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The Real Dirt on a Sustainable Economy

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Include the costs of food shipped in from out of state and Iowa agriculture posts a 4 billion dollar yearly loss.  This belies our global image as the most productive "farm state" in the USA. This grand illusion is propped up with billions of your tax dollars paid out as federal "farm" subsidies. Such subsidies simply keep commodity inputs for the ag giants cheap and do little for the average farmer and Iowa as a whole.  Damage to water and soil racks up trillion dollar deficits in damaged ecological value. We suffered $10 billion dollars in loss from raging toxic water that flooded through the compromised Iowa ecology on one single June day, Friday the13th, 2008.  We have reached the epitome of economics based on illusion.

Economics purports to be science.  Valid scientific inquiry is based on a true premise.  Economics is presently based on the false premise that resources and services of the planetary ecology are so abundant that economic inputs harvested from our ecological commons are assigned no economic value. 

 

Economic policies at the local, state, federal and international levels operate in a contrived vacuum apart from ecological reality.  Global human enterprise is at the historic turning point where climate chaos, depletion of topsoil, toxic water, fouled air, damaged health and decreasing life span prove that present economic policy is no longer valid.

 

Public policy must now include provable facts of ecological economics.  Ecology and economics share the same Latin root word eco. These two sciences are inseparable in the real world of enterprise, resources and energy.  Every economic activity has ecological costs. These huge costs are deferred to the future.  That future is now.  Political "leaders" operate within a false premise. They pass deferred costs on to our children.  Mindless pursuit of the short term fast buck insures poverty for our children. Present policy leads to both economic and ecological collapse. This is unethical and grossly irresponsible.  Intelligent and informed citizens must change our nation's course of action.

Jefferson stated a social ethic; We must protect the economic interests of future generations. This applies to Iowa's problem of topsoil depletion. As an early Virginia farmer, Jefferson viewed wealth as the direct or indirect product of the earth. He phrased his intelligent analysis of intergenerational economic responsibility in terms of soil:

 

"Must later generations bear a national debt created to satisfy our short-term interest?  The preceding generation has no right to deplete the nation's soil in the course of a lifetime. The soil is the gift of God to the living, the same as it was to the deceased generation. Laws of nature impose no obligation on future generations to pay our debt."                                               (From Jefferson's letters to Madison)

Most individual farmers would honor this ethic, however over years of misguided agricultural policy, they have been relegated to the economic status of sharecroppers on their own deeply mortgaged land. Farm policy locks them into monocrop commodity systems. Few can find an ecnomically viable exit from the present structures of the ag economy.

The principle of sustainability is not new.  It's as old as human civilization. Ethical principles of "usufruct" trace back to Roman legal statute.  Our present government has been co-opted by economic interests that totally ignore this time honored ethic. Jefferson knew that future generations have the right to inherit the ecological resources that predecessor generations had access to.  Our economic and agricultural policy and practice fail to honor this basic ethical responsibility. Climate chaos, ecological degradation, depletion of non-renewable energy and topsoil loss have reached a crisis level.

 

We can no longer take the dirt under our feet for granted. Soil is a complex living ecological system. The National Academy of Sciences determined that topsoil is being depleted at least 10 times faster than the rate of soil replenishment.  In the past 50 years, 52% of this economic resource has been destroyed.  Another 1% is wasted every year. Do the math for your children. Political and business leaders fail to do this basic math.  They are asleep at the wheel, headed down the wrong road.  As a father and grandfather, I call for a new direction and ethical policy.

 

Our ill advised leaders print trillions in paper fiat currency with no intrinsic economic value to bail out Wall Street and Detroit.  There is no Federal Reserve of Topsoil.  Iowa holds the largest reserve of quality top soil on earth.  Iowa can be a global model of ecological stewardship.   There is no possible "bailout" of the grossly inaccurate accounting in the agricultural economy. Our only option is to preserve the ecology within which the real economy operates.   Fiscal and resource responsibility is in our hands as parents.  We must elect statesmen that know this fact. You can bet your last paper dollar that the interests of your children are not considered in the profit and loss calculations of out of state Ag Giants such as Cargill, ADM, Monsanto and Dupont that dominate Iowa Agriculture. The sad fact is, the economic power elite do not calculate these costs, even for their own children!  We cannot print any amount of emergency cash that can be banked to protect your family from the impending ecological consequences we all face.  PAC compromised politicians just don't get it, or if they do, they lack the courage to tell it like it is and take effective action. 

                            Mr. Richards Goes to Washington

I serve on the Board of Directors for the Iowa Valley RC and D that includes Tama, Benton, Poweshiek, Iowa, Linn and Johnson Counties.  Resource Conservation and Development Councils work to create jobs, protect the environment and improve the quality of life in Iowa.   RC and D Councils were launched as a national initiative by the US Department of Agriculture in 1962.  RC&D Councils foster rural economic development in 2,614 counties in all 50 states and US territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific Basin.

There are 18 regional Resource Conservation and Development Organizations in it in the State of Iowa that represent all 99 counties in Iowa.    The Statewide consortium of the Iowa RC and D selected me as one of 3 state delegates to travel to the annual RC and D Leadership Council Washington D.C. on February 9 and 10, 2009.

In addition to participation in the RC and D National Leadership Forum, I am scheduling February 10th meetings in the Washington D.C. Capitol Hill offices of Senators Harkin and Grassley, Congressman Loebsack and with U.S. Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack. 

I will present the above essay in person and discuss citizen demands for intelligent agricultural policy and responsible resource conservation for our next generation.  This is an urgent and timely message.

You can forward your own letters of concern to the snail mail or e mail address below. My goal is to deliver hundreds of letters about these timely issues direct to Capitol Hill. 

Senators Harkin and Grassley have carried out the bidding of the Big Ag Biz Lobby for decades as career political operatives.  Tom Vilsack brings a well honed Big Ag Loyalty to his new role as Obama's Secretary of Agriculture.  Follow the money in campaign contributions and you will learn a lot.

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Michael Richards is a life long innovator, entrepreneur and author. His most recent book is; SUSTAINABLE OPERATING SYSTEMS/The Post Petrol Paradigm (available on line at; www.amazon.com Mr. Richards has presented as an author, speaker and (more...)
 

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Thank you for your work.... by Linn Cohen-Cole on Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 8:29:08 PM
From a review of your articles and mine, we are al... by Michael Richards on Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 7:49:44 AM

 

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