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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 JoeMerchant on Friday January 14, @03:07PM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday January 14, @03:07PM (#1212674)

    The crops are tens of miles away from the swamps they are keeping innundated year round, the well established maximal yield minimal cost tomato growing method is called flood-runoff irrigation, like the trees but on a shorter timescale, the roots of the tomatoes need to alternate between wet and dry. It's the same for almost all crops, particularly the oranges - they use "microdrip" irrigation which flows hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per acre per day from the deep potable water aquifer up into the roots of the trees where it then drains off through the surface sands into the creeks, rivers, and swamps.

    Before the advent of irrigated agriculture, the swamps dried on an annual cycle with the rains. Now crops are grown during the dry season with deep aquifer pumped water, dozens of farms across tens of thousands of acres. When it was a few cattle ranchers tapping the naturally flowing aquifer to make new springs for the cattle to drink from, the streamflow could handle it without overly wetting the swamps during the dry season, but today it's a completely new hydrodynamic, and that kind of basic resource shift is like pushing the reset button on the ecosystem. We're back from a stable, evolved, diverse community of mutually beneficial species to an invasion of a few pioneer species that can handle the new environment. Give them a few million years and they will evolve to work in the new system, but in the meantime the pioneers are going to be roughing it in a relatively very non-diverse community of species.

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