sustainability using inches or feet or any single unit of measure.
> That's one reason why we simply cannot ignore the fact that sustainability
> has these different dimensions.
> It really doesn't matter to me whether we come to the sustainability issue
> from an economic, ecological, or social perspective, as long as we give
> consideration to all three dimensions. I have no problem with your
> suggestion that we approach sustainability from a social/cultural
> perspective as long as we give adequate consideration to the economic and
> ecological dimensions. I agree that we have given far too much emphasis
> the economics and too little emphasis to social organization in the past,
> but we don't want to make a similar mistake by ignoring the economic
> dimension in the future. We can't make a bigger box simply by making one
> that it taller, or wider, or longer - by concentrating on one dimension
> ignoring the other two. You included "the values of stewardship,
> self-reliance, humility and holism" in your description of sustainable
> social organization. I just prefer to deal with the dimensions more
> explicitly so that none gets left out.
> John Ikerd
> -----Original Message-----
> From: jim worstell [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
> Sent: Wednesday, July 07, 1999 9:17 PM
> To: Hal Hamilton; Wilson, Dale;
> Subject: Re: Social and political aspects
> By accepting a reductionistic three component definition of
> sustainability we invite people to delete or redefine the "social"
> as email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> and others do.
> The original source for the three part definition seems to
> be misleading simplification of a 1984 analysis by Gordon Douglass.
> Douglass described three schools of thought regarding agricultural
> sustainability. The "community school" , in contrast to the other two
> schools, "pays most attention to the effects of different agricultural
> systems on the vitality, social organization, and culture of rural life".
> "[I]t's members are also ecologically minded, but their prime interest is
> promoting vital, coherent, rural cultures that encourage the values of
> stewardship, self-reliance, humility, and holism".
> The "social aspects" then become not one leg of
> sustainability, but the entire foundation. Any economic or ecological
> "profit or loss" results from these social structures. Such an approach
> underscores the qualitative difference of sustainable and conventional
> agricultural systems.
> Think about abandoning component thinking for a more
> holistic approach. Aren't "vital, coherent rural cultures" common to all
> sustainable agricultural systems?
> Stressing profit and ecology instead, as we have here in the
> U.S., have led us into our present quagmire of agricultural crisis.
> organization which encourages "the values of stewardship, self-reliance,
> humility and holism," appears to provide the long-term solution. Yet
> allowed such concepts to be marginalized to the point of extinction in ag
> policy debates.
> Douglass' book, Agricultural Sustainability in the New World
> Order, in out of print, but a webpage discussing some of his ideas can be
> found at www.canr.msu.edu/bailey/background/pub
> <http://www.canr.msu.edu/bailey/background/pub> 3.htm
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Hal Hamilton <email@example.com
> <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> >
> To: Wilson, Dale <WILSONDO@phibred.com
> <mailto:WILSONDO@phibred.com> >; email@example.com
> <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> >
> Date: Tuesday, July 06, 1999 11:34 AM
> Subject: RE: Social and political aspects (was:
> Questions on organic
> >Sustainable agriculture, as defined by Congress and
> many others, has a
> social leg to balance environmental and economic legs.
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