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posted by martyb on Tuesday January 11, @04:47PM   Printer-friendly
from the Betteridge-says-"No" dept.

Can We Feed Billions of Ourselves Without Wrecking the Planet?

We are now producing more food more efficiently than ever, and there is plenty to go around for a human population of 7 billion. But it is coming at a drastic cost in environmental degradation, and the bounty is not reaching many people.

Sustainable Food Production, a new Earth Institute primer from Columbia University Press, explores how modern agriculture can be made more environmentally benign, and economically just. With population going to maybe 10 billion within 30 years, the time to start is now, the authors say.

The lead author is ecologist Shahid Naeem, director of the Earth Institute for Environmental Sustainability. He coauthored the book with former Columbia colleagues Suzanne Lipton and Tiff van Huysen.

This is an interesting interview with the author. Do you agree (or disagree) with his conclusions?

Columbia Climate School

[Also Covered By]: Phys.org


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  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @05:14PM (21 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @05:14PM (#1211818)

    The population growth is already slowing. Many, many large countries are below replacement level or soon will be. This is not a problem, except maybe in black Africa. Don't worry about the overpopulation problem because it is solving itself.

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  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @07:36PM (12 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @07:36PM (#1211871)

    Why is this modded flamebait? Because I mentioned the taboo topic of black Africa? Facts are facts, and these are easily checked:

    Growth in population (not population itself, mind you):
    https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/population-growth-by-world-region-the-annual-change-of-the-population?time=1950..2085&country=OWID_WRL~Africa~Asia~Europe~Northern+America~Latin+America+and+the+Caribbean~Oceania [ourworldindata.org]

    Look for when a region's growth curve falls to zero and becomes zero. (Projections, except for Europe!)

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @07:39PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @07:39PM (#1211872)

      Edit: "becomes negative"

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by FatPhil on Tuesday January 11, @07:43PM (9 children)

      Your link makes no mention of "black Africa", so does not support your initial claim. I know a white missionary (inlaws of a friend, yes, I'm trying to distance myself) in Africa who has 7 children, so from my perspective, white Africa looks worse!
      --
      I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
      • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @08:39PM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @08:39PM (#1211909)

        I knew somebody like you would grasp at any straw he could to try to "debunk me", so I tediously had to find some links that you won't read because they just back up what is common knowledge:

        https://blogs.worldbank.org/africacan/7-facts-about-population-in-sub-saharan-africa [worldbank.org]
        https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12264271/ [nih.gov]

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @10:04PM (2 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @10:04PM (#1211941)

          You just have to say Africa, adding black makes you look racist and given the topic doubly so. You can rage about the standards of polite society or be flexible and adapt to changing standards. If you refuse to change then don't whine when people say you sound racist.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @05:15PM (1 child)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @05:15PM (#1212163)

            N. African groups are not predominately black. MENA is a real, separate demographic.

            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday January 17, @06:28AM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 17, @06:28AM (#1213343) Journal
              North African groups are another high population growth rate population.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @11:21PM (4 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @11:21PM (#1211962)

        Different AC, but "Black Africa" is a common geographical term, although falling in usage, used to refer to slightly differing regions located on the continent of Africa. White Africa is an uncommonly used geographical term referring to slightly differing regions on the northern part of the continent of Africa. It doesn't refer to the actual races of direct subpopulations located across Africa. It is both possible and common to be a white, Black African and to be a black, White African. However, confusion such as this is one of the reasons why it is falling out of common usage.

        • (Score: 2) by gawdonblue on Wednesday January 12, @02:23AM (3 children)

          by gawdonblue (412) on Wednesday January 12, @02:23AM (#1211999)

          So "White Africa" is where the Sahara is? More of a light-yellow Africa from my experience.
          And "Black Africa" is the jungly bit? Maybe dark-green Africa. Or is it the savannah part? Then light-green Africa.
          Racists aren't really racist, they just see colour as black-and-white.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @04:01AM (2 children)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @04:01AM (#1212022)

            "Black Africa" and "White Africa" originally came from an explored/unexplored (dark/light) dichotomy, mostly limited by the distance from Europe. That historical definition rooted in exploration is why places like Sudan and the Nile's tributaries are commonly excluded from Black Africa but colonized areas on the southern coast are usually not. It wasn't until later that the usage became more coarse and vulgar to a more racial division instead of a geographical one. Such racial loading (including usage out of South Africa and counter usage in the Middle East) leading to confusion is why the terms have been replaced, but even their replacements carry some historical baggage in use.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @04:36AM (1 child)

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @04:36AM (#1212031)

              Had that parenthetical backwards. Unexplored is dark or black and explored is light or white. That is where phrases like "darkest Africa" or "Dark Continent" come from in contrast to "light of civilization" or "bring/shed light" for the opposite.

              • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Monday January 17, @08:10AM

                So, during which century did this term decay into referring to absolutely nothing? Were you trying to support the original AC's use of the term, or taking another swipe at it, it's not clear?
                --
                I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday January 12, @01:43AM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 12, @01:43AM (#1211988) Journal
      For starters, overpopulation in Africa is not just a black thing. The Muslim north also has high population growth.

      As an aside, I think overpopulation will exhibit a strong racial component in the latter half of this century when Africa becomes pretty much the only source of population growth. My take as I've said before is that everyone can make it to a developed world society, including the entirety of Africa. They're just starting from further behind.
  • (Score: 2) by legont on Tuesday January 11, @11:41PM (7 children)

    by legont (4179) on Tuesday January 11, @11:41PM (#1211965)

    The problem here is that modern capitalism can't survive without exponential population grows. That's why we have "our precious children" mantra drilled in day and night and countless laws that support population grows such as local school taxes.
    No matter how much everybody wants to avoid this, population question comes down to economy model question. Do we want communism? Any other *ism? It can't be capitalism, sorry.
    So, stop avoiding the issue and discuss economy instead of stupid green planet crap which just makes the argument weaker.

    Back to the question, we sure can feed a few orders of magnitude more people. Using feed, not food. There is not enough food already even for 10% of the population. No, chicken nuggets is not food. 90% of shit sold in supermarkets is not food. Veggie burger is not food. It's all just feed.

    Now, if you ask me I'd say that we should go with socialism and reduce the population by 90% in the process. Not that I care as I am old and have no children.

    --
    "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
    • (Score: 2, Touché) by khallow on Wednesday January 12, @02:02AM (2 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 12, @02:02AM (#1211990) Journal

      The problem here is that modern capitalism can't survive without exponential population grows. That's why we have "our precious children" mantra drilled in day and night and countless laws that support population grows such as local school taxes.

      The problem is merely that you think that is so. What does the "our precious children" or those "countless laws" have to do with private ownership of capital? Nothing.

      The non sequituring continues. Local school taxes have nothing to do with exponential population growth. It's just a straight forward funding of education by taxes which works under a great variety of scenarios. It works just as well in a declining population model as in an exponentially growing one.

      I would suggest as an example of non-capitalist policies that depend on exponential population growth are pension funds (and similar) that can only be supported with a high number of people paying into the system for the people taking out of the system. It's common that these pension funds get into trouble because they promise too much and can't be fully funded by newer participants. The classic US examples would be US Social Security, CalPERS, various company pensions that were drained or underfunded, and Medicare). Some have such unhealthy funding that they really aren't viable as presently constituted without insane levels of population growth (Medicare).

      But in all those cases, the simple solution to bring them in line with funding and real world lack of population growth, is to cut benefits (or in some of the private cases, get the businesses to pony up the amounts that the fund is due).

      None of that is a capitalism problem.

      No matter how much everybody wants to avoid this, population question comes down to economy model question. Do we want communism? Any other *ism? It can't be capitalism, sorry. So, stop avoiding the issue and discuss economy instead of stupid green planet crap which just makes the argument weaker.

      Of course, we don't want communism. The last half century proved that. And sorry, you don't have anything other than capitalism. Capitalism works even in a negative population growth situation.

      Back to the question, we sure can feed a few orders of magnitude more people. Using feed, not food. There is not enough food already even for 10% of the population. No, chicken nuggets is not food. 90% of shit sold in supermarkets is not food. Veggie burger is not food. It's all just feed.

      Sorry no. 100% of the population is fed with food. Chicken nuggets amd veggie burgers are indeed food. Semantics doesn't change that.

      Now, if you ask me I'd say that we should go with socialism and reduce the population by 90% in the process. Not that I care as I am old and have no children.

      I say we go with capitalism instead and just not have the need to reduce anything!

      • (Score: 2) by legont on Thursday January 13, @11:56PM (1 child)

        by legont (4179) on Thursday January 13, @11:56PM (#1212545)

        Oh, come on, the whole point of precious children policies is to generate free labor for the capital. Anybody who has a child in the US simply gives $500,000 donation to the capital. However, it's not enough so local authorities force everybody - child free or not - pay more.

        I do give a large credit to liberals here though as any women liberation reduces population. Girls are not stupid and don't want this burden. They do however want security of male's income stream. Once this dependence is broken, no free children for you, my dear business owners.

        --
        "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday January 17, @03:40PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 17, @03:40PM (#1213396) Journal

          Oh, come on, the whole point of precious children policies is to generate free labor for the capital.

          I think rather it's a standard FUD tactic to scare voters. There's this scary danger to your kids, so we have to do this politically advantageous (for me) thing. I doubt "free labor for the capital" (whatever that is supposed to mean) even registers in these decisions.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday January 12, @02:22AM (3 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 12, @02:22AM (#1211998) Journal
      On the feed versus food issue, it's worth remembering that this is a classist viewpoint: the elite eat food, the hoi polloi eat feed. But if we look at the history of food, we see evolution of this division over time with what was previously considered "feed" to food and vice versa. For example, meat, especially of the exotic sort, was considered to be elite food, even some weird and very gamey stuff that we wouldn't touch today. Those chicken nuggets would be considered very fancy meat. It's only their cheapness and widespread availability that has reduced them to your category of "feed".

      For another example, lobster [knowledgenuts.com] at one time was considered a poverty food. Now, it's a luxury food. All due to marketing - and not eating it every day.

      For a final example, dishes with considerable starches (pasta, maize, rice, bread, etc) were formerly considered poverty food. But they moved to the elite side with better seasoning and cooking techniques.

      The problem here is that food versus feed really is a matter of presentation/marketing and perhaps preparation/seasoning not of nutrition.
      • (Score: 2) by legont on Thursday January 13, @11:45PM (2 children)

        by legont (4179) on Thursday January 13, @11:45PM (#1212544)

        I beg to differ.

        Chicken nuggets have no chicken inside so they are definitely feed.
        Lobster is junk as it's a bottom feeder and therefore dangerous. Similarly tuna is feed as well as salmon. There were revolts during the Great Depression when people wanted steaks but were fed salmon and tuna. The propaganda changed it but it did not change the nature of the food. After all, Bill Gates eats greasy burgers with Buffet.
        Don't even start me on American Italian. It's pretty much all feed. The reason is that American starches are very bad ever since they invented hands free bread.

        So my point is that while feed moves up and down the hype ladder, the nature does not change much. Also, while some feed becomes expensive, no food ever became cheap. Anyway, one is still better off with a steak, oven baked bread and fresh garden veggies. They, however, are not available for 90% of the population and never will be unless we reduce the pressure.

        --
        "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday January 14, @05:36AM (1 child)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 14, @05:36AM (#1212616) Journal

          Also, while some feed becomes expensive, no food ever became cheap.

          Counterexample: meat.