Looking to the Future (agriculture)

Introduction

There are 2 different views on how to handle the future

i) apocalyptic environmentalism, ie use ecological knowledge to get smaller

"...The belief that unless mankind drastically reduces consumption and limits population, it will ravage global eco-systems......if we continue taking more than the Earth can give......the unavoidable result will be devastation on a global scale..."

Charles C Mann 2018

This focuses on ecosystem conservation, with a community focus

ii) techno-optimism, ie human ingenuity via technical innovations will produce a way out of our predicament, like the Green Revolution in the 1960s with a combination of high yielding crop varieties and agronomic techniques to increase the global grain harvest which saved millions of deaths from hunger.

"...even though the global population in 2050 will be just 25% higher than it is now,......projections claim that farmers will have to boost food output by 52 to 100%. The main reason is that increased affluence..."

Charles C Mann 2018

Increased affluence results in increased demand for animal products, such as cheese, dairy, fish, and especially meat - and growing feed for animals requires much more land, water, and energy and producing food simply by growing and eating plants

This focus is on calories per hectare, ie productivity

Most strategies used successfully in the Green Revolution (1960s) are no longer applicable, eg

- using more land (most arable land is in use)

- use of fertiliser (overuse of fertiliser has caused environmental problems like polluting rivers, lakes, oceans and air

"...about 40% of the fertiliser applied in the past 60 years was not absorbed by plants. Instead, it washed away into rivers or seeped into the air in the form of nitrous oxides. Fertiliser flushed into the water still fertilises: it boosts the growth of algae, weeds, and other aquatic organisms. When these die, they fall to the floor of the river, lake, or ocean, where microbes consume their remains. So rapidly do the microbes grow on the manna of dead algae and weeds that their respiration drains oxygen from the lower depths, killing off most other life......rising into the air, nitrous oxide from fertilisers is a major source of pollution. High in the stratosphere, it combines with and neutralises the planet's ozone, which guards life of the surface by blocking cancer-causing ultraviolet rays..."

Charles C Mann 2018)

- expanding irrigation (this is limited)

- industrial agriculture (its impact on the living nature of soil, ie

"...The community of soil organisms, the dynamic relationships when plant roots and the earth around them, and the physical structure of humus, which is binding together the soil particles in airy crumbs that hold water instead of letting it run through..."

Charles C Mann 2018

NB

"...about a third of food produced for human consumption is currently lost or wasted globally..."

UN's FAO has quoted by Leila Abboud 2019

In summary

"...use less land, waste less water, stop pouring chemicals into both..."

Charles C Mann 2018

 

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