The State of Sustainability

With all of the possibilities for dreariness, let’s instead talk about some positives. I am impressed by how thoughtful we are becoming about a more nature-centric approach to civilization’s needs, and even more impressed by the institutions that are joining that shift in thinking. What and who am I referring to in particular? In this example, the what is how we may better make clean drinking water and the who is Texas A&M, traditional innovator and defender of the industrial approach to everything we consume.

The example I refer to is clean water. Cities and counties in Texas spend big dollars trying to cleanse our water of the many pollutants that trickle down into the streams and rivers and then into the lakes created by our many dams that eventually supply Texas cities with drinkable water at the tap. But between the time it leaves the lake and enters our house, the water has to go through a cleansing process. Very expensive, and less and less effective as our waters become more and more polluted.

The Aggies were thoughtful enough to ask “Is there a better way?” And a better way was found. A large, 5th generation ranch between here and central Texas was engaged to take a small percentage of its acreage, slightly more than 500 acres that lay along a river, and convert it from grazing land to wetlands. Water tolerant grasses and trees were installed, river water was diverted through the newly-formed wetlands, filtered by nature and returned to the moving stream. The result was water that was cleaner than the purification plants downstream could produce, at a much lower cost - it’s cheaper by far to pay the rancher for the loss of his grazing land than it is to build, operate and maintain a purification plant. I’m impressed - aren’t you? Keep it up, Aggies.
Why did this happen? The credit goes to the movement that has questioned the way we produce food in this country. That journey has led to a re-discovering of Mother Nature’s power and resilience. She had purification methods in place long before we showed up on her planet. If we will get out of her way, she will solve our problems.