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When Ecology Replaces Agronomy for Food Production by Wes Jackson

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Since 2004, the EECP and the Willson Center have co-sponsored an annual lecture to honor ecologist Eugene Odum. While recognized as one of the leading ecologists of the 20th century, Dr. Odum also had a keen interest in environmental ethics. He was among the founders of the EECP thirty years ago, alongside faculty and students initially drawn from ecology, religion, and philosophy. They recognized the necessity of an interdisciplinary approach to addressing our relationship with the environment, and the necessity to learn to speak each others’ language. We have awarded more than 150 graduate and undergraduate certificates to students who use the lessons learned here to guide their professional and personal lives, thanks to vision of Eugene Odum and others like him. It’s no wonder that we would seek someone as visionary as Dr. Odum to mark this special occasion. Dr. Wes Jackson is the founder and president of the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, which has developed over the years as its main focus “natural systems agriculture,” in other words, looking to natural ecosystems as models for sustainable agriculture. Dr. Jackson has received numerous awards for this work, among them a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the Right Livelihood Award. In addition to working on the technical aspects of this lifelong project, Dr. Jackson’s books like “Becoming Native to this Place,” “Consulting the Genius of the Place,” and his collection of essays “Nature as Measure” reveal him to be an eloquent spokesman on behalf of the land and our relationship with it in the 21st century. When I first spoke with Dr. Jackson about coming to Athens, he said he thought it might be “preaching to the choir.” But I assured him that even the choir needs preaching to from time to time. His sermon today is “When Ecology Replaces Agronomy for Food Production.”