Q&A: Adam Kay, St. Thomas, Science and Sustainability

Adam Kay (in blue shirt), St. Thomas sustainability science professor, with students

Adam Kay (in blue shirt), St. Thomas sustainability science professor, with students

At the inaugural Sustainable We forum on October 20, one of the special guests involved in the group discussion was Adam Kay, biology professor at the University of St. Thomas. He is an ecologist specializing in urban agriculture, urban ecology, and food justice. He believes that it is the responsibility of scientists to provide evidence to inform discussion between policy-makers and the public.

Although the first forum was focused on “Parks, Pollinators and Pesticides,” Kay was invited as a panelist to shed light on what his students are learning about the difference between synthetic fertilizers and organic compost.

As the community becomes increasingly aware of the impact toxic chemicals in pesticides can have on children, pollinators, and our backyards and lakes/rivers, one major element of the discussion is: What alternatives do we have?

The forum participants had meaty discussion about what those alternatives might be for yards, habitats and golf courses, for starters — an overview story coming. Kay offered great perspective, based on scientific data and social justice considerations, on that wider question — where are we wanting to go as as society?

In this first audio clip, he explains the projects his team at St. Thomas has been involved with

St. Thomas Projects

He talked about the last few years of experiments with food production, focused on fertilizer-related yield and nutrition differences when using chemical compared to organic options.

Findings of Experiments

Kay has a strong interest in bringing community awareness to the issue of global agriculture — and what we can learn at a local level about sustainability that has long-term implications on how we are going to be able to feed our population in the not-so-distance future.

The Food Security Issues

He talked about the major theme of the night — why should we become a more chemical-free community?

DON’T MISS THIS ONE: Why Become Chemical Free?

And finally, he hit on the overarching thread we seemed to be reaching in the room — do cosmetic aesthetics really matter to most Minneapolis residents today?

Does Cosmetics Matter in Minneapolis?

I will write more specifically about the cosmetic issue soon — for example, commissioners of the Park Board in attendance at the forum believe we are in the midst of a sea change — as well as a few other threads from the night’s interesting discussion, as well as next step options recommended by some.

I also will be inviting participants at the discussion to offer their own take-aways of the evening, so it’s not just my viewpoint.

All to come in time…

Coming Up

The next forum is November 16, Lake Harriet Spiritual Center in Linden Hills, focused on a conversation about consumption and waste. Registration is open.

Each topic in the series is an aspect of our interconnected network of sustainability issues we are looking at collectively, as Minneapolis residents, entrepreneurs, and policy-makers who care.

In January we return to the theme of toxicity, with “Toxic Shock” — what toxins are we unwittingly spreading into other communities as consumers with waste?

— Mikki Morrissette



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