-George Washington Carver -  The Unsung Father of Sustainability
By: George B. Brooks, Jr. Ph.D.
They say nothing is new under the sun and that is probably true. Many if not most of the principles and processes that we now use are ancient in concept. However, there was someone(s) who discovered how to apply them in the right combinations that created the contemporary frameworks we use today. For example, people had been trying to fly for thousands of years. Some with a small degree of success. However it was Orville and Wilber Wright who placed a kite, man, small engine and propellers in the right combination and thus became the fathers of powered flight. So, who is the father of sustainability?
To Go green or be sustainable is to protect, preserve and enhance the environment and its natural resources thereby increasing our ability to achieve our social and economic goals for the long term. Again, not a new idea by any means. So who however, first combined these principles of Planet, People, Profit and Purpose into the correct context where they produced demonstrable and superior results? I suggest that person was born the son of a slave around 1864.
As he matured, his deep religious faith and his fascination with nature drove him to study the agricultural sciences and attend college in a day when Blacks were often not allowed to aspire to such achievements. As he grew in knowledge, he saw the plight of poor Black sharecroppers whose land was being sucked dry by growing cotton. He knew that if you planted crops that enhanced the soil such as sweet potatoes and peanuts, it could then sustainably produce crops for years (Planet). He developed new products from those crops to address local market needs (Profit). He did this so that the farmers would have more to sell and more money to support their families and thus a higher quality of life (People and Purpose). As mentioned in every American history book, in doing this, George Washington Carver became the father of Sustainable Agriculture. What is not acknowledged for the most part however, is that the principles of sustainable agriculture are the SAME principles we honor today as the Triple Bottom Line of sustainability. Thus, just as Orville and Wilber Wright are the fathers of the Airplane, George Washington Carver is the father of green and all that means for us today. This also means the first school to teach sustainability was Tuskegee and should be honored as such.
Copyright NxT Horizon group 2010
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Green Forward Blog
Saturday, August 7, 2010