New study shows how switching to sustainable agriculture techniques could feed 10 billion
Current agricultural techniques are DESTROYING the planet and can only be used responsibly to feed 3.4 billion people, less than half of the current world population.
- The methods used to feed the world population are killing the planet.
- Researchers identify four key environmental boundaries that have been crossed
- They point out that deforestation, nitrogen-based fertilizers, decreased biodiversity and depletion of fresh water are the main causes of environmental damage.
According to a new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, almost half of the world’s food production is destructive to the environment.
According to their calculations, current agricultural techniques should be used to maintain a maximum world population of around 3.4 billion people, not the current 7.7 billion.
They used a target of 2,355 kcal per person per day to calculate the population figures of the idea.
A new study by a team of researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research says that using current agricultural methods we should only generate enough food for 3.4 billion people, and using them to grow more is destroying the planet
“We allocate too much land for crops and livestock, fertilize too much and irrigate too much,” said lead researcher Dieter Gerten.
“To solve this problem in front of a still growing world population, we collectively need to rethink how to produce food.”
They point to four key environmental limits that current agricultural techniques must cross to support a larger population than they should, according to a report published in New scientist.
The first limit is an overabundance of nitrogen-based fertilizers, which can seep into the groundwater or drain into rivers and lakes to create dead zones that kill fish populations and other aquatic life necessary to maintain a balanced ecosystem.
Current agricultural techniques also exceed acceptable limits for freshwater use, which is degrading global river systems, a quarter of which lose contact with the ocean for at least part of the year.
The group points to four specific environmental limits that current agricultural practices have broken, including the significant presence of nitrogen in the water, the loss of biodiversity, the decrease in the supply of fresh water and the deforestation caused by soil erosion.
Third, farmers have been too aggressive in the use of deforestation to clean new agricultural land, which contributes to soil erosion and nutrient loss.
Finally, too many agricultural lands have seen their biodiversity decrease beyond acceptable levels, inhibiting nature’s ability to self-regulate, while further decreasing soil health and creating imbalances in pest populations.
Using a complex computer simulation, the researchers recommended a series of changes in the current approach to agriculture to make it less harmful to the climate.
In agricultural areas where five percent or more of the local species have been threatened with elimination, researchers recommend rebuilding the farm’s territory and moving to another location.
The team recommends a diet that contains more vegetable protein and less animal protein as a way to help alleviate the negative consequences of industrial agriculture.
They also recommend reforesting any farmland where 85 percent or more of tropical forests have been cleared.
Nitrogen-based fertilizers should be avoided, not universally, but in areas where runoff has led to high levels of nitrogen in nearby bodies of water.
Observing these minor changes, they estimate that a population of 7.8 billion people could receive support in an environmentally sustainable way.
With additional limits on food waste and a change in the diet of animal proteins to vegetable proteins, they estimate that a population of 10.2 billion people could be fed.
“Looking at the state of planet Earth and the influence of current global agricultural practices on it,” Gerten said, “there are many reasons to worry, but also reasons for hope, if we see decisive actions very soon.”
HOW TO DAMAGE THE ENVIRONMENT WHEN EATING MEAT AND DAIRY PRODUCTS?
Eating meat, eggs and dairy products harms the environment in different ways.
Cows, pigs and other farm animals release large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. While there is less methane in the atmosphere than other greenhouse gases, it is approximately 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide to trap heat.
Livestock raising also means turning forests into agricultural land, which means that trees that absorb CO2 are being cut, which further increases climate change.
More trees are cut down to convert the land for cultivation, since about one third of all the grain produced in the world is used to feed animals raised for human consumption.
Industrial farms and cultivation also require large amounts of water, with 542 liters of water used to produce a single chicken breast.
In addition to this, the nitrogen-based fertilizer used in crops adds to nitrous oxide emissions.
Nitrous oxide is approximately 300 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere. These fertilizers can also end up in rivers, which further increases pollution.
Overall, studies have shown that becoming a vegetarian can reduce your food carbon emissions by half. Being vegan can reduce this even more.