Världens befolkning växer med 75 millioner människor varje år. Vi behöver alla mat - men hur? Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota har gjort en bra presentation av problemet.

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How do we feed the world without destroying it?

The world population is growing by 75 million people each year. That is almost the size of Germany. Today, we’re nearing 7 billion people. At this rate, we will reach 9 billion people by 2040. And we all need food. But how? How do we feed a growing world without destroying the planet?

We already know climate change is a big problem. But it’s not the only problem. We need to face “the other inconvenient truth”: A global crisis in agriculture. Population growth, meat consumption, dairy consumption, energy costs plus bioenergy production give stress on natural resources.

More than 40 % of Earth’s land has been cleared for agriculture. Global croplands cover 16 million km2. That’s almost the size of South America. Global pastures cover 30 million km2. That’s the size of Africa. Agriculture uses 60 % more land than urban and suburban areas combined.

Irrigation is the biggest use of water on the planet. We use 2,800 cubic kilometres of water on crops every year. That is enough to fill 7,305 Empire State Buildings every day. Today, many large rivers have reduced flows. Some dry up altogether. Look at the Aral Sea, now turned to desert. Or the Colorado River, which no longer flows to the ocean.

Fertilizers have more than doubled the phosphorus and nitrogen in the environment. The consequence? Widespread water pollution and massive degradation of lakes and rivers.

Surprisingly, agriculture is the biggest contributor to climate change. It generates 30 % of the greenhouse gas emissions. That is more than the emissions from all electricity and industry, or from all the world’s planes, trains and automobiles. Most agriculture emissions come from tropical deforestation, methane from animals and rice fields, and nitrous oxides from over-fertilizing.

There is nothing we do that transforms the world more than agriculture. And there is nothing we do that is more crucial to our survival. Here’s the dilemma: As the world grows by several more billion people, we need to double, maybe even triple, global food production.

So where do we go from here?

We need a bigger conversation, an international dialogue. We need to invest in real solutions: incentives for farmers, precision agriculture, new crop varieties, drip irrigation, gray water recycling, better tillage practices, smarter diets.

We need everyone at the table. Advocates of commercial agriculture, environmental conservation, and organic farming must work together. There is no single solution. We need collaboration, imagination, determination, because failure is not an option.

How do we feed the world without destroying it?

That’s one of the big questions we’re tackling through the Institute on the Environment’s Global Landscapes Initiative (GLI). Visit us online to learn more: Environment.unm.edu. (Observera - mycket tunga sidor, tar tid att öppna!)


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