Historically, according to Lozano (2007), efforts at sustainability have been hindered by the individualistic behaviors characteristic of homo oeconomicus. “[They] are human beings that are greedy and self-interested…[and] have an insatiable wish to accumulate material resources and attempt to maximize their utility while minimizing their costs” (Lozano, p. 370). These behaviors have made it exceedingly difficult to strike the balance between economic, environmental, and social considerations necessary for true sustainable development.
Lozano also provides a strong argument for the importance of collaboration i.e. “using information, divergent insights, and spontaneity to solve problems and develop new understanding of new products. It thrives on differences coming from sparks of dissent” (Lozano, p. 372). Collaboration, as exemplified in the example of the Curripaco villagers who hunt for and prepare food individually, but that aggregate the bulk of the food to the common fund in order to assure nutrition for all. This successful collaborative effort provides a stark contrast to the population of Easter Island where, according to Lozano, lack of collaboration and increased population led to “deforestation, which in turn led to tribal warfare, starvation, population crash and even cannibalism.” Clearly the approach of the Curripaco villagers would be a more viable means of achieving sustainability.
It would seem that, looking forward, we want to sustain, above all, our economic system, our way of producing our livelihoods. It is from this that flows our culture, our way of feeding ourselves, our way of pursuing happiness. We also seek to sustain our wealth—it is very painful to suffer a decrease in the standard of our living. These disparate ideas can be summarized as livelihood security, the objective of efforts on sustainability. Frankenberger and McCaston (n.d.) describe livelihood security as “adequate and sustainable access to income and resources to meet basic needs (including adequate access to food, potable water, health facilities, educational opportunities, housing, time for community participation and social integration).” Frankenberger and McCaston go on to quote two other authors (Chambers and Conway (1992)), to describe a livelihood as sustainable ‘when it “can cope with and recover from the stress and shocks, maintain its capability and assets, and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for the next generation…”.’
The individual’s role in sustainability is varied: we can play active roles in government, by voting, by exercising whatever rights we have; we can seek to be educated and to understand the livelihood system that we live in and its vulnerabilities; we can seek to develop consensus with our neighbors about what can be done locally to promote sustainability; we can develop coping strategies and plans to deal with livelihood stresses (Frankenberger and McCaston); and we can diversify our income stream (Frankenberger and McCaston).
The beginning of the GR made agriculture one of the most important “players” in the growth of the population. Basic crops like corn, wheat and rice became essentials to many cultures, and today these are still an important part of their everyday food consumption. The results for the first GR were outstanding in Mexico as wheat yield per acre rose fourfold from 1944 to 1970. Mexico, which had previously had to import wheat, became a self-sufficient cereal-grain producer by 1956 (Answers.com).” These results were the driving force for Norman Borlaugh trials in Asia. After 10 years of wheat breeding, Borlaug had plants that resisted rust and other diseases. Because they were insensitive to the length of daylight, they had the potential to grow in a wide variety of climates (AgBioWorld.org). However, the failure of the first green revolution in terms of the environment is an example of the interdependence of social, economic, and environmental issues on overall sustainability. The sole objective of the First Green Revolution was “to increase total food production to save people from starving.”
While the program produced more food, in the process it also increased the number of landless laborers.” (Rogers et al, 2009, p. 74). Thus economically, there was a disproportionate gain for the large farm owners who were able to purchase government-subsidized diesel fuel, while the smaller farm owners were not allowed to do the same and therefore had to rely on private vendors for the same fuel at a significantly higher price. This led to, among other things, decreased genetic diversity in food crops and increased vulnerability of crops to pathologies (Thompson 2007).
Per Wahlberg (2008) the GR coincided with drastic increases worldwide in beef production, increasing the amount of animal protein in our diets. Animal protein is environmentally stressful, for it is very energy-intensive to produce by comparison to plant protein. Answers.com (2010) also notes that the GR greatly expanded industrial agriculture, which is an intensive user of water, often times from fossil sources. The same source notes that some fertilizer and pesticide inputs are made with significant inputs from non-renewable resources and are energy intensive. These increased pollution of soils and led to indebtedness of small farmers. This, along with the cost of diesel fuel, in turn resulted in distress sales of land by farmers and a consolidation of land holdings in the hands of large-scale farmers.
Even though overall food production increased, the income disparity between rich and poor increased as well. “It became increasingly difficult for poor farmers to modernize, and if they could not farm efficiently, the benefit-cost ratio of their lands was the same as it was under rain-fed conditions” (id). The inability of farmers to modernize, therefore, had environmental consequences that, though they may not have been completely detrimental, were not beneficial either.
The Green 2 Revolution has been formulated to address the shortcomings of the previous plan and, in doing so, offers a means of pursuing true sustainable development. One of the most important factors taken into consideration in this plan is the necessity of good governance. In the first Green Revolution, the large farmers had an inordinate amount of political influence, thus making if that much more difficult for the small farmers to remain competitive. As noted in the text, “fair compensation according to law will be required for a successful redistributive policy” (id.) Of the other main points in the program, the call for location specific agricultural resource management is a particularly important measure. “Centralized agricultural research, development, and extension systems or universal policies that would be applicable universally do not work to improve land productivity” (Rogers et al, 2009, p.76).
The Green Two Revolution (G2R) has five distinguishing characteristics from the GR: 1) it redistributes land and inputs from rich to poor; 2) it provides public inputs to improve poor land; 3) it assists smallholders and landless persons; 4) it promotes rain fed agriculture rather than depending upon fossil water stocks; and 5) it localizes research and development (Rogers, et al). For reasons noted above these are all positive developments, leading as they should to more sustainable development.
Moreover, the G2R preserves the objectives of the GR, increasing aggregate food production, while doing it in a more sustainable manner. Note that a Triple Bottom Line analysis would suggest that G2R concerns itself with all three legs of the stool: it is concerned for ecological systems; it pays attention to needs and requirements of people, often the most vulnerable elements; and it preserves the objective of increasing overall output (or value) of foodstuff productions. It is thus more balanced than was the GR, which dwelt primarily on the economic leg, which might be called production.