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Environmental Analysis

Farming in the City: An Examination of Ecological, Social and Economic Impacts of Urban Agriculture

Ian Sawyer ('08), Richard Hazlett

Agriculture is an indispensable element of civilization. Nevertheless, in this past century the industrial agricultural system that provides the majority of our food has wreaked incalculable damage upon the environment, public health and wellbeing of communities and societies. Furthermore, the prospect of peak oil threatens the viability of our oil dependent industrial agricultural system. In reaction to this world crisis, urban agriculture has demonstrated potential to solve multiple problems, with Cuba leading by showing that a country can successfully transition from an industrial agricultural system to an UA system and feed its citizens. This study is an examination of the different elements of UA and attempts to exhibit the various benefits, environmental and social, of urban agriculture. The author gathered most of his data qualitatively by going to urban farms and observing and interviewing people associated with the farms. The author also supplemented his data with pertinent scholarly articles and books. In visiting various urban farms both in Cuba and California, the author found that UA provides multiple benefits such as access to healthy fresh local foods, reduced pollution, and strengthened local economies, to name just a few, and that it is a viable and necessary alternative.
Funding provided by: SURP (Schulz)

An Integrated Approach to Rural Development in the Alpujarra, Spain

Cecilia Ann Viggiano ('08), Richard Worthington

Development in the Alpujarra in Andalucía, Spain has long been closely tied to nature. Ancient Moorish aqueducts created lush ecosystems in an arid climate and agricultural terraces both prevent erosion and serve as powerful symbols of the region’s landscape. Increased competition with globalized agriculture has made cultivation of these small mountain plots less profitable, sparking immigration to cities, which has had economic, societal and environmental consequences. My field study in the region aimed to inventory and assess current integrated rural development initiatives designed to renew the historical balance of people and nature. Research methods included interviews, observation and a study of publications in the offices of the local rural development organization. The research determined that (1) most projects try to increase the value of natural, historical and cultural endowments; (2) strategies include targeted funding of entrepreneurial projects, not-for-profit work by interest groups and certification systems that increase the value of organic agriculture and local artisanal products; and (3) each project had strengths and weaknesses with the overall success in the region difficult to determine. Despite the documented achievements, many interviewees expressed frustration that current development trends, particularly in mass tourism, are unsustainable, “killing the hen that lays the golden eggs.”
Funding provided by: SURP (Schulz), Iberian Grant

A Human-Caused Salty Spring Negatively Impacting the Health of Lake Titicaca in Peru

Derek Young ('09), Heather Williams

Pollution in Lake Titicaca has begun to threaten the health of both the lake and the unique people who depend on it. Lack of local efforts to remedy the problems inspired this study, based on interviews and water quality testing, which aims to elucidate specific problems and provide villagers with the information necessary to begin to remedy those problems. In the northwest section of the lake, villagers complained of well water too saline for human consumption. Interviews prompted me to analyze a nearby human caused spring that villagers claimed released water with an extremely high salt content. It proved to have a salt content 170 times the World Health Organization's recommended maximum for human consumption. Measurement of electroconductivity in the surrounding lake water revealed extremely high levels of dissolved solids, much higher than are found in the rest of the lake and above the toxicity limit for many aquatic organisms. Salt content in the community's well water, which is used for watering cattle, proved to be much higher still, five times the WHO maximum for human consumption and far above the safe upper limit for cattle. Armed with scientific data indicating that the spring is the source of the problem, villagers should be able to persuade the appropriate authorities to seal the spring, thus moving one step further towards a less contaminated lake.
Funding provided by: SURP (Richter)

Research at Pomona