Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

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


Original Submission

 
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Michael on Tuesday January 11, @05:28PM (3 children)

    by Michael (7157) on Tuesday January 11, @05:28PM (#1211822)

    I have no doubt that large scale agriculture can be made significantly more efficient.

    The first priority for most agriculture is profit, but optimising for that only gives you physical efficiency to the limited extent for which economics maps onto how the physical world empirically works. Small and medium scale demonstrations abound to show that higher yields are achievable with more sophisticated (and usually more labour intensive) systems than the standard monoculture on petrochemical life support approach.

    Taking farming as the product of bending natural systems such as plants or rainfall to better support human needs, you first ask which needs, and then you look at which natural systems are useful and amenable to that manipulation.

    Defining human needs as quarterly profit for a tiny fraction of the population, and concentrating on a handful of species which work best as traded futures is obviously going to give you a shitty system.

    Starting Score:    1  point
    Moderation   +2  
       Insightful=3, Overrated=1, Total=4
    Extra 'Insightful' Modifier   0  
    Karma-Bonus Modifier   +1  

    Total Score:   4  
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by bart9h on Tuesday January 11, @07:15PM

    by bart9h (767) on Tuesday January 11, @07:15PM (#1211864)

    > The first priority for most agriculture is profit, but optimising for that only gives you physical efficiency to the limited extent for which economics maps onto how the physical world empirically works.

    One problem is that optimizing for profit allows for eventually dumping all your production into the landfill because transport+taxes price is higher than what you could sell it for.

    It also makes retailers throw away unsold (usually uglier or about-to-bad) products, because giving it away or selling for too lower a price is detrimental to the profits.

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @10:25PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @10:25PM (#1211949)

    For-profit agriculture, particularly in America, feeds countries the world over. Any time someone has tried to substitute "for-profit agriculture" with something else, shortages and starvation was a predictable result. See Soviet Union (whom we sent shipments of grain to as aid), see Mao's China. I read an article a couple years back about how the new leftist Sri Lankan government made a demand that they would go almost totally organic in their farms, but the yields were of course much lower than before, and this resulted in food shortages.

  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday January 14, @07:26PM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 14, @07:26PM (#1212742) Journal
    The real gains IMHO are in the developing world which still has a fair bit of primitive agriculture which can improve greatly by using better practices.