“When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away” – Luke 21:9
In February 1999 Lester Brown, president of the Worldwatch Institute stated: “there are growing signs that the world may be on the edge of an environmental revolution comparable to the political revolution that swept Eastern Europe. The social revolution in Eastern Europe led to a restructuring of the region’s political systems. This global revolution could lead to an environmentally driven restructuring of the global economy”.
He continued “Not all environmentalists will agree with me, but I believe that there are now some clear signs that the world is in the early stages of a major shift in environmental consciousness. What is not clear to me is whether we will cross this threshold in time to avoid the disruption of global economic progress.”
In Lester Brown’s 2005 book, Outgrowing the Earth, he observed that “Agriculture will be one of the most important sustainable business opportunities of the 21st Century”.
In January 2007 Lester Brown, this time President of the Earth Policy Institute, writes about the Environmental Revolution as follows: “Restructuring the global economy according to the principles of ecology represents the greatest investment opportunity in history. In scale, the Environmental Revolution is comparable to the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions that preceded it”.
“The additional productivity that the Industrial Revolution made possible unleashed enormous creative energies. It also gave birth to new life-styles and to the most environmentally destructive era in human history, setting the world firmly on a course of eventual economic decline”.
“The Environmental Revolution resembles the Industrial Revolution in that each is dependent on the shift to a new energy source. And like both earlier revolutions, the Environmental Revolution will affect the entire world. Those who participate in building the new economy will be the winners. Those who cling to the past risk becoming part of it”.
This last week, the Barbados Society of Technologists in Agriculture (BSTA) received the news of the untimely passing of agronomist Augustin Joseph, one of its two trustees. As an early pioneer in hydroponics, he was ahead of his time. The experience and knowledge base in the Caribbean is now much the poorer for his passing. Gus had a deep love for agriculture and the lack of progress which has stymied the development of agriculture, not the least of which is his pet peeve – the lack of a solution to the praedial larceny crisis – has resulted in his becoming a “frustrated” agriculturalist. I am sure that the entire extended agricultural community will join me in offering sincerest sympathy to his relatives and close friends.
A group of young professionals with a keen interest in sustainable agriculture has recently made a request to be involved in the activities of the BSTA. At a meeting last week, they passionately and articulately expressed their interest primary through the leader of the group, who now sits on the BSTA council. Their leader had the opportunity to interact with Gus Joseph on a couple of occasions and her opening remarks were to express disappointment and regret over his untimely departure from this earth. Indeed one of the projects which she conceived was to capture the wealth of expertise and experience in the minds of the older heads with whom she recently had come into contact in her brief interaction with the BSTA.
As the meeting continued I was very quickly assured that the future of agriculture was in good hands as I observed the enthusiasm and drive which accompanied their presentation on the projects that they would like to see addressed as they focused on the theme “agriculture – one of the most sustainable business opportunities in the 21st century”. Not only did they recognize the importance of research in some areas or development in others, but there was a keen sense of understanding of what the environmental revolution was all about and above all they recognized that there was a primary role for agripreneurship in the 21st century.
One of these youngsters, who had studied agriculture in South East Asia, was bubbling over with ideas which could be converted to business realities in the Caribbean. But alas! He had encountered the all too familiar mantra in financial institutions that “we do not fund start-ups” and he had observed that, even where there are glimmers of hope for funding approval, the length of time to receive assistance is such that only the strongest of hearts will be resilient enough to sustain an interest for that period of time. He and others who had also made proposals in the area of entrepreneurship activity were pleased to learn of the CBET Shepherding Model™ and the imminent prospect of establishing a quick response revolving seed capital fund and a quick response venture capital fund as its financial complement.
Coupled with the Chandra Madramootoo lecture a couple of weeks ago on the global food crisis and the Caribbean context, about which the BSTA has had many requests for the PowerPoint and DVD, there is now a momentum which has emerged from the young people and which the Council of the BSTA will be asked to consider and embrace as we swim with the tide of the environmental revolution.