I just read a story about Guy Laliberté, Canada’s first space tourist, and the $35 million he spent on a trip to the international space station. There has been lots of debate over his meaning behind the trip. He used it as an opportunity to draw attention to his charity that focuses on water issues around the world. This has drawn many people to say that he should have just donated the $35 million to the charity and that would have been more useful. This latest article I read was a blog post by Don Pittis an economic writer. His major thesis of the post was about the fact that some people discount the achievements Guy has made as simply a clown and that there are many different ways of making money and changing the world. Eventually he went on to talk about the difference between the economic growth that someone like Guy and his Cirque du Soleil provide in the country and the economic growth provided by extracting oil from the tar sands. He continued to speak on good growth versus bad growth, and many comments discussed the same ideas.
What does all this have to do with agriculture? Well farmers know and us as agriculture students know that not all growth is good growth, that growth is nothing without development. If a corn plant grows and grows with out developing and never develops it never sets a cob and at the end of the year we are left with no grain to harvest. This distinction between growth and development is common in agriculture, but seems to have lost from economics. I see a lot of parallels between the comments on these economic conditions and the types of discussions we have in our classes about true productivity on the farm. We know that pouring tons of nitrogen on our fields can only do so much and that much of it is lost and not used effectively, but when it comes to economics people don’t see the simple parallels, but are lost in the details. Comparing economic stimulus like the bank and auto bailouts in the US to pouring synthetic fertilizers and herbicides on our fields, might not make sense to some but I think farmers understand.
This makes me feel even more driven to continue in agriculture for the perspective it gives me on the rest of the world and the interactions I see before me everyday as metaphors for the more complex decisions I have to make on a daily basis about how to spend my money and live y life. I think farmers connection to the land, the environment and biology on a daily basis puts them in a unique position. A position from where they can see the world in a different light, where they can distinguish between simple growth and true development and help to lead our entire society towards a better tomorrow.