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Water for Food Conference: From Mirrors to Windows

Featured Article

By Melinda
Online Team

WFFC_2013_FlashDrive“Resilience” is the buzzword that has been part of the sustainable conversation lately, so it is no surprise that it is tied into the conference theme, “Too Hot. Too Wet. Too Dry: Building Resilient Agroecosystems.” Christo Fabricius, leader at the Sustainability Research Unit at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa, delivered an overview this morning discussing the “three intertwined concepts in resilient agroecosystems: thresholds, adaptability and transformability.”

Then, Charles Hibberd, dean of the Cooperative Extension Division at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, presented a great explanation of how extension functions to provide solid and useful research.  Hibberd said, “if it [research] doesn’t make a difference, then it doesn’t make a difference.” They really do translate their research into useful information, as he highlighted many informative drought references and resources they provide.

There is no doubt that Nebraska is a prime location to study an environmental hardship, such as drought. Check out our Nebraska infographic here. He also mentioned the research taking place at our Water Utilization Learning Center in Gothenburg, Neb.  I’m so excited to finally visit the site during the tour this Thursday!

WFFC_2013_CornhuskerThe rest of my afternoon revolved around climate change. A few of the ideas were reiterated from yesterday, but Heidi Cullen, chief climatologist at Climate Central, introduced a great point.  As I’v sat in this conference, I keep getting these urges to seize the day and make a difference.  Then I find myself wondering, why do people put more effort in their day-to-day activities (furthermore, why haven’t I)?  Apparently, it has to do with our brains.  Cullen provided great insight as to how our brains process risk and how we fall into different categories of people when it comes to reacting to situations. Interesting. Naturally, I followed her to hear more during her moderation of the afternoon panel on “Communicating about Climate.”

In addition, a few great agricultural producers joined the panel this morning.  Duke Phillips, Colorado ranch owner, stood out to me.  Not only has he seen success in conservation practices, but he also provides public education about ranching to battle what may best be described as a Yosemite Sam perception (guns and all) of ranchers. Moderator Mark Gustafson, interim director of the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska, wrapped up the discussion with a statement that I could not agree with more. He said, “Farming is a lifestyle.” I used to work daily with farmer advocacy, so these are two concepts that I hold near and dear to my heart.

At the end of the day, my thoughts were rotating around education and experiences.  Sometimes, it is not that people are unaware an issue exists, but it is possible that they have a misconstrued perception, or they really don’t understand how they can help.  Duke Phillips provided a superb example I mentioned above with his ranch endeavors to remedy those misconceptions and educate folks.

A day can feel a bit depressing after discussing climate change, food production, lack of or uneven distribution of resources, followed by thoughts of possible solutions.  However, I really try to be a “glass half-full” person. We have farmers and ranchers talking to the community and utilizing conservatory practices.  We have land-grant universities and companies studying water management practices. Finally, we have experts sharing information. Perhaps, the least the rest of us can do is get more people involved in the conversation and educate them. Theoretically, if I learn new information, I may feel inclined to think differently and even act differently.

Now, if you will kindly excuse me.  I have a date with a home water conservation checklist I stumbled upon today.

Note: For more information about the Water for Food 2013 Global Conference, like Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute on Facebook or follow the #water2013 hashtag on Twitter.

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