Nourishing Earth, Nourishing Ourselves Part 3: Locally Adapted Communities as Medicine for an Ailing Planet

Frederick D. Provenza, PhD


Issue: Volume 74 Spring 2024

Online Publication Date: 24 March 2024


Once a species reliant on nature for food, medicine, clothing, and shelter, Homo sapiens is in the process of being consumed by the fossil fuel-based agricultural and technological economies that enabled warming climates, natural disasters, and the sixth mass extinction. These economies, based in competition rather than cooperation around natural resources, cause man-made shortages of clean water, fertile soil, biodiversity, wholesome foods, and unpolluted air. The resources that enabled unprecedented biophysical transformations are now diminishing in availability and increasing in costs. These changes are a defining moment that may lead to mankind’s demise or may catalyze the rebirth of a vastly different ecological economy. The challenge is to create economies where communities benefit from locally sourced plants and animal products, produced in ways that nurture relationships among soil, water, plants, animals, and people to sustain a collective wellbeing. To do so, humans will need to relearn what it means to be a part of nature’s communities and transform from a technological to an eco-logical relationship with landscapes. If up to that challenge, Homo sapiens will remember what it means to be locally co-evolving with one another and the environment. Ultimately, the trials faced in addressing these critical issues have little to do with the issues per se, and everything to do with healing divides that polarize and isolate people.