As promised, I wanted to share more about how the environment and are economy are intertwined.
Let’s start here: The world’s population has doubled to over 6 billion in the last 40 years, and United Nations projections indicate it could climb as high as 10.7 billion by 2050. Most of the growth will occur in the poorest and least developed regions of the world, which already must work to resolve issues related to shortages of quality food, soil, air and water as well as lack of access to education, healthcare and global political capital.
More developed countries face many of the same but also different issues. Agriculture has been so successful that many people living in the developed world enjoy a high degree of food security but are separated from the primary production of agriculture. Most see only products in attractive wrapping on their grocery shelves. For these people, it is difficult to understand the role that food security plays in political stability and comfortable living standards as well as the cultural and educational achievements, that they enjoy.
For cripes sake, I actually had people ask me how to eat peaches from the two peach trees in our backyard this year. Have we become so used to eating our food out of a can or box that we can no longer figure out how to eat something as simple as a fresh peach? Pretty scary!
The Importance of Conventional Ag, Value-Added Agriculture & Natural Resources
Pressures on farmers to produce higher yields from their land to feed a growing population has accelerated the adoption of technologies that are less labor intensive but require higher levels of energy and natural resources. Traditional agricultural practices in developed countries have contaminated the water and soil. Health concerns, such as cancer, have been related to chemicals used to produce food. Further, obesity and Type 2 diabetes have been associated with poor quality foods that are high in saturated fat and calories but low in nutritional value.
There are signs of a shift in buying trends. Some individuals in more developed countries are beginning to demand more organic and locally produced foods free from chemical inputs such as hormones and pesticides. However, these production practices traditionally require intensive human input, including labor and time. They also sometimes require a greater land mass. Significant changes, including mechanization and the introduction of chemical pesticides, have helped increase agricultural production over the last century. However, global food shortages, increased contamination of natural resources and rising rates of consumer consumption continue to threaten the welfare of humankind.
As the population grows, more food must be grown on a smaller amount of land using less water and fewer inputs. Rapid increases in consumer consumption and waste production must be addressed. Innovation in both thought and technology is needed to change current trends causing environmental degradation as well as concerns related to human health and the well being of wildlife. The environmental, educational, political and socioeconomic disparities between people around the globe creates a leadership challenge that must be approached from a holistic perspective unlike the world has ever experienced.
World leaders must change attitudes, beliefs and behaviors on a global scale. Scientists, politicians, business and community leaders must work together to create a global vision of environmental sustainability that can be achieved in short order.
Common sense Lesson #4: Teamwork is essential in our global world. We need to work together to change the planet.
That said, ultimately we are the ones who control our own destiny. More on this next time!