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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

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  • (Score: 2) by Michael on Wednesday January 12, @08:57AM

    by Michael (7157) on Wednesday January 12, @08:57AM (#1212055)

    The shoddy nonsense popular in the usa is cultural. It seems narrow minded to assume that third worlders with access to first world options would automatically become as dumb as many Americans. Who is to say they won't become as parsimonious as many Swedes? (Apart from, say, anthropologists in 1890.) Taking the most extreme example of how far you can propagandise a population into an obsession with expressing status through wastefulness as the baseline seems like a mistake.

    And lets say 'giving them wealth' was literally that - rather than the systemic changes to international finance and foreign relations it would probably be achieved by - there's no reason that wealth has to be currency. It might just as well be materiel and training to start up a factory making foamed glass insulation bricks or heat pumps.

    Human beings, as you alluded to, do share common drives. What they don't all share is common expressions of those drives, and even when they do it is amenable to change (or decays away on its own if only you stop putting immense effort indoctrinating everyone to conform). Humans want whatever gives them physical safety and comfort, social status, emotional freedom etc. That can look a lot of different ways, and doesn't have to be a carbon copy of the fictionalised golden days of any specific culture.

    If having the highest energy efficiency on the block is seen as the thing to squabble over, instead of the car with the highest BHP or lawn with the neatest monoculture, that's what a society will automatically organise to pursue. It can't not, because that's what it fundamentally is. It may be quite true that anyone lifted from grinding poverty would immediately resort to pointless greed and gloating. Probably not to the extent you seem to think, but lets say they come from a culture where that's seen as acceptable without having to propagandise it into them.

    People are capable of making anything into an excuse for that sort of behaviour. Look at specialised subcultures from your own country if you're not familiar with foreign places. Compare the affect, tone and whatever emotional state proxies you favour between a drag racer and an eco-nut when lording their one over the other people who are nuts about that thing. As examples of primate social behaviour they're near indistinguishable, just different styles of the same thing.

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