Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman – meet in the middle to help the environment and livelihood

The overarching theme of the book “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” by Miriam Horn is to accomplish lasting, impactful solutions (in this case with climate change and environmental concerns) we need to work with folks in the middle. In essence, the folks in the extremes are too strident and reluctant to compromise.

A good example comes from the Montana rancher as he combats climate change and environmental degradation caused by fracking for natural gas. He works with folks who will address the environmental issues, but permit him and his family to make a living ranching. He notes the fracking companies paint a picture that is far rosier than it is, while some extreme environmentalists want everything to stop and do nothing with the land. At personal risk, he built a coalition of ranchers, environmentalists and government officials who were willing to follow his lead to preserve the environment while permitting the ranchers to do their thing.

The Kansas farmer speaks to working in concert with the land and learning and sharing best practices with other area farmers and the agro-economics people at nearby Kansas State University. Farmers want to maximize a sustainable yield on their crops, but climate change and water concerns increase the challenges to do so. He emphasizes growing what grows naturally in the area. There is a reason wheat and alfalfa are cash crops in Kansas. He notes the farm to table concept is not necessarily ideal – it would be a waste of water and land to try to grow everything everywhere. As for climate change, they work with legislators to protect the water resources, but have to stop short of using that term with their representatives. They gain collaboration by speaking to what is happening, not identifying its lead cause.

The book focuses on five professions in total, although only three are listed in the title. The other two are Shrimper and River Captain. Skipping over the fisherman and shrimper, who are each impacted by the environmental waste and degradation worsened by climate change, let me finish up with the River Captain.

The Louisiana based river man moves frieight up and down the Mississippi River. He understands the importance of experienced teams who know the river going both ways, with high, low or medium water levels. He has seen the significant dissipation of the wetlands in the Bayou which are causing huge problems to many. Engineers tried to outsmart the river and failed. In fairly dramatic fashion, the Gulf of Mexico is absorbing land due to rising sea levels and fewer buffers, So, they are working with scientists, businesses, and even the petroleum industry to slowly rebuild the Bayou.

Note, there are pros and cons to each set of solutions, so getting to the best answer requires honest input on the costs and risks to people, environment and livelihoods. And, some of the answers are counterintuitive. For example, not sending barges down the Mississippi means more truck traffic which pollutes the environment, degrades the roads and heightens risk for other drivers. With more electric trucks, this would lessen the risk, so that is a factor in risk/ benefit trade-offs. The farmer’s comment about farm to table also deserves scrutiny as farm to table also helps to lessen these trucking risks and costs. Yet, on a large scale, the point about growing stuff that is more natural to an area is profound and will lessen the impact on water resources which are dear.

It should be noted working in collaboration is how business and government work best. Yet, collaboration is hard work. For those who block the consideration of solutions, they need to be sidelined. In our toxic tribal political environment, we must remember each side does not own all the good ideas and both sides own some bad ones. Let’s follow the lead of these folks who get their hands dirty, understand what is happening and work together.


18 thoughts on “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman – meet in the middle to help the environment and livelihood

  1. Note to Readers: While this book may not sound appealing to folks, it is a good read. Horn does an excellent job at getting underneath the hood of these families and professionals. She tells their story with the land and waterways and defines their challenges. It opens your eyes. It is not a long read, nor is it filled with technical jargon.

  2. This sounds an interesting read, Keith, and it offers a good reminder that there are no easy, one size fits all, solutions – assuming we can agree what the problem is in the first place.

    • Thanks Clive. You are right on the one size does not fit all and identifying the problem. In Scotland, tidal and offshore wind energy make sense, while in other places solar and onshore wind make more sense. Keith

  3. It is so difficult to meet all the needs but still, the solution lies in the union of all needs. Compromises are inevitable to get there. But everyone needs to be willing to give something in order to take.

  4. It sounds like the book holds some sensible ideas for a collaborative approach to the challenges of climate change. Although I remain in the skeptical camp that we will be able to make the necessary adjustments (that get harder each day we ignore the problem), I appreciate the hard work these people are doing to bring the sides together.

  5. I’ll have to check that one out … it sounds interesting and informative. As Clive notes, there is no panacea for what ails the planet, but we cannot simply ignore the problems, for the future of all live on Earth are at stake.

    • Thanks Linda. I can’t remember where I first saw the book promoted. It may have been on PBS Newshour. Given where you live, you may enjoy the rancher’s story. Keith

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