Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Now who's kooky? Defining sustainable and a silly video

I found this video on a post from Kelly the Kitchen Kop, a food blog. I thought it was entertaining, shedding some light on the complexity of making food choices while also poking some fun at the local sustainable advocate's concern for detail. You can interpret the video in a number of ways. I choose to roll with the punches, and say: this is why I don't eat out much!

Shortly after I had plopped this link into a draft post, Jackie Coldsmith of De La Tierra Gardens forwarded me a number of columns and letters that had recently appeared in the Carroll County Times. The original article published January 15th centered on comments made by a new Carroll County Commissioner, Richard Rothschild, about people who support "sustainabililty". Essentially the column claimed that the Commissioner associated sustainable with communism. It all seemed a little exaggerated as I read the first piece. And most advocates for a free market economy would argue that communism was anything but sustainable. But, alas, it seemed that the columnist was not being melodramatic, as the Commissioner restated his position in a response letter on January 22nd.

In his own words, Mr. Rothschild says, "Sustainability invokes government power to enforce activists’ views of environmentalism. They want to replace farmers,’ ranchers’ and other landowners’ concept of stewardship with government-centric control. It merges environmentalism and socialism to expand government into every aspect of our lives, including land use, food production, housing, transportation, manufacturing, energy rationing and even health care." What he really seems to be upset about is positions of the United Nations and a private organization regarding farming and regulation. Not being familiar with the offensive Agenda 21 , I certainly can't comment about the validity of his statements. He posits that sustainability in general, and Agenda 21 in specific, will "prevent lumber harvesting and beef production" by creating "millions of acres of wildlife corridors and wildlands (that) would eliminate or severely restrict human use".  A letter dated the 25th from one of Rothschild supporters is entitled "sustainability is communism".

It seems to me that there is a lot of reasonable debate to be had about sustainable farming, energy, and living. Making decisions that incorporate short and long-term goals for individuals, families, communities, regions, States, and the environment are really non-trivial from where I sit. But communism?!  It's so kooky that you'd ignore it as bizarre dogma if it weren't the words of a government official. I'm not printing the full text of these letters here, as they are too long, but I've tried to capture their drift. Mr. Rothschild argues that sustainability, specifically when used by the government, is an attempt for government to further dictate the lives of individuals here in Maryland and elsewhere.

The cool thing is that Mr. Rothschild, having been recently elected, now is Government and he can help return the use of the word from his current interpretation to one more inline with the way it is used by Carroll County farmers and most residents: the ability to be sustained, where sustained means to be prolonged at length without interruption or weakening.

Carroll County farmers incorporating sustainable practices are attempting to maximize the productivity of the land for the benefit of our region, while preserving it's ability to produce for future generations.That's what sustainable means to me.  I haven't met anyone yet, at least not that I'm aware of, that hopes to proliferate these practices through regulation. While that isn't the same thing as being against regulation, the farmers (and consumers) I know who are "sustainability advocates" are doing exactly that: advocating in the community. By setting an example, sharing their knowledge, and inspiring others.  I don't know a single one who has the energy or time to "collude with government to enforce oppressive regulations at any cost", as Mr. Rothschild asserts.

So having read all those letters, I hesitated about posting the link to this video. I thought, "hmm, this would really give them fuel for their fire." But, in the end, as much as a reader might think, "wow, those local living folks really are crazy", they are just as likely to think, "wow, Carroll County elected a really kooky dude."


p.s. My apologies to Mr. Neil Ridgley, the original columnist, for thinking at first blush that his words incendiary and likely blown way out of proportion. 

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