Are the environmental consequences of agriculture simply the price we must pay to eat?

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Question by BioGirl: Are the environmental consequences of agriculture simply the price we must pay to eat?
What are the long-term costs? Suggest some ways to alleviate the environment impact of agriculture

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2 Responses to Are the environmental consequences of agriculture simply the price we must pay to eat?

  1. The environmental consequences of agriculture as it’s done in the developed world I’ll focus on are:
    1. Water pollution due to mismanagement of large amounts of animal wastes in CAFOS (confined animal feeding operations).
    2. Air pollution due to the releases of CO2 and methane by large numbers of animals grown for meat.
    3. Depletion of water supplies due to the feeding of a large proportion of our grain supplies to livestock.
    Solutions to these problems include:
    1. Eating lower on the food chain. If people in the developed world ate less meat there would be more grain for people to eat, and more water available because livestock consume large amounts of water.
    2. Adopt organic and low-till methods of farming. These methods use less water and chemical input and pollute rivers and streams much less than conventional large-scale factory farming.
    3. Stop factory farming for the production of animal products such as eggs and milk. These operations create huge waste issues and result in the mistreatment of millions of animals, which is a moral as well as an environmental issue.
    We don’t have to keep creating an environmental catastrophe in order to eat.

    June 21, 2014 at 12:59 am

  2. Sustainability of agricultural production over time is very central to agricultural production.
    As world population increases, the typical per capita consumption of food for healthy nutrition will remain constant but the amount of food required will rise at the same rate as world population rises.

    An important consideration is the concept of renewability and sustainability of production over time.

    To harvest a fish species to extinction may be temporarily cost-effective, except that that thinking doesnt take into account the fact that if harvested at a species-sustainable rate, after 10-15 years the total yield will be equal, and such lower harvesting rate will result in total harvesting to increment by that amount every 10-15 years indefinitely.

    Similarly, soil which is used so intensively that it wears out may yield more crop immediately, but can result in greatly reduced productivity afterward, and may never recover. Poor farming methods which cause nutrient rich ‘topsoil’ to literally blow away in the wind caused the ‘dust bowl’ in North America in the 1930s which has never recovered, and poor agricultural practices in Africa continue to cause additional desertification of the continent.

    A key point is to utilise land as efficiently as possible using the best techniques available, and at sustainable intensities, so as to maximize production in the long run.

    Irrigation, but not so much as to damage aquifers and estuaries.

    Selection of breeds to increase dairy production per acre.

    Refinement of poultry breeds to improve egg production rates.

    Utilise as much vacant land as possible, before disrupting
    natural areas in order to ‘make more room’.

    Fit plant and animal species and farming methods to the locations and regions.

    Production of food locally and regionally saves resources wasted on transportation, resources wasted on additional refrigeration, and resources wasted for production lost due to additional spoilage.

    It is much more resource efficient to produce food regionally or locally or individually, than to have to use 60% more resources in addition to production costs in order to ship the food 14,000 miles.

    People must eat, so to produce and distribute nutritional food as efficiently as possible is the key to reducing negative environmental impacts to the minimal levels possible.

    Mike Hammer
    June 21, 2014 at 1:38 am

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