November 28, 2011 | Myrna Anderson

A yearlong lecture series highlights the importance of preserving farmland and water resources.

For an hour, Calvin biology professor Uko Zylstra talked about issues: The Ogallala Aquifer in the United States’ Great Plains is slowly being depleted, as is the Rio Grande River in Mexico, the Brahmaputra Watershed in Pakistan and Russia’s Aral Sea. The world’s waters are slowly disappearing due to irresponsible irrigation and unsustainable agriculture. Meanwhile, China and other prosperous countries are buying up farmland in Africa.

After his talk, held Tuesday, Oct. 4, Zylstra took questions from his audience in North Hall 020. Was it better to farm tilapia than salmon? Was it better to do away with animal products altogether? What can we do to affect U.S. agriculture policies?

Yearlong series

The lecture was the first in a series titled “Global Hunger and Food Security” which will last throughout the 2011–2012 academic year. “Typically a billion people worldwide are undernourished, and another billion are malnourished,” Zylstra said. “In the history of civilization, agriculture is key. Food security is dependent upon sustainable agriculture, and sustainable agriculture requires that we preserve prime farmland and our water resources.”

The series is a collaboration between Calvin’s biology department, geology, geography and environmental studies department, international development program and the Calvin Faith and Science Seminar series. Half of the speakers will be from Calvin, and half will be from outside the college. All of the talks are free and open to the public.

“It will be a good lineup,” said GEO professor Ralph Stearley, an organizer of the event. "We see a lot of interest out there in the community, and we have a very dynamic lineup of speakers."

The talks—all off which take place at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays—will cover many aspects of the issue and touch on the problems of many countries, Stearley said.

The lineup

On Friday, Oct. 14 in NH 078 professor of biology David Dornbos will be speaking on “Sustainable Agriculture, Developing Countries, and Micah 6:8:  Does Cambodia Need Our Food System or Do We Need Theirs?”

On Friday, Oct. 28 in the same location, biology professor Dave Koetje will speak on “What Do Transitions from Industrial Agriculture to Sustainable Food Systems Look Like?”

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Calvin grad Mitch Tuinstra, an agronomist at Purdue University, will talk about the “Challenge of Cereal Crop Improvement and Deployment in Africa.”

On Friday, Nov. 18,   Sheila Blackman, a Grand Valley State University biology professor, will speak on the importance of seed banking, genetic diversity and fair and equitable access to germplasm for sustainable agriculture.

And on Friday, Dec. 3, Grace Miller, a biology professor at Indiana Wesleyan University, will speak on under-utilized crops and conservation farming.

“Calvin students have shown both an interest and concern for missions, international development and other global issues,” Stearley said. “A number of us realized that a series like this was long overdue.”

The spring schedule for Global Hunger and Food Security will be announced soon.

The next speaker in the Global Hunger and food Security lecture series is Grace Miller, an associate professor of biology at Indiana Wesleyan University. Miller will speak on "Life in the Soil: Conservation Farming with Green Manure and
Cover Crops" at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2 in North Hall 078.

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