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Food Security and Climate Change

The First Time In 65 Million Years

Not since the dinosaur era 65 million years ago has the world experienced this degree of extinctions - 1000 times faster than normal and we've already lost about 90% of large predator fish, 75% of marine fisheries, half of all corals, wetlands, and tropical forests. Each year, desertification claims an area the size of Nebraska while the US loses 100,000 acres of wetlands and 6,000 acres of open space threatening a third of all the plant and animal species.1

Tractor in a field

While the increasing interdependence between countries brings many financial and social benefits, it also increases vulnerability. A May, 2022 report by the Eurasia Group2 predicts that because of the Ukraine war, the number of people suffering from food insecurity will increase by over 100 million before the end of this year.

We Can "Make Money" but We Can’t "Eat Money"

For something as vital as food, how much confidence can we place on huge, multi-country big ag systems and supply chains? These systems might offer very short-term success but they make medium and long-range prospects much worse. Most commercial agriculture mainly focuses on increasing profits by lowering costs and increasing yields.The consequences of this approach include losing one third of the planet’s arable land in just the last 40 years, erosion increasing 100 times faster than new soil formation, soil degradation causing the loss of 30 million acres of farmland each year, while the FAO is reporting that we need 15 million more each year to meet the world’s increasing population. The FAO also describes only having half of the per capita fresh water we did in the 1960’s.3 Also according to the FAO, with current agricultural practices, we will run out of topsoil in 60 years.4

What Real Alternatives Do We Have?

A simple alternative could be described as "grow your own." Most individuals and families don't have enough space or time to grow all their food, but neighbors and communities can share and trade. And in a major crisis, not enough ranks much higher than nothing at all. (Even first-time gardeners have dramatic success growing crops like zucchini.)

Backyard chicken

The best and most appropriate methods change with location and resources but almost everyone can help. From desert irrigation systems in developing countries to rooftops and vertical gardens on Upper East Side balconies in Manhattan, beneficial plants can thrive.

While gardening and small farming can dramatically increase personal and community food security, the impact doesn’t stop there and can have even greater results on a larger scale. The less food imported from long distances, the less fuel used, the less pollution created, the less deforestation, and the less pesticides and chemical fertilizers destroying healthy croplands and polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans.

The results can become personal and improve mental health and happiness. Too much stress degrades both of these and food insecurity ranks high as far as stress goes. See our blog post, Nature as Best Friend.

  1. Stats from The Bridge at the End of the World, James Speth, Yale University Press, 2009
  2. Food Security and the Coming Storm, Eurasia Group
  3. The Guardian, 2015: Earth has lost a third of arable land in past 40 years, scientists say | Soil | The Guardian
  4. New Jersey Conservation Foundation, 2019: 60 Years of Farming Left?
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