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The word “agroecology” is a hybrid between “agronomy,” the science of crops and soils, and “ecology,” the branch of biology concerned with interrelationships among organisms and their environments.
One major goal of the University of Wyoming’s Agroecology curriculum was and is giving students the scientific background to “recognize and solve real problems facing agriculture – and successfully refute the bogus challenges.”
And this is why I get a defensive when the term agroecology is used in conjunction with “utterly unrealistic solutions” and “bogus challenges.” Most frustrating to me, is when agroecology is used in this context:
“We don’t need [insert technology here], because we have agroecology!“
In the agroecology program at the University of Wyoming, we teach that proper use of technology is an indispensable part of achieving sustainability.
So why is agroecology often used to shun technology? It would be akin to claiming that we don’t need antibiotics because we have microbiology!
But in the 1990’s, the term also became associated with a movement that was largely “opposed to modern agriculture.” Even though the science of agroecology doesn’t support the notion that we should shun judicious use of technologies like biotechnology, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides.
As a researcher and teacher who is actively engaged in the science of agroecology, this is a concerning disconnect. Simply due to the construction of the word, there is an implied scientific legitimacy. It is ironic that the name of such a useful scientific discipline has been co-opted by a movement to advocate positions that, in many cases, are not supported by the very science the term was originally used to describe. I think it is time that we reclaim this term for it’s original purpose, as one that describes the science of agriculture, viewed through an ecological lens.
Read full, original post: Defining Agroecology