Wildlife, People and Food Production:
A Bold Vision for the Future
by Chuck Francis, Ali Loker, and Wally Graeber--
University of Nebraska Lincoln
Wachiska will continue to offer free monthly general meetings via Zoom for the foreseeable future as they have proven to be successful the first three months we have done so. Registration is required at the link above which can be copied and pasted directly into your browser. You can also visit Wachiska’s website and click on this link directly to register. You will receive a confirmation with the meeting number and password for this Thursday, August 13, program at 7:00 p.m.
Wachiska Past President and active chapter member Chuck Francis and two colleagues will explore how wildlife populations, human pressure on habitat, and the need for increased food are tied together. These compelling issues will require innovative solutions for the long term, while we struggle in the moment to solve the COVID-19 crisis. Birds and other wildlife species are losing habitat as we use land to meet human demands. Industrial agriculture removes diversity and supports a food system that produces a handful of commodity crops, a fraction of which are transformed into highly processed, cheap, and non-nutritious foods. We import 90 percent of the food we consume in Nebraska. Too often our most fertile soils are used for building houses with acres of lawns and creating new shopping malls in suburbia to replace others considered
obsolete. This unsustainable land management strategy is costly to human health, destroys a balance between people and nature, and contributes significantly to climate change. As we encroach on wildlife habitats, the potential for pathogens to evolve and infect humans increases.
In this presentation, we will describe the challenges of meeting multiple needs of society, including nutritious food and a healthy environment that we share with birds and other species. Current research priorities of producing more food will be challenged. Then we will propose a broader, integrated, whole system strategy for food and the environment. Farmers need to learn the value of birds for helping control insect pests and how cover crops can provide nutrients and help control weeds. An equitable food system must be created for everyone by reducing food loss and waste, integrating more plant proteins into our diets, and providing access to healthy and culturally relevant food, especially as global population grows and we adapt to a changing climate. We will propose a bold new vision for how to use science. The U.S. needs to feed people now and also preserve scarce resources for the future. This approach requires thoughtful planning of land and resource ownership, innovative economic approaches that value ecosystem services, and reward systems to sustain our species into the long-term future.
Chuck Francis is professor of agronomy and horticulture at UN-L where Ali Loker is a graduate student in the Doctor of Plant Health Program. Wally Graeber is a local food advocate on the boards of Open Harvest, Southern Heights Food Forest, and the Nebraska Sustainable Ag Society. He is also a co-leader of the Slow Food Network USA.