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Thread: Rising concerns about food security

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    The Queen Zuul's avatar
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    Default Rising concerns about food security

    Why is 'food security' sparking unrest?

    "The most urgent issue confronting humanity in the next 50 years is not climate change or the financial crisis, it is whether we can achieve and sustain such a harvest," said Julian Cribb, scientist and author of "The Coming Famine."

    ...

    "First, we need to recognize that investment in agriculture is defense spending," Cribb said Thursday. "If we want to prevent wars and refugees and a food crises, then we need to renew global investment in agriculture and agriculture science. Agriculture has been a low priority for the last quarter century."
    Your thoughts?

    Personally, I think Cribb is being a bit disingenuous. Certainly, famines are a huge problem and concern, especially for developing nations, but they don't exist in a vacuum. It's not just about investing in agriculture. There are massive amounts of food going to waste in developed nations, after all. It's far more about politics, money and food distribution than anything else.

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Actually all signs are the Green Revolution has come close to peaking now and we are consuming fresh water supplies very quickly. Famine will result if we don't have a second major change to agriculture and famine will mean wars.

    We need to be and can be a lot smarter in our farming.
    Last edited by What Exit?; 23 Sep 2010 at 10:30 AM.

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    Administrator CatInASuit's avatar
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    For Africa, a lot of it is about education. Being able to teach people the best way of keeping their land intact and being able to live off it. Modern agricultural methods tend to turn it into a desert.

    The other problem is not the rise in population, but the rise of an affluent population in places like China, India and Brazil. As they gain more money and their "middle class" grows, they want the same foods as eaten in other western countries. That is also going to make certain foods scarce.

    Famine is not just caused by hot weather, it is also caused by how humans treat the land they are on.
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Indeed, the hot weather is but a smallish part of the problem. India and Aussie are big worries. They are depleting their fossil water at an alarming rate and need to go to trickle feed watering. Well actually the whole world should but India and Aussie are the worst examples I can think of with a robust Agri-industry.

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    Quote Originally posted by What Exit? View post
    Actually all signs are the Green Revolution has come close to peaking now and we are consuming fresh water supplies very quickly. Famine will result if we don't have a second major change to agriculture and famine will mean wars.

    We need to be and can be a lot smarter in our farming.
    But what about the fact that developed nations are wasting and consuming far more food than they need? Do we really have too little food, or is it just in the wrong places?

    I agree that we need to be smarter, but that has a lot more to do with environmental concerns (which the article seems to be dismissing) than anything else. Trying to focus on agriculture in a vacuum isn't going to help matters. We need to look at the big picture of preserving arable land and fresh water. If climate change is going to be wiping out crops that, to me, is an indication that climate change is a BFD and not something to be dismissed in favor of agricultural research alone. It's all interconnected.

    As for the Green Revolution, it certainly saved a lot of lives; it also led to a lot of monocultures. Cereal crops for animal feed and biofuels aren't exactly the best way to keep people fed. Particularly since those aren't the healthiest ways for people to be eating anyway. So I do think there is a lot of room there for more agricultural breakthroughs, if they focused on things other than grains and took sustainability into account.
    So now they are just dirt-covered English people in fur pelts with credit cards.

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Well every real problem inter-relates doesn't it?

    You're absolutely right Zuul. Though crappy cereal diet sure beats no food. There is so much we can do so quickly to improve our land and water use and we still do virtually nothing. This is a agriculture, national defense and environmental concern all in one. Every nation should be concerned and should start working towards smarter management of these resources.

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    Quote Originally posted by What Exit? View post
    Well every real problem inter-relates doesn't it?

    You're absolutely right Zuul. Though crappy cereal diet sure beats no food. There is so much we can do so quickly to improve our land and water use and we still do virtually nothing. This is a agriculture, national defense and environmental concern all in one. Every nation should be concerned and should start working towards smarter management of these resources.
    Damnit, Jim. I want to argue, not agree with you. Yes, you're right.

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    I live and breath this stuff though. Between Scientific America and the 4 different Environmental groups I am a member in (one very active) I stay fairly up on all these issues and they do all inter-relate.

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    Quote Originally posted by What Exit? View post
    I live and breath this stuff though. Between Scientific America and the 4 different Environmental groups I am a member in (one very active) I stay fairly up on all these issues and they do all inter-relate.
    They do, but my issue is with the article/Cribb acting as if they don't. Claiming that money and climate change aren't important in relation to agriculture is ignoring the fact that, actually, they all end up being part of the same problem. The fact that it all has an impact on the rest was just utterly ignored in the article.

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Bad article indeed.

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    I have been saying for years and years that we need to collectively shift to a more agrarian lifestyle as a part of an overall solution. And now I keep reading about things like rooftop gardening and people keeping poultry and even goats in their backyard. It's a good thing.

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    Quote Originally posted by RabbitMage View post
    I have been saying for years and years that we need to collectively shift to a more agrarian lifestyle as a part of an overall solution. And now I keep reading about things like rooftop gardening and people keeping poultry and even goats in their backyard. It's a good thing.
    I hadn't really thought about it, although I have noticed this trend too, but how are these part of the solution? The people doing this gardening are usually people who have more than enough food/affluence anyway. I suppose they consume less bought in stuff but I really don't understand, considering the reason we can feed as many people as well as we can is largely down to large scale farming, mechanisation etc.

    By the way, that isn't to say I'm against it, just not sure how it matters to the over scheme of things food/environment-wise.

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    It's kind of a 'part of the bigger picture' thing. More people growing/raising their own food means that there's less of a demand for the mass produced stuff. There's less energy/pollution spend on its production, processing, and transit. If you have an outbreak of e.coli or something in the food supply (we've had this happen several times in the last few years) your home food supply is unlikely to be affected. Around here, we have plenty of people who are farming at home who are not affluent in any way, and their farming is helping to supplement their diet and/or income.

    Adapting farming techniques to be effective in developing countries can also help those people who don't have a safe or consistent food supply.

    Mind you, I'm not a fan of the mass production of food, especially not meat. I still eat it, but I'm looking forward to a day when I'm either raising my own or buying it from my neighbors. A big part of my stance on this has to do with ethics.

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    I just don't think it is possible to sustain 6 billion and rising without that mass production, correct me if I'm wrong though. I'm not really too sure either that there is less energy/pollution with small scale agriculture. Sure you save on transit but other energy is used in ways that I imagine could be less efficient than the mass produce model. It's probably about time that North Americans, Japanese and Europeans went back to eating seasonal foods instead of carting fresh produce half way around the world to sate the modern palate.

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    It is impossible to feed 6 billion people without mass production actually. So either we really clamp down on reproduction and begin to dwindle in numbers or we find better ways of mass producing food. This means planting a tree or shrub barrier around fields to reduce topsoil wind blown loss. This means drip irrigation and not spray irrigation, no more crops like rice in semi-arid climes, etc.

    Another tie-in is the fallacy you here from the parrots of PETA. They'll try and tell you that meat is much worse for the environment than vegetables. This is only partially true. Range fed cattle used fairly local (as in shipped by rail) is far friendlier to the environment that importing fruits and vegetables from overseas by boat. Ending the import of South American Beef would be a great idea. But so is ending the import of South American Fruits and vegetables for that matter. However and for good reason we like year round variety of fruit and veggies so just end the claims that meat is bad for the environment and spell out where it is and isn't good.

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    Quote Originally posted by What Exit? View post
    Another tie-in is the fallacy you here from the parrots of PETA. They'll try and tell you that meat is much worse for the environment than vegetables. This is only partially true.
    I dislike PETA, but I have to point out that from a land use/energy consumption viewpoint meat is a waste. It's a good, tasty waste, but no matter how you spin it the further you get away from the planet's most basic energy source the more you are wasting. If we truly got to the point where there wasn't enough food on the planet--and the problem is still primarily one of distribution rather than production at the moment--raising meat would be incredibly stupid. Far more vegetable food for humans could have been grown using the land that went into feeding those cattle. It's not simply about shipping costs or using fossil fuels to move things around.

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Zuul how is range fed cattle/buffalo/bison a waste? Leaving the praerie in its natural state with a cow like grazer eating it at a sustained rate is not a waste.

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    Quote Originally posted by What Exit? View post
    Zuul how is range fed cattle/buffalo/bison a waste? Leaving the praerie in its natural state with a cow like grazer eating it at a sustained rate is not a waste.
    That isn't a waste, but the problem is that you're not going to meet the meat desires of people raising cattle like that. That's why overgrazing and feedlots happen. How much beef people want to eat is greater than how much beef you can raise on natural prairie, unless we start setting aside a few states for nothing but wild grasslands. It's all well and good to say that in an ideal, Trader Joe's world we'd all be eating free-range, grass fed beef, but there just wouldn't be enough of it and not everybody lives next to a prairie so you're looking at transportation all over again.
    So now they are just dirt-covered English people in fur pelts with credit cards.

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Train transport is pretty efficient.

    In an ideal world we would not follow the vegan/PETA model of no meat animals but reduce our meat intake overall. But in an ideal world, we would bring the human population via birth control down to something under a billion and solve most of the world's problems. Then we would have the ability to feed the world and solve poverty and greatly reduce greenhouse emissions, resource consumption and fresh water issues and etc.

    If anyone wants to know my core reason for being anti-religion this is it. Any religion that is "be fruitful and multiply" and anti-birth control is criminal in my world view. It is not logic or theology. It is not general morals, it is resource management!

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    Agreed on the PETA model. Less meat, not cutting it out entirely.

    I absolutely agree that birth control is important, but IMHO it's more about where people are and how much space they're taking up than shooting for some ideal population number for the whole planet. It seems as though if humans were concentrated in a better way instead of the haphazard way they are now, a lot of problems would be solved.

    I can't find it now, but there was a site that showed if the entire country had the population density of NYC all US citizens currently living could fit in a region the size of New Hampshire, leaving the rest of the developed land in the country for food production. That's obviously never going to happen, but if we stopped sprawling out all over the place, slowed expansion and had densely populated (green) cities set in regions where food production is easy and sustainable, a hell of a lot of problems would be solved. We waste our land left and right.

    Also, in many third world nations, having lots of children isn't always about lack of birth control (though that is a problem and one certain religious and political figures have made worse). It's also often because children are needed to work. Telling them to stop having as many children doesn't address the underlying issues. Creating sustainable models, using them ourselves, and then helping developing countries to follow that same path along with increased access to birth control seems more likely to help.
    So now they are just dirt-covered English people in fur pelts with credit cards.

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Good points and as to the moving the bulk of population into well designed cities, you might want to find and read Ecotopia. The writer (Ernest Callenbach) addressed that very issue back in the 70s. It is one part fiction and one part long essay about fixing the world.

    Some of what he specifically addressed was far more mass transit and high speed trains between the cities greatly reducing the need for cars and planes. but another part was freeing lots of land up for smarter and less destructive farming.

    Also back around 1990 Green Peace had major article on the water use of California by corporate farms. I know along the way Scientific American has also covered this issue. All of them came to the same conclusion that what is happening in Cali is insane. What scares me lately is Cali's aggressive dairy initiative that is trucking milk cross country and underselling local dairies. The large dairy industry of NY and other states are dying under this insanity.

    More recent articles about India's consumption of basically non-renewable water will scare you is the only way I can put it.

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    I'll check out Ecotopia. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Also back around 1990 Green Peace had major article on the water use of California by corporate farms. I know along the way Scientific American has also covered this issue. All of them came to the same conclusion that what is happening in Cali is insane. What scares me lately is Cali's aggressive dairy initiative that is trucking milk cross country and underselling local dairies. The large dairy industry of NY and other states are dying under this insanity.
    Oh God, yes. This isn't something I've spent a lot of time reading about, but what little I have has left me shaking my head.
    So now they are just dirt-covered English people in fur pelts with credit cards.

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