Next week marks the 45th anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement. The first Earth Day celebration occurred April 22, 1970.
This is also a special week for those farmers and ranchers who are involved with the production of food, fuel and fiber. The original premise of Earth Day was to promote the conservation of our natural resources. It is only fitting that on this day we showcase the progress of the Kansas farmer and rancher – but is there really any question most people who live on the planet Earth support its survival?
Back in the 1990s, I remember Fortune magazine proclaiming for the first time that the environment was a cause worthy of saving. Others shouted from the mountaintops that while motherhood, apple pie, baseball and the flag all may be subject to controversy – saving our planet was beyond debate.
Noble, without question. But isn’t there a big difference between the desire for clean air, clean water, clean places to hike and the wholesale condemnation of modern agriculture?
Protecting and caring for this world can be a challenge because some regard the land as a private commodity. Others, including farmers, ranchers and those who make their living from the land, view it as a community to which they belong. They love, respect and care for the land. They adhere to an ethic, which enlarges the boundaries of their community to include soils, waters, plants and animals. Collectively – the land.
There is no other way for the land to survive the impact of modern man. We must remember that while our land yields fruits, vegetables and grains, it also yields a cultural harvest – one we as inhabitants all share and must nurture.
We must ensure our educational and economic systems head toward, rather than away from, an increased consciousness of the land.
Today only a handful of people make their living from the land. Many have no vital relation to the land. For them, it is generally thought of as, “that space between cities on which crops and grass grow, or cattle graze.”
Let’s remember throughout the year, not only on Earth Day, that land is used right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the living community. It is used wrong when it tends to be otherwise.
We can never throw away or limit the tools which have provided so much for so many. Let’s remember throughout the year our commitment to the successful and wise use of our life-giving land. Let’s remember we will never outgrow the land.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion