Saturday, December 05, 2009

Can We Feed and Save the Planet?

A reminder from Scientific American that we need to deal with the ultimate cause of our environmental challenges:

The father of the green revolution, Norman Borlaug, who passed away in September at the age of 95, made this point in 1970 when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize: “There can be no permanent progress in the battle against hunger until the agencies that fight for increased food production and those that fight for population control unite in a common effort.”

It is not enough to produce more food; we must also simultaneously stabilize the global population and reduce the ecological consequences of food production—a triple challenge. A rapid voluntary reduction in fertility rates in the poor countries, brought about by more access to family planning, higher child survival and education for girls, could stabilize the population at around eight billion by 2050.

Payments to poor communities to resist deforestation could save species habitats. No-till farming and other methods can preserve soils and biodiversity. More efficient fertilizer use can reduce the transport of excessive nitrogen and phosphorus. Better irrigation and seed varieties can conserve water and reduce other ecological pressures. And a diet shifted away from eating beef would conserve ecosystems while improving human health.

Those changes will require a tremendous public-private effort that is yet to be mobilized. As we remember Borlaug’s great achievements, we must redouble our efforts to respond to his admonitions as well. The window of opportunity to achieve sustainable development is closing.

Well, there's a laundry list of solutions for you...

When wildlife populations get too high (for people, at least) and start damaging OUR resource base, we mobilize to manage them.  Yet we can't even manage the damage our own human population does to our resource base -- which makes that which any elephant or wolf can do seem like the tiniest of child's play. 

We've got to get over the Taboo nature of this topic and come up with smart, ethical ways to deal with the reality of humanity's planetary limits.  If we don't, as Chris Nelder says over at GetRealList, reality will deal with us... 

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