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The Highly Inconvenient Truth of our Hungry World

environmental impact of population growthStep aside Al Gore. TED speaker John Foley delivers a much more powerful punch to the collective guts, because he places the environmental crisis squarely on our shoulders.  Or rather - in our tummies.

But we can’t stop eating!

So what do we do?


"This is going to be the hardest thing we've ever done in history, and we absolutely have to get it right.  And we have to get it right on our first and only try."

- John Foley. The Other Inconvenient Truth (TED talk)

Irrigation. Agriculture. Food Production. It’s by far and away the greatest cause for global concern. Skyrocketing population growth and an increasing global middle class have lead to massive increases in food production, and subsequent environmental devastation, in the past few decades.

Data analysts like Jonathan Foley and his team at the University of Minnesota (USA) are trying to bring big players to the dinner table to enter a single conversation about the urgent need for “terraculture” - farming for the whole planet. They are working to "reduce the controversy and increase the collaboration" between the divergent parties.

A link to Foley’s TED talk is below. But here is a summary version followed by some simple tips for how you can have a massive impact towards positive change.

THE PROBLEM:

The World's Population is….

population growth and food production

That' almost the SIZE OF GERMANY! 

Reaching 9 Billion by 2040 (i.e. In our lifetime!)

 

How do we feed this growing population without destroying the planet? 

Al Gore and Co have effectively identified climate change as a big problem - but while the scientist argue over whether climate change really exists - perhaps we should turn our attention to a bigger problem - one that we can see, and one that each one of us has the ability to affect change - Food production. 

environmental stress on natural resources

We cannot ignore the frightening destructive realities of our need for food.


agriculture

40% of the Earth's Land surface has been cleared for Agriculture - that's astounding!  

Global Croplands = 16 Million square km (the size of South America)

Global Pastures = 13 Million square km (the size of Africa)

We're using two whole continents worth of land to grow food. 

And it's the best land!! 

 

The impending WATER CRISIS is the largest cause for concern.

 Crop Irrigation is the biggest user of water: 

irrigation 2


irrigation 1


Water is diverted to use for agriculture, and most of our largest rivers ahave dramatically reduced flows.

The Aral Sea has been turned into a dessert!

aralsea2aralsea1

(That's hard for South Africans to comprehend - because we don't have a dam or lake in SA that would come close to that size.  But it's the equivalent of many many many Vaal Dams drying up over a period of just a few decades.  Not because of drought, but just because of agricultural water usage by humans further upstream.) 

Now this is all a serious inconvenient truth. 

Because while we can be convinced to cut back on our green house gas emissions - you'd be hard pushed to tell a growing planet to stop eating.

So what do we do?


THE SOLUTIONS:

While Foley works to get Big Business and Government to sit down at the table to collaboratively create workable solutions, the rest of us can make a big difference where it hurts naughty producers and retailers most.

VOTES. Vote with your credit card.

Here are some suggestions that have a bigger impact than you think! 

Related Article: 5 Super Simple Ways to Save the Planet

- Meat Free Mondays

- Choose eco-aware retailers

- Buy Local, or better yet, grow your own  (urban farming is all the rage!)

And don’t forget to …

- Spread the Word

 

Related Links:

> John Foley's TED Talk - The Other Inconvenient Truth

> Visuals taken from a video produced by The Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. “Discovering solutions to Earth's biggest problems through cutting-edge research, partnerships and leadership development.”

 

Related Articles:

> Why We Don't Eat Our Dogs

> Tonight's Special: 500g T-Bone with a Side Order of Pain 

Highlights of TEDx SeaPoint 2012 - Inspirational ideas for tackling the fishing, oceans and water crisis.


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