The artist talk this year was by Lisa Grossman and it did not disappoint, as she so eloquently described to us her zen like approach to plein air painting of the Kansas prairie and sky landscapes and likened the process to haiku. Originally from Pennsylvania, she now lives in Lawrence, Kansas. [more of her art here]
For those who are not aware of the fact, the Land Institute is now using marker assisted breeding technology, which became possible with the completion of their new building a year ago, and the hiring of Dr. Shuwen Wang. This should accelerate the process of breeding useful perennial grains, which they feel could help to provide the resilience needed for our world which is facing both peak oil and climate change while using unsustainable methods of industrialized agriculture.
Wes Jackson began this year’s talk with this, “Agriculture, in my view, was the beginning of global warming….” Then, he described to us, welcomingly, an outline of the Land’s new long range plan to ramp up research across the globe to speed up production of perennial grains. They have spelled out, in a new paper, a thirty year plan which will cost $55 million per year and use eleven sites around the world to do their research which would be conducted by a specified number of PhD scientists and would include a training program for new scientists. Some of the sites include Minnesota, China, Australia, Kansas, and Uruguay. Jackson reported that interest in the area of perennial grains is growing as several projects are now working on perennial corn and there are around thirteen institutions studying potential varieties of sunflowers, sorghum, rice, corn and wheat.
In a talk by David Montgomery, a Washington State geologist who has written the book “Dirt: the Erosion of Civilizations” I took note of his prediction of the three regions of the world which have the longest lasting food growing potential based upon minerals deposited from glacial activity in the form of loess soils (not topsoil). Those three regions are portions of the U.S. Midwest, Eastern Europe, and Northern China, according to Montgomery.
There were other great talks, too, by Brian Donahue, Kamyar Enshayan, Naomi Klein, and Richard Heinberg. And I was thrilled to finally see a screening of “John Muir in the New World.”