There have been noticeable changes in global climate. And, there continues to be a lot of debate over the extent of human contribution to this change. Has our increasing dependency on fossil fuel had any greater impact on the atmosphere than natural processes?
Regardless of what is written or shared in debate, scientific uncertainty will remain and this debate will only get more intense. The environmental consequences of getting this debate right are enormous. The economic costs could be staggering. The health of our planet will be the ultimate casualty.
As global population continues to rise and there is a greater demand for agricultural production, these environmental challenges are likely to worsen as well. While the focus on the negative impact of increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide is well-covered, other negative factors may be even worse. Among human activities, agriculture is one of the largest producers of methane - a potent greenhouse gas 22 times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
Yes, climate will always be in a state of disequilibrium. Yet, do we really understand how and the long-term implications?
Rain is the source of water for crop production in the more humid regions of the world – where nearly 60% of the world’s food crops are grown. Rainfed agriculture takes place on some 80% of the arable land and irrigated agriculture produces 40% of the world’s food crops on the remaining 20%. Shifts in precipitation will have a very real impact on future global agricultural productivity.
The daily quantity of freshwater needed to survive (free of harmful contaminants for drinking and personal hygiene) is only 20 to 50 liters. Much of the developing world cannot provide that minimum.
What is often forgotten is that “Food is Virtual Water”. An example of changing dietary habits is the increase in global beef consumption. Beef production puts greater strain on global agriculture because it takes 15 cubic metres of water on average to produce 1kg of beef, compared to six cubic metres for poultry and 1.5 cubic metres for corn.
There remains a substantial challenge to provide basic food commodities to large segments of the human population. The simple reality is that population growth and climate change will produce increased incidences of drought, desertification and flooding. These changes will place global agricultural productivity under greater assault. Freshwater will continue to become more valuable than oil.
Will there be equitable access to clean water in the future?
Global population currently exceeds 6.2 billion and is expected to continue to rise until the mid-twentieth century. Each of these billions of people has the potential to contribute something that could revolutionize the world! It sounds cliche.
The intent of this section is to provide details of such innovative, environmentally-focused, creations/solutions. Some may seem unusual. Some may seem ridiculous.
Perhaps reading about such solutions will generate a personal interest to bring such an idea to life. At the very least, these ideas may cause us to ask ourselves a very simple question: What kinds of significant (or ridiculous) impact can we expect to make? Or, will we remain a ready critic to those who may be trying?
Agriculture is a critical issue for any nation concerned about food security, the livelihood and of its citizens and the long-term impact on soil and water resources. The single most important factor in sustainable farming today is preventing soil erosion and maintaining healthy soil. Urbanization, climate change, changing diets in emerging economies and the impact of supermarkets are putting new pressures on the land and changing the face of farming.
On a planet of melting glaciers, overcrowded cities and millions of climate refugees, those who control agriculturally productive farmland will control food production. Those who control the food supply just may control the world.
How do you think future farmland will be distributed? Do you have an opinion? If not, then maybe you should.
“Drylands have an immense scientific, economic and social value. They are the habitat and source of livelihood for about one quarter of the earth’s population. It is estimated that these ecosystems cover one third of the earth total land surface and about half of this area is in economically productive use as range- or agricultural land.”
(UNCCD Secretariat, 1997)
Land Degradation is a universal problem - no longer isolated to a remote developing country. Dryland degradation will have global repercussions affecting the wealth of nations and global agricultural sustainability. Food security will be an important future issue impacting the livelihood of every person on earth.
With an ever-warming planet and increasing populations, will our planet’s global drylands be sustainable?