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Feeding the world

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default Feeding the world

Post by Chilli-head on 1st April 2016, 11:18 am

I have often wondered, if the world population is to peak at 9 billion, how we can feed everyone.  A couple of major advances have allowed us to support the poplation we have - the plant breeding work of [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.], and the [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] for producing nitrate fertilisers - though the latter has made us rather alarmingly dependent on fossil fuels. According to Wikipedia, nearly 80% of the nitrogen found in human tissues originated from the Haber-Bosch process.  Think about that. 80% of nitrogen - needed to build proteins - in human bodies, derived by an industrial process !

But now it seems that the problem is not that we need to produce more food.  We actually just need to stop the fat b******s eating it all !

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This is a disgraceful situation, isn't it.  We consume fossil fuels to make cheap food to allow people to become obese. Even more perversely, we fill our homes and lives with labour saving, energy consuming devices, and then the ones who don't want to become obese go running or to the gym to waste that excess energy.

How did we get here ?
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Post by freebird on 1st April 2016, 1:03 pm

Well, there you have it CH!

Perhaps we shouldn't have cheap food, which after all, benefits the well-off as well as the poor. Maybe we should have food properly priced and properly valued, which might encourage more to produce their own; and food subsidies by way of coupons, for the really needy.

Despite the privations of WW2, there were many things in favour of food rationing; not least the overall health benefits to the population.

But, there again, maybe we shouldn't interfere with this 'obesity epidemic'. Perhaps it's nature's way of self-regulating the population.......
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Post by Dandelion on 1st April 2016, 9:45 pm

It's an education working with teenagers - some are very interested in food (where it comes from, making wise choices, learning how to cook it) while others go for easy options. Our school offers a cafeteria style service at lunchtime, but parents who give their child weekly money can't check how it is spent. It's not unusual for some kids to be dropped off at school, then double back to the newsagent and spend their money on packets of chocolate biscuits which is all they eat for the day. It is to do with educating the child to make good decisions, but I'm sure it's also about parents spending time to talk to their kids, to shop and cook with them, and allow them to learn by example.

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by Ploshkin on 2nd April 2016, 12:08 am

I want to go to bed but I'm waiting for a ewe to perform so a good time to ponder the way of the world.  When people make comments about farmers receiving subsidies I always point out to them that it is so that they can buy cheap food and that the EU could just as well stand outside the supermarket handing out £20 notes to everyone going in.
Something that really makes me cross is when the media congratulate Tesco, Asda etc for giving excess produce to food banks or selling wonky veg at cut prices instead of wasting it.  IT IS THEIR POLICIES THAT ARE CAUSING THE WASTE IN THE FIRST PLACE.  Sorry for shouting in capitals but that is how it makes me feel.  It's the same with other waste.  Rather than forcing councils to achieve higher and higher recycling targets by whatever spurious means they can think up, government should be focussing on preventing the production of waste in the first place.  In countries where people have to pay for waste collection according to the amount they have, they stand at the supermarket checkout removing all unnecessary packaging from items and leave it behind for the supermarket to deal with (and pay for).  That's the way to put pressure on.
I will get off my soap box now but if this ewe hasn't lambed I could be back.
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Post by FloBear on 3rd April 2016, 5:54 pm

Most interesting discussion and something I ponder - and occasionally rant about Ploshkin-style in capitals!
Agree with whoever said that food should be realistically priced. Anything that's too easy to obtain is not valued - 'there's plenty more where that came from'. The business about so-called customer demand leading to supermarkets' insistence on perfect fruit and veg is utter rubbish, if they stocked it, it would be bought even if people who got there first chose the roundest / smoothest / least blemished. I have a similar gripe with the added sugar argument ( that it's customer demand); if they sold baked beans without any sugar, then those who want it can buy a packet of granulated and stir some in - I. on the other hand, can't take it out.
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Post by Ploshkin on 4th April 2016, 7:55 am

Sugar - don't get me started!
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Post by FloBear on 4th April 2016, 10:10 am

What gets me about the sugar tax is that manufacturers will swap to sweeteners which will be a two-fold problem: firstly that long-term effects of sweeteners may well be worse than sugar and secondly, that products will still be overly sweet in taste and so youngsters in particular will be accustomed to that and think it's normal Mad
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Post by Hairyloon on 13th July 2016, 5:18 pm

Chilli-head wrote:I have often wondered, if the world population is to peak at 9 billion...
What makes you think it will peak there?
Our population will keep growing until the shortages start to properly bite, and there is still plenty we could do to improve the sustainable productivity of the planet.

Whether we will do that or not is another question...
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Post by Chilli-head on 13th July 2016, 11:30 pm

Hairyloon wrote:
Chilli-head wrote:I have often wondered, if the world population is to peak at 9 billion...
What makes you think it will peak there?

It's not my idea ! It is a prediction I've seen confidently asserted in a few places now, for which I don't think I have seen a fully adequate explanation.  I suspect it is wishful thinking.


Our population will keep growing until the shortages start to properly bite,
Interesting.  It seems to me that birth rates at the moment are lowest where the population has a higher standard of living, not where there are shortages.

What changes would you make to improve sustainable productivity ? Given that our current agricultural productivity is what it is through means I would not class as sustainable, I am struggling a bit.
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Post by Hairyloon on 14th July 2016, 12:24 am

Chilli-head wrote:
Hairyloon wrote:Our population will keep growing until the shortages start to properly bite,
Interesting.  It seems to me that birth rates at the moment are lowest where the population has a higher standard of living, not where there are shortages.
How much of those higher standards are sustained by domestic production?
Will the imports continue to flow once the originating countries run short?

What changes would you make to improve sustainable productivity ?  Given that our current agricultural productivity is what it is through means I would not class as sustainable, I am struggling a bit.
There are huge tracts of the planet that are almost completely unproductive: bring that into use and we are laughing. It is a pretty big job, but relatively speaking, no worse than Stonehenge.
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Post by Ploshkin on 14th July 2016, 2:46 pm

When the need to feed the world is mentioned I'm sure many people think of Africa (as needing to be fed)  Large parts of that huge continent have amazing fertile land
as well as a wealth of natural resources.  It is a tragedy that corruption and civil war mean that many African countries cannot feed themselves when they should be able to do that and a large part of the rest of the world too.  It is often said that Africa has the potential to be the breadbasket of the world.  For the same reasons their natural resources are monopolised by other nations.  I don't suppose that Tanzanians will benefit much from the massive helium reserve just discovered there.  Mr P and I know people from Sierra Leone, Gambia and Nigeria and sadly they say that at home they don't trust Africans and would always choose to do business with people from elsewhere.
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Post by Dandelion on 14th July 2016, 5:15 pm

Talking of potential, we have amazingly fertile soil in the UK, yet so much of it is wasted (either by not being looked after, or by being built on). Understanding our soil, and all the organisms in it, then taking steps to protect it for food use would be one place to start.

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by Chilli-head on 4th October 2016, 6:13 pm

A good friend of mine recently wrote an article on this topic for The Conversation. You might just find it interesting.

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He borrowed one of my favourite puns about Fritz Haber, for which he owes me a beer beer
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