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close this bookWIT's World Ecology Report - Vol. 06, No. 1 - Critical Issues in Health and the Environment (WIT, 1994, 16 pages)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentSPECIAL FOCUS: Sustainable Development: Providing for the Future Generations
View the documentOur Common Future?
View the documentDID YOU KNOW?
View the documentConsumption and Waste Levels in Developed and Developing Countries
View the documentGOOD NEWS
View the documentFOOD FOR THOUGHT: The Amish and Sustainable Development
View the documentDiet, Nutrition and Chronic Diseases: An International Perspective
View the documentVoices of the Planet
View the documentTHE WERTYUIOPASDFGHJKLZXCVN STORY
View the documentPOINT OF VIEW: Enviromentalism: Ideology and Ethics

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The Amish and Sustainable Development

The Amish of Ohio and Pennsylvania, practice time honored farming methods that yield bountiful produce season after season. Amish towns bustle with commerce and most Amish families live a comfortable life within the bounds of their religion. The Amish farmer has generally not suffered the economic fate of many small farmers who have been forced out of business by large agricultural companies or by market downturns. Amish farming methods are regularly applauded for their economically efficient and non-polluting techniques. Amish products are well respected and find their way into farmers' markets well beyond the local region. Amish quilts and furniture are sought out and like the farm goods are produced by a sustainable way of life that has lasted since the 18th century and has resisted the onslaught of modern American culture. It would seem that the Amish have a great deal to teach the world about sustainable development.

The Amish are a religious sect derived from the Mennonites whose origins go back to the Protestant Reformation in Europe. Jacob Amman, (ca, 1633-1730) a Swiss Mennonite bishop founded the group which differentiated itself from the Mennonites mainly by its religious conservatism and disciplinary practices. In the US, the Amish choose not to vote, have not been subject to military draft, pay most taxes except for Social Security (as they do not want the benefits), and are not required by law to send their children to school. Amish children attend school to the eighth grade. A landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision exempted the Amish from further compulsory schooling on the basis of religious freedom. Amish children attend Amish schools learning what the group considers necessary to maintain their way of life. The Amish stand apart from American culture except for commerce, tourism and medical facilities. Strong family ties, strong commitment to community, strong religious belief, and limited schooling combine to preserve the Amish way of life which has been described as a life of "faith, dedication, humility and service."

The Amish countryside in Lancaster County, Pa is lush in the summertime with crops in the fields that appear perfect, appetizing farm stands selling produce, jams, and pickled salads, farms houses offering cheeses and baked goods. A typical Lancaster County farm is 60 acres. The crops include alfalfa, corn, tobacco and grains. The Amish rarely sell their grain which they feed to their livestock and instead sell milk, meat and eggs. This eliminates the cost of livestock feed. Horses are used in the fields and their manure helps to fertilize the soil. The Amish claim that horses are more profitable than tractors. Like the American farmer, the Amish use chemical fertilizers and pesticides on their crops but in much smaller ratios to the land and therefore, spend less to produce the harvest. Steel-wheeled tractors are used only to thresh or fill the silos. Gardens of vegetables and fruits are grown for the family and the community.

Studies comparing Amish farming methods to modern American techniques concluded that the Amish farmer produces a higher yield while consuming less energy. This is in addition to offering a harvest that is not soaked with chemicals. The Amish do not electrify their homes, but in order to keep their dairy products fresh they use diesel powered generators to create their own electricity. This practice is cheaper than purchasing electricity from a power company. Herein lies a rule of thumb that enables the Amish farmer to turn a profit. The Amish do not spend more than their profit. Simplicity and humility are basic tenets of their religion and are reflected in the finances of farming. They build their own homes, farm buildings, schools, repair their own farm equipment, build and repair their horsedrawn buggies, make their own clothes, and build their own furniture. In other words, for the most part the Amish have created a self sufficient community.

The Amish model suggests that for sustainable development projects to be successful, the value of conserving a system once a point of economic sustainability is reached has to be primary. The Amish turn away from the sort of economic opportunity and individualism that America has to offer as much as they prefer the candle to the light bulb. They are a tightly knit religious group who separate themselve from the rest of society. The success of their farming, the prosperity and longevity of their community comes from their orthodoxy. They offer an example of sustainable development that sacrifices unlimited human development and modern conveniences for the sake of economic sustainability. It appears that many indigenous people fit into a similar socioeconomic model as the Amish. However, what makes the Amish unique is that they emanate from Western culture.

SOURCE: Small Farmer's Journal, Summer, Vol. 17, no. 3: Microsoft: Encarta

Prior to this century almost all the increase in food production was obtained by bringing new land into production, but that is on longer possible. For human numbers to reach 12 billion will involve adding an additional 7 billion, enough to fill the habitable land of every continent to the density of China and India today. If soil losses and competing uses of land can be stopped completely within a century and intervening losses limited to no-more than 15 percent of the total arable land, there might ultimately be about 2.8 billion hectares of potentially arable land, significantly less than the 3.1 billion hectares needed at present yields to feed 12 billion people (see Figure 11). Even with extraordinary efforts to protect and preserve arable land, there is not enough potentially arable land to feed the human population the late 21st century

SOURCE: Global 2000 Revisited Millennium Institute, 1993

TOTAL NUMBER OF CANCERS EXPECTED OVER A LIFETIME WITH A SINGLE DOSE OF 1 REM (10 mSv) TO A NORMALLY DISTRIBUTED POPULATION OF 10 WITH THE STATED AGE AT TIME OF EXPOSURE

Age

Male

Female

Combined


Ca. per 10

Proportion

Ca. per 10

Proportion

Ca. per 10

Proportion

0-9

827-3,172

7%

1,332-4,967

7%

1,080-4,070

14%

10-19

569-2,044

7.5%

1,074-3,782

7.5%

822-2,913

15%

20-34

453-1,103

10%

904-2,135

10%

678-1,619

20%

35-49

367-826

10%

753-1,566

10%

560-1,196

20%

50 Sup

28-86

15%

141-420

16%

86-250

31%

All

378-1,168

49.5%

717-2,119

50.5%

549-1,648

100%

* Normal age distribution for Europe and North America. This table can be easily adjusted to suitably describe the lifetime risk for populations with different age and sex distributions.

THYROID CANCER RISK OVER A LIFETIME: 1 Rad (10 mSv) per million people

Cancer

Male:

9.0 - 14.4


Female:

29.4 - 46.0

Nodules

Male:

26.8 - 43.0


Female:

88.2 - 138.1

CANCERS OF FEMALE TISSUES: 1 Rad (10 mSv) per million women

To BREAST

55-228

To OVARY

18-38

To UTERUS

6-8

TOTAL:

79-274

% INCREASE IN BREAST CANCER BY AGE AT EXPOSURE:

under 10 years

39.0% increase

10-19 years

6.2% increase

20-29 years

2.3% increase

30-39 years

1.1% increase

40-49 years

Not demonstrated

ATOMIC BOMB DATA

DATA SOURCES (further referenced in these sources)

HANDBOOK FOR ESTIMATING HEALTH EFFECTS OF IONIZING RADIATION; Bertell 1986, BREAST CANCER AND MAMMOGRAPHY; Bertell 1992

Chernobyl Update

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher who spent 18 months studying the ruins of the devastated Chernobyl nuclear reactor has revealed new and frightening details of what took place in the hours and days after the 1986 explosion

Contrary to previously available accounts of the world's worst nuclear accident, his work has shown that the initial explosion did lead to a complete core meltdown and that the reportedly successful attempt to douse the blazing core with 3,000 tons of material dumped from helicopters actually missed its target completely

As a result, the amount of radioactivity released during the disaster was as much as four to five times greater than previously published estimates, confirming suspicions that had been voiced by many researchers but were strenuously denied by international and Soviet authorities.

In addition, the effort to entomb the reactor in an airtight sarcophagus of concrete, and to prevent it from contaminating nearby river water with a 1 1/2 mile long concrete dike. has been equally unsuccessful

The report comes from Alexander Sich, a nuclear engineer who turned his research into a 500 page doctoral dissertation he presented to MIT's nuclear engineering department.

Specifically, Sich estimates that more than 185 million cures of radioactive material and possibly as much as 250 million cures were ejected during the first ten day after the accident. Soviet officials have consistently maintained that only 3-50 million cures were released.

Increased releases could help explain health problems in the area surrounding the plant, including an apparent and substantial increase in the incidence of childhood thyroid cancers.

SOURCE: Massachusetts Institute of Technology