Alex Johnson Lecture Series exploring land use issues

The organizers of the 2011 Alex Johnson lecture are inviting people to listen to soil scientist and Agriculture Canada researcher Henry Janzen.

Janzen's presentation, Listening to the land: From one century to the next, takes place on Thursday, Nov. 10, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Galt Museum and Archives. Jointly presented by the Lethbridge Historical Society, the University of Lethbridge, the Galt Museum and Archives and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, admission to the event is free.

Janzen has researched how our use of farmland is tied to changes in global ecosystems, and the many services they provide to human societies. This work requires a long and broad perspective, because ecosystems often change only slowly and subtly, and their responses span a long continuum of space and time.

"To use land more wisely, we will need to listen to its stories and its rhythms," says Janzen. "At the Lethbridge Research Centre, we have such listening places – plots established 100 years ago, soon after the land was first plowed, and maintained until today."

Janzen says that in the century ahead, we will have to learn again to live more kindly on the land.

"Human societies will face unsettling challenges: higher food demands, dwindling pools of freshwater, depleting reserves of cheap energy, loss of habitat for earth's biota, uncertain climates, among others," says Janzen. "Most or all of these are tied to our use of land – the thin veneer of earth, enfolding all its myriad inhabitants."

"My aim with the presentation is to retreat a century or so, then wander forward through the years pondering what these places tell us, in hopes of hearing hints of what is left to learn, not just for ourselves, but also for those who will live on the land once our own listening has ceased."

Raised on a farm near Coaldale, Janzen has studied at both the University of Lethbridge and University of Saskatchewan.