All posts by jgerber123

I teach sustainable food and farming at the University of Massachusetts and try to live in a way that doesn't exploit people or the land.

A Letter to the People of the Earth…

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The Earth’s Human Rights Day, December 10, might be an appropriate time to consider the following…

Assuming there are 400 billion galaxies and about 250 billion stars in each galaxy in the universe, it is not too far-fetched to imagine there is not only life on many planets circling stars throughout the universe but also “thoughtful life”.   If so, it might also be possible that a Community of Universal Thoughtful Species might send the following letter to the people of the Earth….


Dear Earth,

Good day, I am your representative from the Community of Universal Thoughtful Species, and I bring you greetings from Us All. As you are interested in sharing our Cumulative Knowledge, we have a couple of questions to ask you first, questions that would be obvious to any responsible membership manager.

How are you going to get along with 10 trillion other species in our community if you do not respect even your own? If you permit yourselves to treat your own kind so despicably, why would we grant you the power and reach to treat others as badly?

Moreover, if you do not have the highest respect for the natural bounty that has befallen you, if you do not protect and nurture it for all you are worth, why would we afford to you the means to abuse as badly similar treasures elsewhere?

Continue reading A Letter to the People of the Earth…

Digging for new ideas

I introduced the quotes below from Dr. Edward DeBono’s book, The Use of Lateral Thinking,  at a 1988 conference exploring the role of university faculty in dealing with the new concept (at that time) of sustainability.  Universities that ridiculed the idea of sustainability have now accepted sustainability as a primary objective, at best, or perhaps an advertising tactic, at worse.   In 1988, sustainability was a “new idea” and like many new ideas it was rejected by most university faculty.

While it has been asserted that the function of the public university is the creation of new knowledge (through research) and dissemination of knowledge (through teaching Continue reading Digging for new ideas

Beyond a Job: Doing The Great Work

Adapted from an Interview with Matthew Fox by Mary NurrieStearns

Much of our life is spent in the world of work. Our time, energy, and even identity are wrapped up in what we do and how much money we have. Therefore it is important to explore how work is associated with prosperity. At times, work is a job an exchange of effort for money. But work can also be vocation. When work is vocation, it is where we express our unique talents, find meaning, and contribute to what Matthew Fox calls “the great work,” the work of the universe.

To discuss this subject with Matthew Fox was like finding a gold mine. The author of many books, Fox describes in “The Reinvention of Work” a new vision of livelihood. In his envisioned world of work intellect, heart, and health come together to celebrate the whole person. He is a true teacher of what he espouses. He was dismissed by the Continue reading Beyond a Job: Doing The Great Work

Excerpts from “Thoughts in the Presence of Fear”

Full article published in Orion Magazine by Wendall Berry

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  • The time will soon come when we will not be able to remember the horrors of September 11 without remembering also the unquestioning technological and economic optimism that ended on that day.
  • This optimism rested on the proposition that we were living in a “new world order” and a “new economy” that would “grow” on and on, bringing a prosperity of which every new increment would be “unprecedented”.
  • The dominant politicians, corporate officers, and investors who believed this Continue reading Excerpts from “Thoughts in the Presence of Fear”

Want to be a plant scientist? Look at a leaf…

FROM: Lab Girl (pp. 3-4) by Hope Jahren. Knopf Doubleday Publishing

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“People are like plants… they grow toward the light”

PEOPLE LOVE THE OCEAN. People are always asking me why I don’t study the ocean, because, after all, I live in Hawaii. I tell them that it’s because the ocean is a lonely, empty place. There is six hundred times more life on land than there is in the ocean, and this fact mostly comes down to plants. The average ocean plant is one cell that lives for about twenty days. The average land plant is a two-ton tree that lives for more than one hundred years. The mass ratio of plants to animals in the ocean is close to four, while the ratio on land is closer to a thousand. Plant numbers are staggering: there are eighty billion trees just within the protected forests of the western United States. The ratio of trees to people in America is well over two hundred. As a rule, people live among plants but they don’t really see them. Since I’ve discovered these numbers, I can see little else.

So humor me for a minute, and look out your window. Continue reading Want to be a plant scientist? Look at a leaf…

Fight climate change in your own backyard

Posted in Yes Magazine  and written by Deonna Anderson

GARDENS30-- Volunteers work on getting the Victory Garden, in Fort Collins, ready for this summer.Fort Collins is one of several communities developing Depression and World War II-era "Victory Gardens," where people can grow their own food in these tough
By 1944, nearly 20 million victory gardens  produced about 8 million tons of food.
Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

During World War I, Americans were encouraged to do their part in the war effort by planting, fertilizing, harvesting and storing their own fruits and vegetables. The food would go to allies in Europe, where there was a food crisis. These so-called “victory gardens” declined when WWI ended but resurged during World War II. By 1944, nearly 20 million victory gardens produced about 8 million tons of food. Continue reading Fight climate change in your own backyard