The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Other Inconvenient Truth

While digging into another project I'm working on, I ran across this video that, while not directly targeted at forest resource utilization, really does a great job of putting our land use challenges in perspective. The speaker, Dr. Jonathan Foley of the University of Minnesota, addresses in a very graphic and compelling way the impact that world population growth, and the related increase in demand for agricultural products, is changing the very face of the planet.


 In the presentation, he proposes changing the concept of "agriculture" into one of "terraculture". In a way, the recent reorganization of Penn State's College of Ag Sciences, that included changing our School of Forest Resources into the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, reflects this change in perspective. The administration of our college hopes to create an environment in which new collaborations can begin to address our natural resource challenges in a new and more meaningful way. In effect, instead of focusing on agriculture, aquaculture, and silviculture, we'll all be working together on issues of terraculture.

Truth is, up until this century, our world benefited from an embarrassment of riches, in which the resources outweighed the demand for them. But as Dr. Foley demonstrates, this ratio is visibly changing all over the globe, and we've got to become smarter about how we manage our farms, watersheds, and forests.


PennwoodI3 said...

If you follow this logic, education is simple matter. Penn State can combine an engineering degree with an agriculture degree with a business degree and a science degree (throw in psychology, biology, and pre-medicine, and communications as mandatory minors) and combine all the existing colleges to form a General Education Degree. No needs for specialties anymore.

The program could be called a Bachelor of Generalism or BG. It will take ten years and a half million dollar investment to get your BG. For further study Penn State can offer a MG (Master of Generalism) and a GD (Doctorate of Genaralism). Just a thought....

It will also make it very simple for those incoming Freshman to pick a degree. Brilliant!

Chuck Ray said...

There's a university that already offers those degrees, Penn...the University of Internet.

I tend to agree with you on specialization...seems like a lot of generalists are arguing about things they only have a superficial understanding of. And when problems are encountered in business, or a plant, we usually need a specialist to resolve the problem.

But higher education has a problem with its value proposition. Thirty years ago, you paid about $20,000 on average for a four-year degree, and you got a job with a starting salary of about $20,000. Today, you pay about $100,000 here in the east for a degree that gets you started in a job that pays about $40,000 on average...and it's lower than that in the ag/forestry sector. Not as good a deal as it used to be.

The changes being made by universities all over the country, not just at Penn State, are in part a response to this decline in the academic value proposition (and in part to declining budgets). Other forms of education are emerging. What the university looks like in a decade or two, is a question of whether academic administrators make the right changes, or not. Time will tell.

cam said...

Chuck Ray, you are the first I have heard publicly admit the deficit in higher education's value proposition. Hard times have already hit other industries; it is about to hit higher education.

cam said...

The Thursday, April 26, 2012, issue of The Wall Street Journal headlines a front-page story "Education Slowdown Threatens U.S." The percentage of students going to college appears to be dropping and when it hits the tipping point, there will be angst and trauma on campuses like Penn State which has already greased the skids with the scandal.