THE ECONOMIC PAMPHLETEER: Toward an Ethic of Sustainability


  • John Ikerd University of Missouri, Columbia



Sustainability, Ethic


First paragraphs:

Sustainable farming is ultimately an ethical commitment. As I have written in a previous column, "There are lots of other occupations where people can make more money with far fewer physical and intellectual challenges...Unless they truly believe that farming is their 'calling,' I advise would-be farmers to choose other occupations" (Ikerd, 2015a, p. 10). A purpose or calling determines what a person should and should not do with their lives and thus is a matter of ethics.

In a previous column, I proposed a Food Ethic as a guide for purposeful eating (Ikerd, 2015b). I think we also need an Ethic of Sustainability as a guide for purposeful living, in farming or any other way of life. I propose: A thing is right when it tends to enhance the quality and integrity of both human and nonhuman life on earth by honoring the unique responsibilities and rewards of humans as members and caretakers of the earth's integral community. A thing is wrong when it tends otherwise.

First, the ethic goes beyond defining sustain-able practices or even principles by defining some things we might do as "right" and others as "wrong." Questions of right and wrong cannot be answered using currently accepted scientific methods. These are matters of belief or faith. Thus scientists tend to ignore them, and consequently so do most advocates of sustainability. This has allowed the concept of sustainability to be trivialized and coopted by corporations and marginalized by government agencies....


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Author Biography

John Ikerd, University of Missouri, Columbia

John Ikerd is professor emeritus of agricultural economics, University of Missouri, Columbia. He was raised on a small farm and received his BS, MS, and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Missouri. He worked in private industry prior to his 30-years academic career at North Carolina State University, Oklahoma State University, University of Georgia, and the University of Missouri. Since retiring in 2000, he spends most of his time writing and speaking on issues of sustainability. Ikerd is author of six books and numerous professional papers, which are accessible at his University of Missouri website and personal website.
John Ikerd



How to Cite

Ikerd, J. (2016). THE ECONOMIC PAMPHLETEER: Toward an Ethic of Sustainability. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 6(3), 3–5.

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