2011-11-15

Feeding Everyone Will Take Every Inch Of The Planet

A new infographic video from WWF shows that we can grow enough food for everyone, it just won’t be pretty.

It’s not particularly revolutionary to hear that, as Americans, we rarely give a thought to where our stuff comes from. Stuff appears in stores, food appears in restaurants, and we purchase it, consume it, and go about our lives. With a new video about food, though, the WWF wants to change that, though they’re not so much interested in letting you know where you food comes from as where you food will come from. Because, with a lot more people quickly settling in our planet, it’s a question that’s going to concern all of us.

It’s a simple equation. Take the number of people on Earth, multiply it by how much they consume, and you’ll get what’s called the "carrying capacity" of the planet. By 2050, the population is going to increase by 2 billion extra people, and millions of people in the developing world are going to rise from abject poverty to the middle class and start demanding things like meat and dairy. The carrying capacity is going to go up.

This might not be a problem. It’s a big planet, and we have a lot of space to raise cows, and grow crops. In fact, we already use a third of the planet (of the non-ocean parts, that is) to do just that:

Another two billion people, all eating more, would mean we need to use another third of the planet for food. Luckily, we’re not using that third of the planet for anything--it’s wilderness. If we need to, we can destroy that wilderness and make food there instead. Keep in mind, though, that then only one-third of the planet would not be devoted to producing food. And most of that remaining third is made up of the world’s deserts, mountains, lakes, rivers, cities, roads, and national parks. When you remove all that land, you’re left with just a tiny sliver for all the wildlife (that’s where WWF comes in to this equation).

What’s the solution? We need to find ways to make food more efficiently. Just a small example: it takes an entire liter of water to create a calorie of food. Which means that a kilo of rice takes more than 340 gallons to grow:

WWF wants us to think about more efficient ways to grow crops, either crops that take less resources to produce more calories, or can grow in less space, with less fertilizer and less water--all of which would make our food more sustainable and save a lot of land for better things than growing rice.

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6 Comments

  • Patrick

    No, it doesn't make me wonder why someone would argue against GMO crops. Makes me wonder why we're not using a vertical hydroponic system. Less water, zero soil, no pesticides, grows faster, uses far less land and on and on and on.

  • Mountain

    Because GMO crops actually yield less per acre  <http: environment="" exposed-the-great-gm-crops-myth-812179.html="" green-living="" www.independent.co.uk="">, and their industrial pesticide and fertilizer run-off renders more land uninhabitable.</http:>