From the Past… a More Sustainable Future

Among the many global environmental crises we face, one of the most certain is food production. The global food crisis has the potential to “explode within weeks and kill within days” (Cribb 2010:8). There are numerous examples in archaeology of how practices from the past can inform our future. Currently, the Sewanee Native Cultigen Project involves the reintroduction of a suite of wild plants indigenous to eastern North America that sustained hunter-gatherer groups before being domesticated or heavily cultivated between 5,000 and 3,400 years ago (Price 2009;6427; Smith and Yarnell 2009;6561) (Figure 1). These plants included amaranth, knotweed, little barley, maygrass, goosefoot, pepo gourds, sumpweed, and sunflower. Today, most of these are largely considered tenacious weeds that we eradicate regularly.

Though important for thousands of years, these native cultigens were largely forgotten with the adoption of maize agriculture ca. 1,000 years ago. By the early 1800’s, as the global population reached one billion (McClung 2014;699), economically important monocrops like rice, wheat, and corn were necessary to meet global food demand. Intensification of globally important monocrops provided the necessary means to feed growing global populations. Remarkable achievements over the past half-century in technology and crop sciences (e.e irrigation, fertilizer, pesticides, and farm equipment), beginning with the Green Revolution, has allowed for food production to keep pace with a human population that has more than doubled in size, from three to seven billion. During this time, global food output has increased by 178 percent and crop yields by 143 percent, while only expanding the total area of land under production by 11 percent (Pretty 2008:447; Pretty and Charucha 2014:1573; Tilman 1999;5995). Today, while modern agricultural practices successfully produce more than enough calories to feed every person on the planet, the disastrous effects that they have on the environment¬†and human health have many people searching for more sustainable ways to produce food…

Rea the entire article here:¬†From Past…A More Sustainable Future