A social perennial vision for the North American Great Plains rooted in the resilience of a natural system-inspired agriculture
Publication: Creating Resilient Landscapes in an Era of Climate Change
In the 2022 book Creating Resilient Landscapes in an Era of Climate Change, a shift to natural systems agriculture, which is modeled by indigenous agricultural practices and the diverse, perennial mixtures found in prairie ecosystems, is highlighted as a necessary action in the battle against food insecurity, environmental injustices, soil erosion & degradation, and biodiversity loss.
In the semi-arid grassland ecosystems of the North American Great Plains, diverse mixtures of perennial plants co-evolved with humans and other animals through fire and grazing. These prairies held and built soil, persisted through climatic variability, and were tended to provide for Indigenous cultures. Yet due to Euro-American colonization and widespread tillage into annual grain systems dependent on fossil-fueled inputs, grassland landscapes are precarious in the 21st century. Communities and agricultures are vulnerable to food insecurity and injustice due to climate change, soil erosion and degradation, and biodiversity loss. A resilient future requires re-perennialization and diversification of landscapes, through grassland restoration and conservation, as well as a reinvention of agriculture that includes key features of natural systems such as perenniality and diversity. By engaging communities and researchers, it may be possible to build the scientific knowledge and social movement necessary to accomplish a social perennial vision for the region.