HERE is an eye opener from India's Sage Publications to those that are heavily into agri-business instead of agri-food. Given the motives and importance under which it is carried out the Damocles Sword holds sway over the survival of the first while agriculture for food itself apparently is no one's concern.
One even cannot avoid entertaining an eerie feeling when perusing the book's pages thinking of what, the future holds for man and his home considering the large scale vandalism of the environment - an outcome of man's unquenchable quest for monetary gain.
Sustainable Agriculture is this book's theme as revealed in the title itself "Sustainability in Agriculture", which discusses the meaning of sustainability and sustainable development and reviews related issues.
While examining theory and practice of indicators it also delineates what is necessary for a holistic evaluation - productivity, stability, efficiency durability, compatibility and equity, describing the types of indicators needed within each of these through indicators and sample calculations.
Significantly writers' observation of marginal land depletion due to converting such which support tropical rain forests, the productive land loss caused by erosion, salinisation, desertification etc, new grains and associated management practices, plant nutrition using inorganic chemical fertilizer, pest control and so on impact negatively on food security and rural life.
The book also points out bio-diversity losses, natural habitats' destruction, over consumption of surface water and ground water, soil contamination by organic biocides, microbial and nitrate contamination of drinking water and the release of greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide all old hat, but worthy of repeat.
While highlighting the importance of all such negative impacts, the writers emphasise the need for sustainability in agriculture which they describe as the activity of growing food and fibre in a productive and economically efficient way using practices that maintain or enhance the quality of the surrounding environment - water, soil, air and all living things.
Sustainability is also seen supporting life's health and quality of farmer families and community as a whole.
Very correctly they send out a warning thus, "should our surroundings be altered in a way that life itself is endangered, no social or economic manipulations would suffice to revive sustainable life and hence the need for integrity of environment."
They unhesitantly continue thus: "Sustainability is an all encompassing vision of what life ought to be where all physical and social sciences, religion, philosophy and ethics come together for a comprehensive view of the various issues related to sustainable development and its assessment in a tropical country." Citing two examples:
"Forest cutting brings income but has adverse environmental consequences".
"Net and deep sea fishing brings income to fisherfolk but threatens source" - the writers bring out the short term economic and social benefits of development.
This then reminded the reviewer of how early man when out hunting would not hound one of the game species, the following day fearing resource depletion - ironically a far cry from modern man that cannot see such worldly wisdom despite all the "learning". The more we learn the less we understand, particularly half learnedness.
They in fact were not wrong in worshipping the moon, sun stars, rivers trees and so on. The loss of regard for such environmental life givers threaten even man's existence today.
In one voice the authors - Gary W. Van Loon, S.B. Patil and L.B. Hugar emphasise the importance of air, water and soil as being main concern areas in the subject of agriculture and human life.
They also call for the quality of resources on which production is based to be maintained and even enhanced. "Therefore soil and water in ample quantity and good quality is important" - they say.