The BBC reports today what may seem obvious to those of us thinking about our ever increasing population and decreasing space for viable food production: That in order to feed all of us, we have to start thinking outside the box…and fast.
Copied in full:
Food needs ‘fundamental rethink’
By Mark Kinver
Science and environment reporter, BBC News
Food crops, agriculture and biodiversity cannot be separated from one another
A sustainable global food system in the 21st Century needs to be built on a series of “new fundamentals”, according to a leading food expert.
Tim Lang warned that the current system, designed in the 1940s, was showing “structural failures”, such as “astronomic” environmental costs.
The new approach needed to address key fundamentals like biodiversity, energy, water and urbanisation, he added.
Professor Lang is a member of the UK government’s newly formed Food Council.
“Essentially, what we are dealing with at the moment is a food system that was laid down in the 1940s,” he told BBC News.
“It followed on from the dust bowl in the US, the collapse of food production in Europe and starvation in Asia.
“At the time, there was clear evidence showing that there was a mismatch between producers and the need of consumers.”
Professor Lang, from City University, London, added that during the post-war period, food scientists and policymakers also thought increasing production would reduce the cost of food, while improving people’s diets and public health.
We all know that waste is everywhere; it is immoral what is happening in the world of food
Chef and food campaigner
“But by the 1970s, evidence was beginning to emerge that the public health outcomes were not quite as expected,” he explained.
“Secondly, there were a whole new set of problems associated with the environment.”
Thirty years on and the world was now facing an even more complex situation, he added.
“The level of growth in food production per capita is dropping off, even dropping, and we have got huge problems ahead with an explosion in human population.”
Professor Lang lists a series of “new fundamentals”, which he outlined during a speech he made as the president-elect of charity Garden Organic, which will shape future food production, including:
* Oil and energy: “We have an entirely oil-based food economy, and yet oil is running out. The impact of that on agriculture is one of the drivers of the volatility in the world food commodity markets.”
* Water scarcity: “One of the key things that I have been pushing is to get the UK government to start auditing food by water,” Professor Lang said, adding that 50% of the UK’s vegetables are imported, many from water-stressed nations.
* Biodiversity: “Biodiversity must not just be protected, it must be replaced and enhanced; but that is going to require a very different way growing food and using the land.”
* Urbanisation: “Probably the most important thing within the social sphere. More people now live in towns than in the countryside. In which case, where do they get their food?”
Professor Lang said that in order to feed a projected nine billion people by 2050, policymakers and scientists face a fundamental challenge: how can food systems work with the planet and biodiversity, rather than raiding and pillaging it?
The UK’s Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, recently set up a Council of Food Policy Advisers in order to address the growing concern of food security and rising prices.
Farm working cutting kale (Getty Images)
The 21st Century is going to have to produce a new diet for people, more sustainably, and in a way that feeds more people more equitably using less land
Professor Tim Lang
Mr Benn, speaking at the council’s launch, warned: “Global food production will need to double just to meet demand.
“We have the knowledge and the technology to do this, as things stand, but the perfect storm of climate change, environmental degradation and water and oil scarcity, threatens our ability to succeed.”
Professor Lang, who is a member of the council, offered a suggestion: “We are going to have to get biodiversity into gardens and fields, and then eat it.
“We have to do this rather than saying that biodiversity is what is on the edge of the field or just outside my garden.”
Michelin-starred chef and long-time food campaigner Raymond Blanc agrees with Professor Lang, adding that there is a need for people, especially in the UK, to reconnect with their food.
He is heading a campaign called Dig for Your Dinner, which he hopes will help people reconnect with their food and how, where and when it is grown.
“Food culture is a whole series of steps,” he told BBC News.
“Whatever amount of space you have in your backyard, it is possible to create a fantastic little garden that will allow you to reconnect with the real value of gardening, which is knowing how to grow food.
“And once you know how to grow food, it would be very nice to be able to cook it. If you are growing food, then it only makes sense that you know how to cook it as well.
“And cooking food will introduce you to the basic knowledge of nutrition. So you can see how this can slowly reintroduce food back into our culture.”
Mr Blanc warned that food prices were likely to continue to rise in the future, which was likely to prompt more people to start growing their own food.
Norfolk black turkey (Getty Images)
Sustainable food helps protect rare breeds and varieties
Raymond Blanc on good food
He was also hopeful that the food sector would become less wasteful.
“We all know that waste is everywhere; it is immoral what is happening in the world of food.
“In Europe, 30% of the food grown did not appear on the shelves of the retailers because it was a funny shape or odd colour.
“At least the amendment to European rules means that we can now have some odd-shaped carrots on our shelves. This is fantastic news, but why was it not done before?”
He suggested that the problem was down to people choosing food based on sight alone, not smell and touch.
“The way that seeds are selected is about immunity to any known disease; they have also got to grow big and fast, and have a fantastic shelf life.
“Never mind taste, texture or nutrition, it is all about how it looks.
“The British consumer today has got to understand that when they make a choice, let’s say an apple – either Chinese, French or English one – they are making a political choice, a socio-economic choice, as well as an environmental one.
“They are making a statement about what sort of society and farming they are supporting.”
The latest estimates from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that another 40 million people have been pushed into hunger in 2008 as a result of higher food prices.
This brings the overall number of undernourished people in the world to 963 million, compared to 923 million in 2007.
The FAO warned that the ongoing financial and economic crisis could tip even more people into hunger and poverty.
“World food prices have dropped since early 2008, but lower prices have not ended the food crisis in many poor countries,” said FAO assistant director-general Hafez Ghanem at the launch of the agency’s State of Food Insecurity in the World 2008 report.
“The structural problems of hunger, like the lack of access to land, credit and employment, combined with high food prices remain a dire reality,” he added.
Professor Lang outlined the challenges facing the global food supply system: “The 21st Century is going to have to produce a new diet for people, more sustainably, and in a way that feeds more people more equitably using less land.”
The BBC reports on the rising cost of basic staples, such as wheat, soy, rice and corn. Surprisingly, corn is the least affected of those mentioned. For the last few months, corn used for biofuel has been blamed for the violence and protests over the cost of food. It was said that the land cleared for the biofuel production was leaving less room to grow food, and while this is true, it is the least liable of the trifecta affecting food prices.
The main culprits?
Increased population (It is estimated to reach 9 Billion by mid-century)
Increased Wealth in China and India (The trade and technology booms have hugely increased the number of wealthy- even middle class- citizens. This means they are adding meat, dairy and grains to their diets that may not have been before)
Ck’s Weblog posted “50 ways to Help the Planet.” Awesome!
Here’s a clip:
* DON’T RINSE
Skip rinsing dishes before using your dishwasher and save up to 20 gallons of water each load. Plus, you’re saving time and the energy used to heat the additional water.
* DO NOT PRE-HEAT THE OVEN
Unless you are making bread or pastries of some sort, don’t pre-heat the oven. Just turn it on when you put the dish in. Also, when checking on your food, look through the oven window instead of opening the door.
Recycled glass reduces related air pollution by 20 percent and related water pollution by 50 percent. If it isn’t recycled it can take a million years to decompose.
* DIAPER WITH A CONSCIENCE
By the time a child is toilet trained, a parent will change between 5,000 and 8,000 diapers, adding up to approximately 3.5 million tons of waste in U.S. landfills each year. Whether you choose cloth or a more environmentally-friendly disposable, you’re making a choice that has a much gentler impact on our planet.
Get a clothesline or rack to dry your clothes by the air. Your wardrobe will maintain color and fit, and you’ll save money. Your favorite t-shirt will last longer too.
*GO VEGETARIAN ONCE A WEEK
One less meat-based meal a week helps the planet and your diet. For example: It requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. You will also also save some trees. For each hamburger that originated from animals raised on rainforest land, approximately 55 square feet of forest have been destroyed.
The Associated Press reports that the World Food Program forsees a food shortage like we haven’t seen since WWII. With the intense competition for food, the World Bank is looking at options like Genetically Modified foods, food rations, as well as asking for a general reduction of the amount of food consumed by the global community.
The skyrocketing cost of food staples, stoked by rising fuel prices, unpredictable weather and demand from India and China, has already sparked sometimes violent protests across the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.
President Bush has released an urgent $100 Million and Britain promised another $59.6 Million in aid. Even so feeding programmes in Kenya and Cambodia have been scaled back.
And evolving diets among burgeoning middle classes in India and China will help double the demand for food- particularly grain intensive meat and dairy by 2030, the World Bank says.
The BBC reports today that a new study presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) infers serious rises in sea level by 2100.
“For the past 2,000 years, the [global average] sea level was very stable, it only varied by about 20cm,” said Svetlana Jevrejeva from the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory (POL), near Liverpool, UK. But by the end of the century, we predict it will rise by between 0.8m and 1.5m.
Get out your canoes,everyone! It’s gonna be a salty spring.
Not only is their page name hilarious, but they’ve got lots of goodies for those of you that aim for sustainable and home grown food.
Here’s a small list of some of their useful posts:
Bean,Squash, Corn Matrix (a traditional method of Native Americans)
There’s much more there, but those were some of my faves. It’s a great inspirational tool and there are lots of easy How To ideas.
Fish Key to Reef Climate Survival
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website
Life on the Reef
A healthy fish population could be the key to ensuring coral reefs survive the impacts of climate change, pollution, overfishing and other threats.
Australian scientists found that some fish act as “lawnmowers”, keeping coral free of kelp and unwanted algae.
At a briefing to parliamentarians in Canberra, they said protected areas were rebuilding fish populations in some parts of the Great Barrier Reef.
Warming seas are likely to affect the reef severely within a few decades.
Pollution is also a growing problem, particularly fertilisers that wash from agricultural land into water around the reef, stimulating the growth of plants that stifle the coral.
Protect and survive
The assembled experts told parliamentarians that fish able to graze on invading plants played a vital role in the health of reef ecosystems.
Because sea temperatures are now a lot higher, they are now reaching the thresholds at which coral get into distress.
Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg University of Queensland
“The Great Barrier Reef is still a resilient system… and herbivorous fish play a critical role in that regenerative capacity, by keeping the dead coral space free of algae, so that new juvenile coral can re-establish themselves,” said Professor Terry Hughes from James Cook University in Townsville.
His research group has conducted experiments which involved building cages to keep fish away from sections of reef.
They found that three times as much new coral developed in areas where the fish were present as in the caged portions.
Parrotfish in particular use their serrated jaws to scrape off incipient algae and plants.
More recently, his team has also identified the rabbit fish – a brown, bland-looking species – as a potentially important harvester of seaweed.
“So managing fisheries can help to maintain the reef’s resilience to future climate change,” he said.
The parrotfish performs a vital role as a “lawnmower” of the reef
In recent years, Marine Protected Areas have been set up along the Great Barrier Reef in order to provide sanctuaries where fish and other marine creatures can grow and develop.
Dr Peter Doherty from the Australian Institute of Marine Science presented data showing that just two years of protection brought significant increases in populations of important species such as coral trout and tropical snapper.
“More importantly, more eggs are being produced… nearly three times the number of eggs per unit area being produced in the surrounding territory,” he said.
The eggs, he showed, travelled well outside the boundaries of the protected zones, potentially increasing fish populations in non-protected areas too.
The scientists emphasised that a comprehensive approach to reef protection would include measures to lower greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce run-off from agricultural land and human settlements along the coast.
“You have got a three- to nine-fold increase in sediment loss,” said Professor Iain Gordon from the governmental research organisation CSIRO.
“[There are] increases in nutrients that feed into the system, nitrates and phosphates and also new kinds of chemicals in the water that is around the reef; pesticides and herbicides, they haven’t been there before.”
Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the University of Queensland noted that unusually warm water in 1998 and 2002 had bleached and damaged coral in southern parts of the Barrier Reef.
High water temperatures cause coral to bleach, sometimes irreversibly
“The reef literally goes from being brown and healthy to being a stark white, and this happens with very small changes in temperature,” he said.
In the past, he said, bleaching events happened only at the warm extremes of natural cycles such as El Nino; but now the overall water temperature is higher, which makes the peaks of the cycles more harmful to coral.
“Because sea temperatures are now a lot higher, they are now reaching the thresholds at which coral get into distress, and of course it is really large scale impacts.”
At high temperatures, coral polyps expel the algae which normally live with them in a symbiotic relationship, turning the reef white. The algae typically provide most of the polyp’s nutrition; without them, the polyps eventually die.
Even if a bleached zone contains live polyps and carries the potential to recover when waters cool, a quick invasion of kelp, or types of algae that do not live symbiotically with coral, can make the die-off permanent – hence the protective role of plant-munchng fish.
The Great Barrier Reef is worth about six billion Australian dollars (US$5.5bn; £2.8bn) to the national economy, primarily through tourism and fishing.
One of the best inventions I’ve seen lately. The Life Straw is a really great cause and an increasingly vital part of our world. This issue will not only be for those in the “Third World,” but soon in ours too.
From their site:
Sharing a passion to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of ‘reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water’ by the year 2015, we recognize the immense sense of urgency.
At any given moment, about half of the world’s poor are suffering from water-related diseases, of which over 6,000 – mainly children – die each day by consuming unsafe drinking water.
Today, 1.1 billion people are without access to safe drinking water, robbing hundreds of women and girls of dignity, energy and time.
Safe water interventions, therefore, have vast potential to transform the lives of millions, especially in crucial areas such as poverty eradication, environmental upgradation, quality of life, child development and gender equality.
Recognizing the importance of safe water in our daily lives and the billions of people who are still without access to these basic human rights, LifeStraw® was developed as a practical response to the urgency, and confirms our commitment to achieving the MDGs.
Mobilising LifeStraw® offers relief from waterborne diseases of major public concern such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery and diarrhoea. As a personal and mobile water purification tool, LifeStraw® is designed to turn most of the surface water into drinking water, thus providing access to safe water wherever you are.
Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen
Chief Executive Officer
I’ve found some truly startling articles about aspartame. Now, I eat my fruits and veggies, I excersize four times a week, and I drink a LOT of water, but sometimes I just really feel like a soda. Since I have always been somewhat conscious of my weight, I chose Diet Soda. Of course I had heard of some reports that the artificial sweeteners in them had carcinogens and free-radical destoying agents, but I convinced myself it was no worse than the flouride in tap water. Well after this report, I can’t imagine touching the stuff again.
Here is one study done independently by a mother who worried about her kids drinking soda. Here is another Doctor’s account of her own battle with health complications directly resulting from aspartame intake. Here’s an article in the NYTimes linking diet soda to metabolic disorders.
A few weeks ago, when Hillary Clinton was campaigning, she said something that I hadn’t heard from a candidate in all my years participating and watching politics. She said, “I believe not only do we need to reform health care, but we need to divert some of that money to stopping the causes of the illnesses in the first place. We have toxins in our water, in our food and our money could be better spent on ceasing illness before it starts.”
Well shit, Hillary. I think you are on to something there. (This does not mean she necessarily gets my vote, only that I was listening and agreeing.) It is time that we stop letting big business poison us to better line thier pockets. This is exactly the reason that we need to start shifting into controlling our own food sources and water sources. Even one meal a week that didn’t come from the store is a meal that will benefit your family.
Turns out soda is only good for one thing: