More Crops Per Drop: Feeding The Planet By Using Less Resources

By: Michele Wolfson

We recently reported about the United Nation's announcement that the world population recently hit 7 billion, a rise of two billion in a little over a quarter of a century. This population explosion is occurring while millions go to bed hungry and more than a billion do not have access to clean drinking water. The UN predicts that at this current pace, the world inhabitants will rise from 7 to 9 billion in the next fifty years and the majority of the increase will be in poor countries.  Will our planet be able to feed everyone?

This should be a wake-up call to those of us who rarely give thought to where our food comes from. This is the equation- the population multiplied by human consumption must equal the planets carrying capacity. Today it doesn't; we are literally eating away the planet. Today we use 1/3rd of the planet's surface to produce food. By 2050, we will need twice as much food. Take away national parks, mountains, lakes, cities, and deserts and we are not left with much room.

How will we grow more food and where will we grow more food? The World Wide Life organization says the solution is that we need to grow and make food more efficiently. Currently, it takes one liter of water to create one calorie of food. For example, this means that a kilo of rice takes more than 340 gallons to grow.

Perhaps we need to start adjusting our approach to agriculture by growing crops that take fewer resources to produce more calories or can grow in smaller spaces and use less fertilizer and water. This may make our food production more sustainable in the future and can also save a lot of land for growing sustenance other than rice. International researchers believe we need to start treating water as the precious resource that it is and that the issue of waste cannot be stressed enough.

Eating less meat and putting less food into our gas tanks (i.e. ethanol) can also be an affective way to reduce agricultural issues. An estimated 3/4 of the world's agricultural land is devoted to feeding and/or raising livestock. By decreasing our meat consumption and using the livestock-land for human agricultural purposes, the global crop output would be significantly higher.

Remember, we need to find ways to do more with less. The next time you order your morning latte or turn on your laptop, really think about what goes into making these things. I for one, have not thought much about the true carbon footprint that goes into my morning luxury of a double shot latte. Maybe I should consider how we could lessen the impact of products we use every day, if we produced more items, such as lattes, using fewer resources.

This might sound extreme, but did you know that along with the actual water that goes into making a latte, there are a lot of other parts of your latte that use water in their production? For instance, water is used when creating the lid, cup, sleeve, sugar and milk. It takes 200 liters of water, which is more than 50 gallons, just to make one latte. That led me to thinking about every single person that orders a latte in the morning. This doesn't mean that we have to give up our morning cup of Joe (thank goodness), it just means that we need to change the way that we think by changing how we farm and process things like coffee. We can produce coffee using less water. Imagine how much of the earth's water and other resources we can save? A few small changes can make a big difference.

Photo:  Martin LaBar

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