Is there enough water and land on Earth to meet global food demands?

May 21, 2018 by  
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According to the United Nations, there are 7.6 billion people living on Earth today. Of those 7.6 billion, 815 million people are already going hungry . And, on top of that, the UN expects the global population to jump to 9.8 billion by 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100. These figures raise a troubling question: will it be physically possible to feed the world’s population as it continues to grow? Do We Have Enough Resources? Currently, we already produce more food than we need to feed the existing global population. According to Gordon Conway, author of One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?, an equal division of all the food on earth would provide every person with 2,800 calories a day , which is more than enough for a healthy diet. In fact, recent analysis by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations indicated that it would be technically feasible to feed the 2050 population with available land and water. However, that prediction comes with significant caveats. Having enough food doesn’t mean no one will go hungry, as evidenced by the current global situation. And it certainly doesn’t mean we can feed the world sustainably. So, while it may be technically feasible, what needs to happen to truly meet global demand for food without destroying the planet? Overall, there are three main changes we should focus on. 1. Increasing Efficiency While we could potentially clear more land to use for agriculture, it would be better to avoid doing so. The tactics we’ve used to increase yields and farmland in the past have caused severe environmental damage, such as increased erosion and pollution. However, we now know more about farming practices’ environmental impacts and have developed new, high-tech ways to increase farm productivity without damaging the environment. For example, precision farming delivers water and fertilizer to plants much more efficiently. Advanced sensors, automated tractors and more can also help reduce crop loss and increase yield. Organic farming plays a vital role as well, as it reduces the use of harmful fertilizers and pesticides. Related: Less fertilizer, greater crop yields, and more money: China’s agricultural breakthrough These changes will likely have to be implemented in developed countries, since farmers in poorer countries typically have fewer resources and, as a result, focus primarily on their own operations. 2. Changing Diets Different diets require vastly different amounts of land, water and other resources. The most resource-intensive are those of wealthy nations, which tend to eat more animal products. For example, if the entire world followed the same diet as the United States, we would need 138 percent of the world’s habitable land to feed the global population. In other words, it would be impossible. We also tend to waste food by feeding livestock. Livestock consume 36 percent o f crops grown around the world, and their caloric intake far outstrips the calories that humans receive from the resulting animal products. For every 100 calories of grain that we feed to livestock, we can get 40 calories of milk, 12 calories of chicken or just three of beef. If developed countries around the world committed to reducing the amount of food they consume, or if more people removed meat and animal products from their diets, these actions could help save both food and resources. 3. Reducing Waste Reducing food waste is a simple yet crucial way to help feed the world. At present, approximately 25 percent of all of the food calories we produce  – enough to feed every hungry person in the world – is lost or wasted. Surprisingly, one of the most effective strategies for reducing food waste doesn’t have to do with food directly. Instead, it involves societal changes such as reducing poverty, improving access to education and promoting equal rights. In general, quantity of food isn’t the problem, but rather access to the food itself. When people can escape poverty, society as a whole can afford to pay farmers more for their crops, meaning farms can sell their produce domestically rather than export it. Increasing small farms’ profits also enables them to access the resources they need to farm sustainably and further increase yields. So, as it turns out, the earth likely does have enough natural resources to meet our growing demand for food, but it’s not quite as simple as just growing more food. We need to start making some fundamental changes in the way we think about food, agriculture, poverty and hunger to make sure everyone has enough to eat. Images via Unsplash and Pixabay (1) , (2) ,  (3)

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Is there enough water and land on Earth to meet global food demands?

Why economic ‘degrowth’ is an ethical imperative

March 24, 2018 by  
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The Global North’s economy has created a dire global ecological predicament. Now, we must shift to an economy that respects planetary boundaries.

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Why economic ‘degrowth’ is an ethical imperative

H&M walks the runway towards 100 percent circularity

January 2, 2018 by  
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The foundation’s €1 million Global Change Award is part of an ambitious mission to transform the entire clothing industry, starting with itself.

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H&M walks the runway towards 100 percent circularity

5 reasons 2017 was best year for climate action

December 26, 2017 by  
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Despite U.S. retreat, superstorms, wildfires and more, there were considerable wins for the global climate movement.

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5 reasons 2017 was best year for climate action

Inside Caterpillar’s culture of transformation

December 23, 2017 by  
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Starting in 2012, Global Director of Sustainable Development Tim Lindsey approached sustainability at Caterpillar as an innovative way of doing business.

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Inside Caterpillar’s culture of transformation

Enel, Google and other businesses power past coal

December 12, 2017 by  
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We Mean Business: Look to this new alliance to help steer the global energy system towards clean power.

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Enel, Google and other businesses power past coal

Gen Alpha: Change the water, not the fish

December 12, 2017 by  
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The ‘digital habitat’ for the generation fated to be ‘screenagers’ is crucial to any hopes for sustainability.

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Gen Alpha: Change the water, not the fish

Over 200 nations commit to ending ocean plastic waste

December 7, 2017 by  
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Over 200 countries signed a United Nations resolution in Nairobi, Kenya to eliminate plastic waste in the world’s oceans. The resolution is an important step forward to establishing a legally binding treaty that would deal with the global oceanic plastic pollution problem. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), there will be more plastic by weight in the world’s oceans than fish by 2050 if current trends continue. The resolution offers hope for the future. “There is very strong language in this resolution,” said Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s environment minister, in an interview with Reuters . “We now have an agreement to explore a legally binding instrument and other measures and that will be done at the international level over the next 18 months.” Although plastic pollution is a global problem, Norway was the country that initiated the UN resolution. “We found micro plastics inside mussels, which is something we like to eat,” said Helgesen. “In January this year, a fairly rare species of whale was stranded on a beach because of exhaustion and they simply had to kill it. In its tummy they found 30 plastic bags.” Even the most remote parts of the globe have not escaped the plastic menace. In the final episode of the acclaimed  Blue Planet II ,  plastic pollution is documented in isolated areas of Antarctica . Related: Scientists discover cheap method to identify “lost” 99% of ocean microplastics China is the world’s largest producer of plastic waste and biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. However, the world’s most populous country has taken the global lead in addressing these environmental crises. “If there is one nation changing at the moment more than anyone else, it’s China … the speed and determination of the government to change is enormous,” said Erik Solheim, head of UNEP, according to Reuters . Meanwhile, the resolution, which was originally intended to have legally binding targets and timetables, was weakened by the United States , after Trump Administration officials rejected the stronger language. Current American intransigence notwithstanding, Solheim envisions a future in which products and manufacturing systems are redesigned to use as little plastic as possible. “Let’s abolish products that we do not need … if you go to tourist places like Bali, a huge amount of the plastic picked from the oceans are actually straws,” said Solheim. Although there is much work to be done before a treaty is signed, several nations are already moving ahead to protect the environment. To mark the signing of the UN resolutions, 39 countries, including Chile, Oman, Sri Lanka and South Africa, adopted new commitments to reduce plastic pollution . Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos and  Trevor Leyenhorst/Flickr

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Over 200 nations commit to ending ocean plastic waste

Uber’s competitors shift mobility to the fast lane

November 22, 2017 by  
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Mapping out the global expansion of urban mobility.

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Uber’s competitors shift mobility to the fast lane

The transformational power of corporate clean energy purchasing

September 18, 2017 by  
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From China to Mexico, from Apple to Walmart and beyond, WWF finds businesses embracing this global movement.

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The transformational power of corporate clean energy purchasing

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