I'm one of those people who doesn't really follow the gossip about the House of Windsor. Oh, you can't help but hear about the biggest items, like the recent wedding, but I've mainly been content to leave them what little privacy they might manage. I did see "The King's Speech" and learned more from it than I'd known prior to seeing it. One consequence of this lack of attention has been that I've had a rather sketchy view of Prince Charles, one lacking any notion of whatever depth the man possesses.
So imagine my surprise when he turns out to be not only a serious fellow, but one with whom I share a deep concern. As reported in the New York Times blog Green, Prince Charles spoke earlier today at a Georgetown University conference on the future of food and sustainable agriculture. According to that report, he gave
an earnest and statistics-heavy address touching on such staples of the natural food movement as the virtues of composting and the need to maintain biodiversity. A bit further on it says he
focused on current methods of mechanized factory farming and meat production, saying they were depleting the soil, devouring water supplies, exacerbating climate change and poisoning streams and oceans. ... He said that such methods, heavily dependent on fossil fuels and chemical fertilizers and pesticides, produced unhealthy foods and drove small local growers out of business. ... He said that the world faced the challenge of feeding a population rapidly headed toward nine billion people without destroying the environment that humans depend on.
Wow! Right on!
I think I've got at least the outline of a partial solution here, in the vision laid out in this blog, using robotics to make it possible to leave behind the worst aspects of conventional agriculture and to enable a new set of practices. That new set of practices could be sustainable, although the use of robotics per se doesn't guarantee that it will be. We, as farmers, as technologists, as entrepreneurs, as investors, as regulators, as representatives, as citizens, and as consumers, must insist on a version of the future that is sustainable. We must cooperate to hold the feet of those who see private advantage in the least possible change to the fire of unrelenting necessity.