Fund Balance has been examining the Dead Zones occurring in coastal and estuarial zones over the last year. Their magnitude is striking. Their damage to ocean ecosystems, seafood supplies and business is severe. And they are connected to vital food supply economies in the Midwest. Nitrogenous run-off from fertilizer used in large scale agriculture binds up and removes oxygen in the Gulf.
Does it have to be one set of regional American economic interests over another? The answer is no. For example, research performed at Dauphin Island Sea Lab off the coast of Alabama develops “resource management strategies which will foster the wise stewardship of diminishing natural resources”. There are ways that such principles are being applied in the Midwest along the Mississippi river. The book, “From the Corn Belt to the Gulf” (Nassauer, Santelmann, and Scavia, eds., Resources for the Future Press), details how farmers and industrial agricultural operations could reduce the amount of nitrogen flowing into the Gulf of Mexico by 40 percent. And it is increasingly clear that by planting specific types of grasses and engineering buffers, grain production in the great American Midwest does not have to contract in order for coastal economies to thrive.
Scientists and policy-makers in the Midwest have been at the forefront on this work. The Science Museum of Minnesota has produced an excellent presentation on the Deadzone in the Gulf of Mexico. Fund Balance is working with policy-makers and bankers on our capital markets strategy for dealing with this issue in Washington, DC.