Wes Jackson, founder and current president of The Land Institute, spoke to a packed house in Kresge Auditorium on Monday in a talk entitled "Consulting the Genius of Place: An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture."
Jackson, who is a recognized leader in the field of sustainable agriculture and a plant geneticist, founded The Land Institute in his native state of Kansas in 1976.
The Land Institute is a nonprofit research and education group focused on sustainable agriculture, along with the development of perennial crops that have the same stability and yearly gain as annual crops.
The majority of Jackson's lecture, which was part of the College's "Meet What You Eat" series, focused on the misconception that technology drives sustainability.
Jackson began his talk by explaining the history of carbon energy, the use of renewable energy sources, and the wealth and leisure they came to provide.
"Without the ground carbon or the forest carbon we would not have had essentially the early stages of the enlightenment and science, and without coal we would not have Darwin," he said.
Jackson asserted that land sustainability is not reliant on technology but instead on limitations in the use of the land.
"We have the idea that we are going to solve our problems through technology rather than through the exercise of restraint," he said of the current approach to sustainable living. "We create the abstractions for getting at these non-renewable energy sources and we call it capitalism."
Jackson's main concern is the use of huge amounts of land for annual grain crops.
"Seventy percent of our calories come from grains and occupy about 70 percent of our acreage," said Jackson. "The sustainable agricultural movement has featured mostly vegetables and fruits. Very little of the movement has had anything to do with the calories that feed us."
Jackson and his team at the Land Institute look for ways to plant perennial crops in order to preserve more land. The Land Institute supports the perennialization of crops in China, Malaysia and other locations where ecosystems have been destroyed for crops.
With the globalization of his ideas regarding both agriculture stability and sustainability, Jackson hopes to promote what he calls "the green synthesis; a global sustainable revolution."