Conclusions: Prospects and Challenges for Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development

This article started by outlining some of the basic and time honored principles of sustainable agriculture. The proceeding synthesis, concerning the variant ways and vectors in which these principles have been (contestedly) grounded and conceptually developed by scholars, has demonstrated their continual and growing relevance. For much of the latter half of the twentieth century agricultural sustainability debates concentrated on both the recognition, definition, as well as the oppositional significance of these principles. This led to considerable vitality and energy in creative conceptual development. More recently, the political and economic vector for sustainable agriculture has dramatically widened and deepened into what some scholars have termed the 'real green revolution'.

There may now be a real shift occurring, not least in places like Europe, from an emphasis on oppositional and ontological politics toward really embedding and 'sustaining the sustainable' as opposed to 'sustaining the unsustainable'. That is, focusing upon the rebuilding of new spatial and ecological configurations for sustainable rural and agricultural development sui generis. This is becoming more probable and realistic not only because of, as we have seen, the gradual moves toward ecological modernization by the state apparatus (especially in Europe). Agricultural sustainability, or rather agri food sustainability (taking in whole complex supply chain factors rather that just the farm), is now recognized as a central dynamic in the broader political economy and governance of what we might call the macro ecoeconomy.

In the first decades of the twenty first century: (1) the real effects of the growing scarcity of the carbon based resource are becoming clearer, and having both corporate and geopolitical effects; at the same time (2) the real effects of 150 years of the carbon based economy are being realized with regard to climate change. In this changing context the positioning and political power of sustainable agriculture, agroecology, and the rural development paradigm can only grow in ways which should see these principles become a more powerful vehicle for reintegrating both sustainable production and consumption, and also re equating the fast growing urban world with its diverse rural ecological hinterlands. However, in the face of reignited global concerns about food security, vast disparities in the volumes and types of food consumption, and the persistence of the agri industrial model in attempting to find new technological 'fixes', we should not expect this to be an easy or unproblematic journey.