David Montgomery - Dirt, soil, call it what you want—it's everywhere we go. It is the root of our existence, supporting our feet, our farms, our cities. However,  we are running out of dirt, and it's no laughing matter. Learn how we are—and have long been—using up Earth's soil. Once bare of protective vegetation and exposed to wind and rain, cultivated soils erode bit by bit, slowly enough to be ignored in a single lifetime but fast enough over centuries to limit the lifespan of civilizations. We see how soil has shaped us and we have shaped soil—as society after society has risen, prospered, and plowed through a natural endowment of fertile dirt. The recent rise of organic and no-till farming offers hope for a new agricultural revolution that might help us avoid the fate of previous civilizations.

Claire Hope Cummings - exposes the stories behind the rise of industrial agriculture and plant biotechnology, the fall of public interest science, and the folly of patenting seeds. She examines how farming communities are coping with declining water, soil, and fossil fuels, as well as with new commercial technologies. Will genetically engineered and "terminator" seeds lead to certain promise, as some have hoped, or are we embarking on a path of uncertain peril? Will the "doomsday vault" under construction in the Arctic, designed to store millions of seeds, save the genetic diversity of the world's agriculture?

 To answer these questions and others, Cummings examines the plight of farmers who have planted transgenic seeds and scientists who have been persecuted for revealing the dangers of modified genes.

 At each turn, Cummings looks deeply into the relationship between people and plants. She examines the possibilities for both scarcity and abundance and tells the stories of local communities that are producing food and fuel sustainably and providing for the future. The choices we make about how we feed ourselves now will determine whether or not seeds will continue as a generous source of sustenance and remain the common heritage of all humanity. It comes down to this: whoever controls the future of seeds controls the future of life on earth.

This is a powerful reminder that what's at stake right now is nothing less than the nature of the future.

Roger Greenlaw - “One of the unique outcomes I observe in my practice is when you treat the root cause of one condition, (obesity, heartburn and constipation caused by poor diet, inactivity and stress) many of the patient’s other conditions begin to improve simultaneously, (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and resting pulse). When you treat one, you treat them all.”  Now at the end of a decade of treating patients with a holistic approach Greenlaw said he finds that almost all his patients are interested in lifestyle change. “Most diseases in our society are lifestyle related, and therefore preventable and modifiable by self care.”His recommendation to other practitioners is embrace the arrival of the age of Lifestyle Medicine and the modification of disease through self care and natural therapies.“Lifestyle Medicine may be our best treatment ally yet to facilitate disease prevention, reversal and rehabilitation,” Greenlaw said. 

Interactive transcript

David R. Montgomery Ph.D

David R. Montgomery Ph.D

2015 Conference
      David R. Montgomery is a Professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he leads the Geomorphological Research Group and is a member of the Quaternary Research Center.   Montgomery received his B.S. in geology from Stanford University in 1984, and his Ph.D. in geomorphology from University of California, Berkeley in 1991. His research addresses the evolution of topography and the influence of geomorphological processes on ecological systems and human societies. His published work includes studies of the role of topsoil in human civilization, the evolution and near-extirpation of salmon, morphological processes in mountain drainage basins, the evolution of mountain ranges, and the use of digital topography. He has conducted field research in eastern Tibet and the American Pacific Northwest.   In 2008 Montgomery received a MacArthur Fellowship. His book, “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations” won the 2008 Washington State Book Award in General Nonfiction.[1]   Montgomery’s 2012 book, “The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood” explores the relationship between catastrophic floods in the distant past, flood legends, “Noachian flood geology”, and geologic discovery over the past several hundred years.   After the catastrophic Oso mudslide in Washington State in March, 2014, Montgomery appeared on various news segments to discuss the science behind landslides. He appears in DamNation the 2014 documentary film about dam removal in the United States.Montgomery (King of Fish), a geomorphologist who studies how landscapes change through time, argues persuasively that soil is humanity’s most essential natural resource and essentially linked to modern civilization’s survival. He traces the history of agriculture, showing that when humans exhausted the soil in the past, their societies collapsed, or they moved on. But moving on is not an option for future generations, he warns: there isn’t enough land. In the U.S., mechanized agriculture has eroded an alarming amount of agricultural land, and in the developing world, degraded soil is a principal cause of poverty. We are running out of soil, and agriculture will soon be unable to support the world’s growing population. Chemical fertilizers, which are made with lots of cheap oil, are not the solution. Nor are genetically modified seeds, which have not produced larger harvests or reduced the need for pesticides. Montgomery proposes an agricultural revolution based on soil conservation. Instead of tilling the land and making it vulnerable to erosion, we should put organic matter back into the ground, simulating natural conditions.

Claire Hope Cummings M.A, J.D

Claire Hope Cummings M.A, J.D

2015 Conference
Claire Hope Cummings, M.A, J.D, is an environmental lawyer, journalist, and the award winning author of Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds (Beacon Press) which won the American Book Award and the book of the year award from the Society for Economic Botany. Claire’s stories focus on the environmental and political implications of how we eat and how food and farming reconnects us to each other, to the places where we live, and the extraordinary knowledge of land based peoples. Claire brings over three decades of broad experience in agriculture to her work. She has farmed in California and in Vietnam, where she had an organic farm in the Mekong Delta. For four years she was an attorney for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of General Counsel. After leaving government service Claire represented native people in defense of their ancestral lands. Claire founded The Cultural Conservancy in 1985 and continues to work with traditional people in Hawai’i and North America to preserve their knowledge systems and life-ways. She continues to study and write about seeds and plant knowledge, and how traditional ecological knowledge can meet the challenges of climate change and environmental justice.Claire has been active in the local food and farming movement in the San Francisco Bay Area, helping to found the Marin County food policy council, and serving on the boards of organizations such as Earth Island Institute, The Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Food First, and the Elmwood Institute—the predecessor organization for the Center for Ecoliteracy. Claire was awarded a Food and Society Policy Fellowship in 2001. She advised The Columbia Foundation’s sustainable communities and food system programs for many years.   As a journalist, Claire was food and farming editor for KPFA-FM in Berkeley, Pacifica Network’s flagship public radio station, for six years, hosting a weekly radio broadcast that including Eater’s Digest and as a regular contributor to the popular drive-time Morning Show. She reported for other public radio networks and PBS television on KQED-tv. She has produced award winning radio broadcasts for National Radio Project. Her work is regularly published in print and on line publications. Claire has contributed to and been featured in books and films, including “The Future of Food” and “Ripe for Change”, nationally aired on PBS.

Roger L. Greenlaw M.D.

Roger L. Greenlaw M.D.

2015 Conference
Roger L. Greenlaw, MD, FACP/G, is founder and president of a 12-physician gastroenterology group that has served Rockford, IL for over 25 years. He serves on the faculty of the University of Illinois, College of Medicine at Rockford as Clinical Professor of Medicine, and is the Medical Director of the SwedishAmerican Center for Complementary Medicine. The mission of the Center for Complementary Medicine is to promote a healthy community by empowering individuals to optimize health and to reverse disease through intelligent and responsible self-care within a holistic, supportive environment. Major programs include the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease and Dr. Hans Diehl’s Coronary Health Improvement Project (CHIP). At the Center, Dr. Greenlaw directs the research in lifestyle medicine, teaches continuing medical education classes for physicians, residents, and medical students, and offers public education classes emphasizing lifestyle medicine and complementary and alternative medicine for the prevention, arrest, and reversal of common debilitating diseases. Dr. Roger L. Greenlaw has been practicing medicine for 30 years. During that time, he has undergone personal and professional transformation, and spent his energies putting the word “health” back into healthcare.


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