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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) by khallow on Thursday January 13, @03:16AM (6 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 13, @03:16AM (#1212303) Journal

    CO2 emissions is just the big one that has been semi-quantified. What it's really representing is externalized costs.

    Lose the big one and you've lost the argument. The rest of those externalities can be mitigated at the source. And the US has done a good job of reducing those externalities.

    Both should be factored into the cost of operations, and if that makes a business unprofitable- then it shouldn't be run, because in the bigger picture it is unsustainable, even if it will turn in big quarterly bonuses for a year or 30.

    Unless, of course, it is the externality that should be disregarded. Just because you think an externality is a big deal, doesn't mean the rest of us should.

  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday January 13, @02:25PM (5 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday January 13, @02:25PM (#1212409)

    the US has done a good job of reducing those externalities.

    Last I checked, every river and stream in the greater Houston area (and much of the Texas coast from Galveston into Louisiana) has a fish eating ban due to mercury toxicity. Birds and other predators of course don't respect the ban, so they get mercury poisoning - it has been going on so long that the top level predators aren't dying of it anymore, they're mostly already dead in those areas.

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    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday January 14, @04:59AM (4 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 14, @04:59AM (#1212610) Journal
      Last you checked... is mercury released over the past century somehow nicer than mercury released now? I'll just note that it takes a long time for environmentally mobile mercury to get locked up. In the meantime, it's going to kill birds for a long time to come.
      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday January 14, @02:29PM (3 children)

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday January 14, @02:29PM (#1212667)

        Until population gets too big, the solution to pollution really is dilution. The bottom of the Miami river is not being dredged and is only open to shallow draft ships because of all the toxic waste locked up under the silt. The reason mercury is circulating in the environment is because we dug it up and released it. It does re-bury itself, slowly. Our switch from coal to natural gas has dramatically reduced mercury emissions, but we're still far from "doing a great job" about taking care of the environment. 2006 Houston was blanketing the town in soot and all kinds of crap from the fuel refinery that got on-shored after the offshore platforms got wiped by Katrina/Rita. All that crap was being dumped in the Gulf when the offshore refineries were running. It's well known among local anglers that snapper and other species of desirable food fish gather at the drill sites, but when you catch them there you can literally taste the crude oil in the meat.

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        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday January 15, @01:30PM (2 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday January 15, @01:30PM (#1212904) Journal

          Our switch from coal to natural gas has dramatically reduced mercury emissions, but we're still far from "doing a great job" about taking care of the environment.

          Ok, you just complained about mercury as an example of how the US wasn't doing a great job about taking care of the environment and now, we see it wasn't a good example.

          2006 Houston was blanketing the town in soot and all kinds of crap from the fuel refinery that got on-shored after the offshore platforms got wiped by Katrina/Rita.

          How often do emergencies like Katrina and Rita happen to the oil industry? Sorry, just because an emergency happened doesn't mean that the US isn't taking care of its environment.

          It's well known among local anglers that snapper and other species of desirable food fish gather at the drill sites, but when you catch them there you can literally taste the crude oil in the meat.

          Maybe shouldn't do that then.

          • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Sunday January 16, @05:59PM (1 child)

            by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday January 16, @05:59PM (#1213176)

            the US wasn't doing a great job about taking care of the environment and now, we see it wasn't a good example.

            Depends on your definition of "great job" better than flaming rivers and 100% of lakes 100% dead from acid rain, yeah, we're beating that standard - now.

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