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KATIE ZERR: Listening is vital in finding a balance

Is seeking a balance between food production and environment like chasing rainbows?
Are there manners in which we, as the keepers of our land, find the right balance in food production and beautiful yards without the environmental cost?
Between the denial of some who refuse to recognize the impact humans have had on the environment and climate and the need to feed the world, we have continued to damage the world in which we live. Not just through agriculture but through all aspects of life.
Mother Nature can only take so much before the damage becomes evident. Whether it is through the extinction of species because of greed or the degradation of the environment because of overuse, we need to find a balance that will allow production that is not cost prohibitive and halting environmental degradation.
Information is the key to reversing environmental degradation, raising agricultural productivity and increasing environmental benefits of sustainable rural development.
This means stopping the name calling, the denying and the accusations and allowing frank discussions on creating the balance between production and environment management.
We are lucky in South Dakota. We have an agriculture community that understands we must sustain our land in order to sustain our production. Producers are increasing methods that increase production while also using conservation targets within the control of those producers. We are using more environmentally friendly methods while keeping our production levels high.
By promoting farming and ranching practices that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities, we are responsible stewards of our land; not just in our commercial production but also in our urban landscape.
From our vegetable gardens to our lawns, changing our methods of production can make a positive impact on our environment. Our urban methods have caused leaching of nutrients and pesticides and the contamination of both ground and surface waters caused by high levels of production and use of chemical fertilizers.
This is a serious problem and one we who live on a massive body of water that means so much to our economy, need to recognize. Imagine if our use of chemicals damaged our fishery. What kind of an impact would it have if our fish were contaminated or our waterways polluted enough to warrant a no watersports warning?
We are lucky. The water here constantly moves for most of the year, which prevents heavy concentrations of chemicals in our water. But those chemicals have to go somewhere. They still flow into our system, get into the fish we eat and water in which we play.
We can live in balance but only if we admit there are issues and seek information on methods to correct the damage we have inflicted on our environment.
It was not too long ago we were rapidly losing our eagle population to pesticides that destroyed their reproduction. We came dangerously close to destroying our national symbol. We learned the reasons why they were dying out, changed our habits and saved the raptors.
Through conservation we have also saved other species that man’s deeds nearly destroyed, including the gray wolf and the bison.
We now need to step up and save the most important of our food production companions, the bees. Our use of chemicals is playing a role in killing a vital partner in our production system. We must heed the warnings and begin to take care of this vital resource. Without our bees there will be no pollination.
The first step in finding solutions in any field is to identify the problem. That means admitting our methods are causing a problem. We must admit climate change does exist. We need to once again start listening to Mother Earth.
The beauty and majesty of glaciers that have existed on our earth for centuries is disappearing at an alarming rate because of rising global temperatures. Rising sea levels and continually dangerous weather patterns are also red flags.
This is not some bleeding heart, tree hugging liberal speak, but factual information based in science.
These are not scientists paid by chemical and big oil companies to say there is no such thing as global warming, but scientists worldwide who are using decades of information to back their findings.
They are working to on the balance of agricultural production with our ecosystem to conserve biodiversity in this time of climate change. They are working to improve the methods we use in everyday life to work with and not against environmental balance.
In South Dakota we have worked diligently on issues of contamination, erosion, nutrient supply and moisture balance.
Now is the time to rethink our methods for weed control, our need for the most beautiful lawn in the neighborhood and the desire to keep bugs from invading our space.
Working together we can find a balance. It starts with opening our minds, listening to those who speak the truth and being open to evolving our methods.
– Katie Zerr –