May 25, 2013 | 09:04 AM (BD Time)
25 May, 2013 Saturday
Eat less meat to feed the world
CNN Online :
The scale of contemporary agriculture is mind-boggling. Farming and animal husbandry now take up nearly forty percent of the planet's ice-free land area. Having converted huge tracts of grassland, savannah and temperate forest, farmers and ranchers are now exploiting more sensitive areas. By 2010, they had cleared 27% of the world's tropical forests. This is an ecological tragedy, because these biomes are irreplaceable components of the global ecosystem - for example, they serve as carbon sinks, contain the majority of the world's biodiversity, and provide vast quantities of fresh water.
Furthermore, agriculture accounts for an astounding 30-35% percent of humanity's greenhouse gases (thanks to deforestation, emissions from fertilized soil, rice cultivation and methane emissions from livestock). Fertilizer is also a major source of pollution, as it degrades aquatic ecosystems, damages marine fisheries, and disrupts natural processes that replenish soil nutrients. Finally, irrigation accounts for 70 percent of human demand for fresh water, which is simply unsustainable in many regions. Fortunately, the Nature article provides five solutions to help humanity "meet the twin challenges of food security and environmental sustainability."
At first glance, this may sound counterintuitive. Humanity needs more food, after all. But the world needs to slow and ultimately cease expansion of agriculture, particularly into tropical forests, where food production benefits are marginal and vastly outweighed by the environmental gains of keeping these biomes intact. Critical to the success of this "solution", of course, will be to provide economic incentives at both the global level (such as the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation or REDD program) and at the national and local level, such as initiatives to promote ecotourism, and sustainable harvesting of rain forest products.
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