Sylvia commented: "You are pointing out a frightening disconnect between our industrial food providers and what some of us know to be both the best solution for the planet and for our bodies...or shall I say yet another frightening disconnect. "
I think that was one of the scariest aspects; realizing that this broad group of dedicated people were working so in-depth on a "problem", in their ivory tower! And that is one of the issues with the "ivory tower", it's to easy to lose connection with the real world in it's entirety.
It's not, CAN we do something, but SHOULD we do it and most importantly, how does it play out for all of us, and play out in the long term. I think that it's been socially unacceptable to ask that question; at least in the USA western world.
The participates at the aquaculture conference were well aware that the oceans are in a critical state; that we have depleted it's stores, to the brink of extinction. But I'm not sure they are looking at the broader picture... only the technical aspects of a solution dictated by industry funding.
Sustainable: the "new" catch-all phrase!
The use of the word "sustainable" was used freely but I ventured to point out that there are various levels of meanings to that word. Overall sustainable practice were not clearly explored. Only that bio-floc is more sustainable than the fish meal harvest that was declining due to over-harvesting. And I got the impression that it was the COST of fishmeal that bothered them more than anything else!
It's not that many of the guys would not be interested in working on variations of a solution but that they don't even know that there is a problem, or that the world model they are using as a basis may not continue forever. There is no margin built into their model that allows for changes in the system. If one built to that particular model, and becomes dependent on it... what happens if it begins to fail due to it's inability to adapt?
If energy costs were to escalate, I can easily see that the cost of the fish produced would increase so that only the elite would be able to afford it (and with continued use of fish meal created from the ocean junk fish, depleted stores for the common man to utilize).
The most effective way of altering their world view, I found, was to ask about their research, their focus, and how they got into it. In small table discussions we would eventually be asked what brought us to the conference. I think what they found interesting was that we talked in "real world terms"; the application. Certainly the questions and interests were quite strong.
Explaining that we had a sustainable farm and wanted to focus on a niche local market, not compete in the world markets, was of great interest.
That every output we created should be an input for another system. Of course that appeals to the problem solvers mind!
That our focus would be developing a system that could be repeated over and over on a local scale and NOT mass market. If one system crashed there would be others to fill in.
That each system should adapt to the local resources available. That we really had NO interest in MONO-cropping.
Both the lifestyle and the approach appealed to many.
I think that utilizing this approach; pointing out the positive values of such a system, AP, and integrating it into the over all scheme, in such a way to reduce the dependence on external supports, that may or may not be available, would be fascinating research. I asked one longtime professor of a university if they ever developed research projects to solve local issues. He assured me that they had done so in the past and in-depth. All anyone had to do was to come in and present the problem.
Taking Power Back!
Perhaps we have become disconnected as well, from our research educational centers, and no longer require that they address our needs (the non-industrial base). If we want to effect significant in-depth change, perhaps it is these centers that need to alert our young people to the "real" problems that need to be defined and solved on a true sustainable basis. But if those "issues" are not made significant by bringing them up, they will not be considered.
The balance is delicate... real world and the ivory tower. When I was working on my nursing degree my best educational integration came as working as an aid in the hospital. There I needed to take my book knowledge and meld that with real world realities. Either, in isolation, does not measure up for positive developments.
I call my husband a Renaissance Man, and I think most people involved in AP are of that nature; exploring and creating without waiting for "someone else" to fix it for them. Willing to educate themselves, to experiment, to try different approaches.
When we ask "government/industry to solve the problems" then we hand over power and responsibility to them. And currently, the government/industrial model seems to have reached the point where only "they" are allowed to create the solution (to their benefit).
Instead, we need to work with our educational centers to say, these are issues that need more concentrated research, that will contribute back to the community! It's not that we NEED the educational centers to do the work so much as they need to know the real problems in a whole world context. The AP community can take what it needs/wants and create various solutions that meet the local requirements.
It is creating a broader awareness of the underlying issues that our students need to be exposed to.
Learning to tie your shoes is a skill, figuring out where you want to go takes a broader view.
I'm heartened by the response and the depth of thought that has gone into the comments! The most challenging part is to bring people together to address a problem. I think this blog/website approach provides an outstanding way to deal with this.