Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 1995, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (2): 97-106.doi: 10.11821/xb199502001

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Cai Yunlong1   

  1. Department of Geography,University of Guelph, Canada
  • Received:1993-11-01 Revised:1994-06-01 Online:1995-03-15 Published:1995-03-15

Abstract: Agriculture is a complex of the processes that take place within a threefold environmental framework, which consists of biophysical. socio-political and economic-technological dimensions.Sustainability of agriculture, therefore, can be generalized as a threefold definition. Ecological definition of sustainability focuses on the biophysical processes and the continued productivity and functioning of ecosystems. Longterm ecological sustainability requires the maintenance of the resource base quality, and eventually its productivity, especially the sustained yield of the land. Social definition of sustainability addresses the continued satisfaction of basic humanneeds─food and shelter─as well as higher level social and cultual necessities. It commonly includes the notion of equity, including intra-generational equity and inter-generational equity. The former refers to the fair and equitable distribution of benefits from resource use and agricultural activity among and between countries, regions or social groups. The latter refers to the protection of the rights and opportunities of future generations to derive benefits from resources whichare in use today. The economic definition of sustainability is concerned primarily with the long term benefits to agricultural producers, including sustained yield and the economic performance and viability of farming.Sustainable agriculture may also be viewed as a series of interacting systems at various spatial scales. At field and farm levels, the focuses are on the technologies and management of ecological farming. At regional, national and global levels, key problems are the food supply and the equitable distribution of agricultural resources and products.Based upon the three dimensions′framework of sustainability in agriculture, this paper discusses the current situation of Chinese agriculture in relation to sustainability. The main challenges are population pressure, land degradation, environmenntal pollution, global climate change, non-agricultural activities, market uncertainty, low level of capital investment, and some policy and behavioral conditions. On the other hand, there are opportunities related to natural resources, labor, education, science and technology and some models of sustainable farming which already exist.Can Chinese agriculture be sustainable in the changing environment?The answer depends on how Chinese people will think and act. As Brundtland pointed out∶‘A new environmental ethics must enter our consciousness’. New patterns of living together with new structures of economy and society also need to be established. No single blueprint of sustainability will be found, as economic and social systems and ecological conditions differ widely among countries. Each nation will have to work out its own concrete policy implications’. How do we design Chinese sustainable agriculture?In many respects, China’s long history with intensive but ecologically-adapted production systems provides a strong basis at the farm management level. The big question is at the macro-scale∶how will the production capacity─food needs equation work out?

Key words: sustainable development, agricultural sustainability, food problem, eco-agriculture, China

CLC Number: 

  • F323