Evans2 - 1 REPRINTED WI!l"H PERMISSION L by Emmit B Evans...

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1 L REPRINTED WI!l"H PERMISSION: by Emmit B. Evans, Jr. the value. There are those who ask, "Why should we support diversity? Why is diversity important, anyway? Wouldn't we be better off if we were all alike?" Photograj~hy by Kim Milk
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course in World Food Systems recently developed by a multidisciplinary team of professors at Cal Poly is providing answers to these questions. While originally designed to show how food is produced and distributed around the world, the course has evolved to teach both students and professors the importance and value of diversity, not only in agriculture, but in all social and natural systems. "Diverse systems are effective because diversity creates power." The idea of "system" is key to understanding the role of diversity. . Any system (social or natural) is composed of a set of interdepen- dent parts that interact to carry out a purpose. The Food Systems course reveals that much of the value of diversity stems from the way in which divenity creates (a) effectiveness and (b) stability. Systems characterized by a greater diversity of parts are more effective in accomplishing their purposes and more stable and sustainable over time. In a diverse system, each part performs three important functions: Outputs Each produces outputs in the form of materials or energy that are necessary inputs for other parts of the sys- tem. Without these inputs, the other parts can't perform functions required of them. Redundancy The functions of various parts often overlap, creating duplications that prevent the failure of the entire sys- tem if a single component should fail. Checks and Balances Each acts to check the expansion and domination of any single part to disruptive levels, maintain- ing a balance among the parts. "It is vital that we emphasize and cultivate strengths inherent in diversity, create - the knowledge, understanding, and skills needed to weave diverse elements of our social natural ecology into cohesive, inclusive, sustainable communities." An example of the power inherent in diversity is provided by a section of the
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Evans2 - 1 REPRINTED WI!l"H PERMISSION L by Emmit B Evans...

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