Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Feeding the world without destroying it.

The University of Minnesota just put out a new video on one of the greatest ecological issues of our times: Agriculture.

In the video 'Big Question: Feast or famine?' the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment talks about rising populations, growing land area for agricultural production and gives a generally rousing call to action for agronomists, policy makers and farmers.

We are currently experiencing the 6th great extinction of the world and agriculture is playing a central role. It is important to make sure that agriculture is on the table in talks about how to solve the climate crises and the crises of ecological destruction. However, I'd like to point out a mistake they making in this question: You might remember from statistics class that correlation does not imply causation. This conversation points out a correlation between population growth and ecological decline as a central part of the argument. This correlation does not mean that population growth causes the ecological decline. If you look at the Gapminder Graph of countries with the highest GHG emissions you will see that the rate of population growth of these places is decreasing while the ecological impacts of those populations is increasing. The problems that we need to address are hidden behind this veil of misinterpreted data.

Armed with this knowledge we might start looking for real solutions to the problem. We need radical transformations of the way we interact with the natural world. Rather than looking at the staggering numbers of people being born every day into poverty and despair as the problem we should spread the resources equitably to all those people as a solution. We should also find a way to include the rest of the species in our equitable distribution.

We need radical shifts of economic paradigms e.g. ecological debt reparations where wealthy nations and multinational corporations have to pay for the damage they have caused.

If you are not familiar with Gapminder organization recommend checking them out and watching Prof. Hans Roslings talks on TED.com. See FAO STAT for the populations and Our √©cological footprint: reducing human impact on the earth By Mathis Wackernagel, William E. Rees for the rest.

Check out 350.org to help come up with real solutions.


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