Is there a specific wisdom associated with agriculture? The complex questions of agrarianism : Is rural society superior to urban society? Is the independent farmer superior to paid worker? Can farming shape the ideal social vales? Do we acquire virtues through the contact with nature? What is the ideology of agrarian parties throughout the world?
Are agricultural systems natural? Asset versus Location Theory What is the Slow Food movement? The history of thinking on agriculture, from A.Leopold, V.Shiva to B. Kingsolver and W.Berry. The Libertarian Model from Hospers to G.Harden. How can agriculture integrate three main goals at the same time :-environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity?
The Egalitarianism of J.Rawls and the uneven distribution of Land and Food : arguments for preservation of soil fertility and water. What should be the role of the agricultural establishment in promoting practices that contribute to social problems? Is there an intrinsic value of land? From Lovelock to deep ecology. What are the consequences of the dramatic change of agriculture since the end of World War II?
Recent changes (food and fiber productivity soared due to new technologies, mechanization, increased chemical use, specialization and government policies that favored maximizing production) and their positive effects and significant costs (topsoil depletion, groundwater contamination, the decline of family farms, continued neglect of the living and working conditions for farm laborers, increasing costs of production, the disintegration of economic and social conditions in rural communities). How can we achieve the best stewardship of both natural and human resources?
History: from use of power machines in the 20th century, new chemical and biological applications to full electification, application of computer science, new sensor systems, GPS technologies, and the introduction of crops with enhanced traits introduced through genetic engineering. Does sustainable agriculture requires not only the input of researchers from various disciplines, but also the contributions of farmers, farm workers, consumers, policymakers?
Was the decline of ancient civilizations strongly influenced by natural resource degradation from non-sustainable farming and forestry practices? Productivity gains and positive impacts for farmers. Is Water is the principal resource that has helped agriculture and society to prosper, but a major limiting factor when mismanaged? The dramatic fall of the percentage of the population employed in farming; consequences.
What steps should be taken to develop drought-resistant farming systems even in “normal” years? The old techniques and the case of African farmers. What are the consequences of the conversion of wild habitat to agricultural land? Modern agriculture as heavily dependent on non-renewable energy sources. Can the continued use of these energy sources be sustained indefinitely?
Enhancements of pre-modern agriculture, methods of farming (what is organic? no synthetic fertilizers / no synthetic pesticides / no genetically engineered crops). In which ways agricultural activities affect air quality? Impact of the various agricultural practices on people / domesticated and farm animals / the natural environment. Why Soil erosion continues to be a serious threat to our continued ability to produce adequate food?
Does sustainable agriculture require a commitment to changing public policies, economic institutions, and social values of the broader society? Does the “food system” extend far beyond the farm and involves the interaction of individuals and institutions with contrasting and often competing goals? (farmers, researchers, input suppliers, farmworkers, unions, farm advisors, processors, retailers, consumers, and policymakers). In which ways the relationships among these actors shift over time as new technologies spawn economic, social and political changes?
Water: Dilemmas about Irrigation and Desertification. What strategies and approaches are necessary to create a more sustainable food system? Land: sustainability / the Green Revolution and its aftermath. Are the conditions of agricultural labor generally far below accepted social standards and legal protections in other forms of employment?
Air: Ozone Depletion and Methyl Bromide. How is it possible to find strategies that broaden consumer perspectives, so that environmental quality, resource use, and social equity issues are also considered in shopping decisions? Life: Plant Biotechnology / Bio-control of Pests and Organic agriculture / Animals in Agriculture.
Is abandoning agriculture a viable alternative? Are campaigns against modern agriculture ethical? The treatment of domesticated farm animals as ethical calamity. What percentage of cropland is farmed organically and why do EU policies support organic production?
Choice and value of food. Beyond value-for-money in a “food-plenty” world. Is there convincing evidence of health benefits from consuming organic food? Food poisoning and safety scares. Is there convincing evidence of any new risk to human health from any of the GM varieties of foods?
Obesity, longevity and general health. Is there ethical justification for using public resources / authority to promote an organic alternative to modern conventional farming? Expansion of interest in local, organic, “ethically”-produced foods, and the pressures on food businesses.
Who can tell poor and underfed Africans to adopt zero use of chemical fertilizers? Is this an ethical scandal? Role of government, the food regulator, the market forces, and individual consumers. Animal welfare legislation and animals treated as plants/crops. Can we treat them as humans? Animal concentration camps or CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations).
Why is it a crime to impose stress on domesticated companion animals? Why all agriculture is damaging to the natural environment. Is there a risk-free food chain? Are nutritionists always reliable? Do we know what is in our food? Food and the importance of parental education.
The sociologist’s human omnivore paradox. History of raw and cooked food. Food-related risks then and know. Processes and power of the food technology. On synthetic additives. The “traffic-light” labelling scheme of the Food Standards Agency.
History of food boycotts in conjunction with ethical consumerism. The Cooperative Bank’s Ethical Consumerism Report. Food and Media manipulations. On reducing “food miles”; on food travelling. The revival of food “patriotism”. Religions and food: the kosher example, Jewish dietary laws of divine provenance. How eating more healthily can destroy the earth.
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