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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, Spam) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @08:48PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @08:48PM (#1211914)

    Stop feeding and sharing technology with non-whites and let them starve and die until they get back in line with their natural abilities. These subspecies should have been deprecated a long time ago. They are obsolete. Only the Jew brainwashing of the superstitious White Man has kept nature from taking it's rightful course.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @10:08PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @10:08PM (#1211945)

      Nazis gotta Nazi! You're a gross person.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @09:21PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @09:21PM (#1211924)

    A human being needs equivalent of some 350 kg of grain a year: about 100 kg directly, as bread and cereals, plus about 70 kg of meat, say pork (feed conversion efficiency 1:3).
    Rice produces 7 tonnes per hectare per year, corn 8-11, sago 24 (!). Let's do the calculation for rice, for a nice round result.
    For 10 billion people we would need 10,000,000,000 * 350 / 7,000 = 500,000,000 hectares.

    Now look here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arable_land [wikipedia.org]
    "According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in 2013, the world's arable land amounted to 1.407 billion hectares, out of a total of 4.924 billion hectares of land used for agriculture.[7]"

    Compare the 1.407 billion and/or 4.924 billion to 500,000,000 aka 0.5 billion, and understand that alarmism is built on your gullibility and ignorance. The only science in it, is the science of propaganda.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @12:18AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @12:18AM (#1211974)

      Is your name by chance Mike?
      https://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/b/back_of_the_envelope.asp [cartoonstock.com]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @03:51PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @03:51PM (#1212137)

      OK, kids. This is why, when you want to do back-of-the-envelope type stuff, if helps to understand the assumptions behind your simplified mathematical model.

      First, pigs don't thrive on diets of rice. They want protein in their diets too, and not just the kind of protein present in rice. So right there, that substitution is wrong. They're omnivores. Don't believe me? Try feeding a pig just rice (or corn, or wheat) and see how it grows. Is there starch in their diet? Sure! But it's not what it looks like.

      Second, not all arable land is fungible. But sure, you want to wave your hands about rice here and corn there, whatever.

      Third, even if you could have wall-to-wall rice, your production numbers are poorly chosen. You're talking heavily supplemented returns in a given season without regard to crop rotation, fallow periods or sustainability. Not all land is equally productive, not all climates are equally friendly and not all methods are equally practical everywhere. They grow rice in the Himalayas, you know - want to guess what their yields are like? Pro tip: not the same as around the lower reaches of Vietnam.

      And even with all of this, we still haven't addressed the question of whether that would be a complete diet (hah ... nope).

      Go back, try again.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @05:14PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @05:14PM (#1212162)

        Sonny, your trained skills in empty blabbing do not mean pig shit. Produce numbers, or shut up.
        BTW, brazen lying is bad for your soul. https://mysrf.org/pdf/pdf_swine/s1.pdf [mysrf.org]

        Go back, try again.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, @05:39PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, @05:39PM (#1212447)

          All right, let's do this. Straight from the first paragraph of the introduction section of your linked PDF.

          Ready? Got your coffee in your comfy gaming seat? Good!

          "Therefore, hog rations are made up primarily of farm-grown grains, plus a protein supplement that includes vitamins and minerals."

          Did you get that? PROTEIN SUPPLEMENT. Because grains don't cut it. The cheap option can be soybeans (up to a point - they still need other top-ups over that) but please note that the statement: "not just the kind of protein present in rice" is specifically, factually correct and relevant.

          Also, absolutely nothing in that PDF has any bearing on the other points about fallowing, crop rotations (unless you're rotating with soybeans - an agronomic nightmare because rice and soy have very different needs) or sustainable sources of soil amendments. In fact, it doesn't even mention rice a whole bunch.

          Now, did you have any relevant PDFs to share, or just more stuff that you don't even understand? Oh, wait, you wanted numbers. Right, you quote 7 tons of rice per hectare (roughly 2.5t/acre) but here's the problem: if you rotate your crop on a one-in, one-out basis (no fallow periods for recovery, even) that reduces in the longer term to 3.5t/ha. Um, oops. But even then we're working with Borlaug-style boosted yields. If you ignore a heavy NPK insert, you're looking at more like 1t/acre/year, or around 2.5t/ha/year - reduced by crop rotation to 1.25t/ha average. Yeah, Borlaug championed new hybrids but he also championed supercharging the nitrogen cycle (among others) by massive supplementation using techniques that are not what we call sustainable.

          Oops. Now all of a sudden your sustainable rice plan means we need to magic another one and a half billion arable hectares out of our asses. Or wilderness. Whichever.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @12:42AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @12:42AM (#1211979)

    As an engineering problem, sure, absolutely. No problem.

    Feed the whole world while maintaining the balance of terror underpinning capitalist class society? Can't be done.

    It won't matter after the nukes fly in a few years here anyway, not for another 1500 years.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @12:22PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @12:22PM (#1212081)

      Democratic-capitalist societies aren't the ones facing starvation, and never have been. It is always the failed states and Marxist utopias where people starving is the new normal.

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