Friday, July 6, 2012

Is *Any* Human Activity Long-Run Sustainable?

Intensive rice agriculture began in the Yangtze basin about 8,000 years BP, a sustainable model for agriculture by any reasonable standard. The extensive water infrastructure network around Chengdu, China, has diverted part of the Min River through the Dujiangyan for both flood control and irrigation without restricting fish connectivity since 256 BC, while some forests in India have been actively managed by surrounding communities for even longer periods.
That's from a guardedly optimistic article by Matthews and Boltz. It's academic but contains most of the good aspects of scholarly writing (copious references, measured tone), without most of the others (argument to authority, unwillingness to point out the obvious). There are 2650 words so you should expect to read it in about 12 minutes. Assuming you are an average blog reader (well, above average if you're reading this one), I recommend it, unless you haven't stared at the Vostok ice core data recently, in which case you should do that for 15 seconds first.