Wes Jackson is possibly the most important sustainability thinker alive.
Jackson, a geneticist and founder of The Land Institute on the Kansas prairie, grows perennial grains that will eliminate the need for plowing, tilling and irrigation, and decrease soil erosion and the economic and ecological risks associated with monocrop cultivation. He and his colleagues seek to undo the damage of an agrarian system developed 10,000 years ago.
Jackson’s work and voice are prophetic for two reasons. First, the institute’s work emulates nature’s ecosystems so that humans might promote diversity and reclamation of soil, water and nutrients. Second, his is a humble and courageous response to a long-term problem. When Wes Jackson began his project thirty years ago, he knew it would take at least fifty years to produce perennial grains for commercial use. He has faith that his peers and colleagues will continue the work after him. In an era when it seems as though there are more problems than solutions, Jackson’s solution is a courageous path; he seeks to reinvent the foundation of civilization.
- Do I think about emulating nature in my work and play?
- Do I have the courage to ask questions, start projects, or even organizations for which the answers might not be known in my lifetime?
Kathleen Smythe teaches at the intersection of history, globalization and sustainability, seeking a comprehensive and broad understanding of our past in order to help solve our current environmental, economic and cultural challenges.
Kathleen R. Smythe teaches history and sustainability and directs the Land, Farming and Community degree at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.