The Five Step Solution to Feed Our Future Population: Is it Effective?
Our population is expected to reach at least 9 billion people just in the next 30 years. As our population grows, so does the necessity for food. However, we might be growing, but our world has limited space. You might be wondering, how are we going to be able to feed all of these people?
Agriculture (farming) is one of the greatest contributors to global warming. The amount of greenhouses gasses emitted are unrivaled by any other global warming contributor. Farming and the expansion of farms also contributesto deforestation, destroyed organisms and their habitats. The problem now isn’t just the suspected increase of population. The rising economic prosperity tends to create people being introduced to diets with richer foods, often consisting of more meat, eggs and dairy. Since more of each of these is needed, more crops are needed to feed the animals which produce these food items. At the current rate of this succession, and richer diets, crop production will need to at least be doubled by 2050.
When trying to come up with solutions, a lot of people stick to what they think is right, and that is usually their idea. This happens in most arguments, not just within the farming community. However, within the farming community, standard farming/trading is usually set against local and organic farms. “Those who favor conventional agriculture talk about how modern mechanization, irrigation, fertilizers, and improved genetics can increase yields to meet demand. And they’re right. Meanwhile proponents of local and organic farms counter that the world’s small farmers could increase yields plenty---by adopting techniques that improve fertility without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. They’re right too,” says Jonothon Foley of National Geographic.
So what can be done? We have two different sides, and within those sides, communities who only think that they’re right and have no reason to look for a solution for environmental problems. Their main focus is producing the biggest yield that they can..
And they will.
A group of scientists from around the globe including Jonothon Foley of National Geographic have devised a plan that consists of five major steps: freezing our agricultural footprint, growing more on the farms we have, using resources more efficiently, shifting diets, and reducing waste. As to how effective the proposed plan would be, the benefits outweigh the costs:
I. Freezing our Agricultural Footprint
Land such as prairies, the Amazon rainforest, and other essential parts of nature have been cleared in order to farm, and have livestock. However, we as a society, across the world, have already took too much from nature. We have to stop plowing down the land, and stick with what we already have. Deforestation has become a major problem, and keeping to what we have already taken from nature will help to reduce the amount of deforestation happening.
This is very true; deforestation has become a popular solution for farmers and governments needing more land. It’s often the first solution as well.
The sad reality is is that there are more human owned land/human constructed properties then there is left of nature. As population numbers increase, its most likely that the undeveloped lands will decrease, further contributing to global warming and deforestation.
II. Growing More on the Farms we Already Have
The green revolution produced larger quantities of crops, but the cost was the environment. Large amounts of pesticides, and fertilizers with chemical bases were enforced in order for such plentiful harvests. Too much water use was also a common occurrence. Now, the world has less productive farmlands. The five-step plan claims that now we can turn our main focus on trying to increase the amount of yielding in farming crops. Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe are key places for this to begin happening, since they have gaps between the current practices used for yielding crops, and those that use any sort of improved farming techniques. Higher tech and more exact farming methods applied in these cares, along with adding any method’s that organic farmers use, would mean that the focus can be on these lesser producing agricultural fields with an aim of boosting their yielding rate instead of continuously farming new land, and contributing further to deforestation.
Creating a goal of solely using and trying to increase the fertility of the less productive farmlands could be a game changer in the world of deforestation. Governments across the world like to take, and never give back. This is a chance for them to do something right and finally focus their attention on healing land and investing the time and money used for deforestation into these lands. Not only does this help to keep forests and habitats safe, but it also means that land’s already owned can be better taken care of, and no land will go to waste. With time andcareful attention, these lands can heal and produce just as many crops as the ones already in use, providing more food for the world’s growing population.
III. Using Our Resources More Efficiently
As our world advances, methods of increasing crop production while also limiting environmental impacts have already been in use. The green revolution was not an example of that since it used way more resources than it needed in order to produce crops, which contributed to negative environmental impacts with the harmful pesticides and chemical fertilizers used. Now, commercial farming is smarter than it was. Technology like tractors that have been computerized and homemade fertilizers in relations to soil conditions in order to reduce chemical runoff.
Organic farmers can implement more efficient practices as well. The usage of cover crops, mulch, and compost improves the quality of the soil that is used. It also helps to conserve water and build up any nutrients needed for the crops to grow. Subsurface drip irrigation, is a system that saves water, produces more plentiful harvests (no underwatering or overwatering), no evaporating water on the surface, and less occurrences of any diseases and weeds. The subsurface drip irrigation has been applied in organic farming in order to replace other impractical and wasteful water irrigation systems.
Investing in smart practices for the unused, pre-owned lands, and lands already in use, means that the health of the land is almost guaranteed, at least through human-made mistakes. Land health will be healthy, and will stay healthy, therefore providing healthy crops. Less bad yielding crops means that crop production will improve and enough food will be able to be produced for 9 billion people.
IV. Shifting Diets
Increasing the amount of food that is grown and ends up in human’s stomachs instead of focusing on livestock would help to feed 9-10 billion people in 2050.
The calories in the crops given to livestock is not equally, or even returned, in mass. Research shows that per 100 calories per grains we feed to livestock, the new calories we get back are only 40 calories in milk, 22 calories in eggs, 12 in chicken, 10 in pork, and 3 in beef. Both finding a more efficient way to grow meat and/or switching to less meat-based diets would help to solve the problems of this inequality between food to food.
Developing countries are already less likely to have meat heavy diets; the focus on implementing these methods can be on meat heavy countries. Using less crops for biofuels can also help to increase the amount of crops that go into peoples' stomachs.
Graph shows the percentage of crops that go towards each thing. The “+ other” could be things like other industrial products besides biofuels.
Focusing the crop use we give to livestock can instead be more focused on feeding humans, and also heading away from rich diets that include a lot of livestock products. This will help to reduce the environmental impacts from the meat industries. For example, a cow needs a lot of food and water. When a cow is killed, it is packaged and taken into a truck to another site for meat production (the truck uses fuel). Plastic packaging is used to wrap up the meat, and water is used with the meat to keep it fresh. After this stage, another truck distributes (using more fuel) the packaged meat to restaurants. Restaurants will usually use even more water and other sources to prepare and cook the meat. All the packaging goes into the trash as well. Let’s also not forget that these trucks go two ways, so may need multiple fuel restocks.
V. Reducing Waste
Finally, the reduction of food that goes to waste. It is estimated that 25% of the world’s total calories and 50% of the total food weight worldwide aren’t consumed, either due to food waste or because they’re lost. Richer countries have more waste in places like homes, restaurants and supermarkets. Poorer countries have food lost between farmer and market, often due to insufficient packaging and transportation, or an unwillingness to buy the food. If developed countries take steps such as serving smaller portions of food (only taking what you think you can eat first, and go back for little by little later if you’re still hungry), eating leftovers (check out Netflix’s Best Leftover’s Ever! If available to you, use it for inspiration if you’re tired of eating the same leftovers day after day), and talking to cafeterias, restaurants and food-markets to encourage them to use less waste.
Reducing waste is a step that you as an individual can take. As said above, trying to find ways to make leftovers more interesting, and only taking what you think you can finish (or less) is an effective strategy. You can usually go back for more. Taking food home you ordered at a restaurant is important too. If you don’t like what you got, take it home and try to make it into something you would eat if you can. If you are out with someone, see if they might like it.
This 5 step plan is a well-thought-out arrangement to reduce food waste and contribute to a society that focuses on improving what we already have instead of creating and taking more from nature. The population is expected to increase by 35% by 2050, and this plan helps to double the amount of agriculture production and cut down on negative environmental impacts that come from agricultural farming. There will be people who won’t like the proposal of this new mindset. There are still some people who unfortunately don’t believe in climate change. The world always wants more, and is never satisfied with what it has. In this case, it just means more agriculture and more yielding crops, with no regard to its environmental impact. This 5-step plan, however, has the same goal in mind, while focusing on environmental impacts. Be thoughtful about your next move, especially when shopping, because as shown in this 5-step plan, the choices we make through something as simple as food impact our very near future.
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