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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: 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.
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  • (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.