new listserv on principles of sustainable agriculture

Tom Hodges moderated newsgroup sustag at
Fri Jul 16 13:57:27 EST 1993

Its done!  The LISTSERV sustag-principles is established to discuss 
the principles underlying development of sustainable agricultural 
systems.  To subscribe, follow the directions at the end of this
message.  The listserv will be archived on SunSite at the University  
of North Carolina along with alt.sustainable.agriculture and messages 
are to be sent to "sustag at" where they will be 
reviewed and put onto the listserv.

My thanks to everyone who helped me with advice and support to get 
this going, especially to John Wiegley and Lawrence London.


To Whom It May Concern:

The following is a charter for a LISTSERV on the Internet network of 
computer systems.  The Internet is a world-wide network of university, 
government, and some commercial computers.  A LISTSERV is a computer 
address (like EMail) where people can send messages.  The messages
are forwarded automatically to the INTERNET or BITNET (another computer
network) addresses of people who are subscribers to the LISTSERV.
Most of the services and facilities on the Internet are available 
without charge once access to the Internet is obtained.  Access is 
usually obtained through a university computer, government agency
computer, or company computer that can be reached with a  telephone 
and a computer modem.  Although handling EMail may take only a few 
minutes each day, the other interesting things that one will want to
do on the Internet may take hours per week, so access with a local 
phone call is best.  For those without the possibility of using the 
above methods of access, DELPHI (a commercial computer networking
service) recently announced that it was offering full access to the 
Internet as part of its services.  DELPHI offers local phone access 
in many urban centers with populations of about 100,000 or greater.
For information call DELPHI at 800-695-4005 (voice) or 800-695-4002 
(modem).  If you don't have any possibility of accessing the LISTSERV 
by computer, I could send the accumulated messages out on a floppy 
disk periodically (send floppy disk in self addressed stiff mailer 
with US return postage if US resident) when some have accumulated in 
a month or so.
I would like to have the charter circulated as widely as possible so 
that those who might be interested will be able to consider 
subscribing, so feel free to forward copies to anyone.

Internet: thodges at

Tom Hodges
Route 2, Box 2953-A
Prosser, WA 99350
tele: 509-786-2226
FAX:  509-786-4635

Best wishes, Tom Hodges


A LISTSERV, open to all interested parties, with
moderated contributions.

Statement of Purpose:

Agriculture is the basis of civilization (without it
we starve, no obvious replacement is available).
For long term development of civilization, it is
essential that agriculture be put on a sustainable
basis.  This idea is widely (universally) accepted,
the problem is that there is no agreement as to what
sustainable agriculture means.

The purpose of the proposed LISTSERV, "sustag-
principles", is to provide a forum for calm and
courteous discussion of the scientific, economic,
social, and spiritual principles needed as a basis
for sustainable agricultural systems.  Conference
and journal papers on closely related topics can
also be submitted for circulation to the

Introduction for Discussion:

Any agricultural operation of any size, from a
backyard vegetable patch to 5,000 hectares of wheat
or pasture, is embedded in a biological-chemical-
physical and human environment.  The agricultural
operation affects the environment and vice versa,
the magnitude of the effects in either direction are
influenced by the size and intensity of the
operation and by the local characteristics of the
environment (biological-chemical-physical and

A minimalist, bare-bones definition of a sustainable
agricultural system that everyone can agree is
accurate, but hopelessly incomplete, seems like a
good place from which to start our discussions, so
here is a proposed definition for immediate
discussion and change.  A sustainable agricultural
production system is a dynamic (i.e. changing rather
than static) system for producing food and fiber
that can operate for an indefinitely long time
(1,000 years?) with a benign relationship to the
biological, chemical, physical, and human
environment (improving or not hurting the

maintaining or increasing species diversity around
the area of the system in the soil (microbes as well
as burrowing things), on the soil, in the air, and
in the water.  For the chemical and physical
environment, this means maintaining or improving the
quality of the soil, the water, and the air around
the system.

The human environment includes both the health of
the humans in the area and some economic and social
considerations.  The system must be fair to both
producers and consumers of its products, i.e.
producers must get a reasonable return for their
labor and risk while consumers must get agricultural
products at a reasonable cost.  The system must use
and occupy land in a way that is consistent with the
laws, customs, and goals of the surrounding society
(those laws, etc. may require some modifications to
support sustainability).  The system must provide
its share of the good quality food and fiber
products needed by the surrounding society at a cost
acceptable to that society.  Cost should be
considered to include all resources used by the
system and any
temporary degradation of the land caused by the
system.  If the society expects the agricultural
system to produce at a level that results in long-
term degradation of the environment, then that
expectation will have to modified over some amount
of time.  Obviously the system must not be dependent
on indefinite consumption of non-renewable and non-
reusable resources, use of such resources must be
phased-out and eventually replaced with
renewable/reusable inputs.

How is the Baha'i Faith Concerned with Sustainable

Agriculture is a topic that is given great
importance in the writings of the Baha'i Faith.   In
this century, for the first time in human history,
humanity has the opportunity to plan and organize
our future on a global scale.  Also for the first
time, human technology has become sufficiently
advanced to threaten the habitability of our planet
on the same global scale if technology continues to
be applied to the environment without consideration
of the consequences.  Agriculture - farming, stock
raising, and forestry - is one area of human
activity that has great potential to either harm or
improve our environment.  From the 1850's to the
1920's Baha'u'llah, the Founder of the Baha'i Faith,
and his son, Abdul-Baha' wrote about the dangers of
technology uncontrolled by spiritual principles and
about the role that humanity must consciously assume
as caretaker or custodian of the world.  The Baha'is
believe that developing sustainable agriculture,
i.e. regional agricultural systems that maintain and
improve the environment, must be given the highest
priority in planning and developing the global
society of the next century.

The Baha'i Faith encompasses a global network of
local institutions (Local Spiritual Assemblies or
LSAs).  These local institutions receive general
direction and advice from national institutions and
from the international center of the Baha'i Faith
(the Universal House of Justice or UHJ).  The local
institutions are, however, largely responsible for
design, implementation, and execution of local
programs for education, social and economic
development, and enrichment of the cultural and
spiritual life of their area.  In response to advice
and encouragement from the UHJ, some 10s of
thousands of social and economic development
projects have been initiated in the last 10-15
years, mostly in villages of third world countries.
Developing sustainable agriculture systems is a high
priority of many of these projects.  The Baha'i
International Community, a UN Non Governmental
Organization (NGO), is eager to be able to advise
local Baha'i communities attempting to develop
sustainable agriculture systems, so
improved understanding of the underlying principles
of sustainable agriculture is a high priority for
them.  The Baha'i International Community may also
be able to advise other national and

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