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of topsoil, toxic water, fouled air, damaged health and decreasing life span prove that present economic policy is no longer valid.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)
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.
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