By ANDY ANDREWS
Los Alamos World Futures Institute
• World Futures: What Do We Need?
The food we consume comes from two sources: plants and animals. If we state that animals get their food from plants, it could be argued that all food comes from plants. The food provides two things – energy and nutrients: energy to run our highly complex bio-machinery and nutrients to keep the bio-machine in good repair – maybe. But the bio-machine can abuse the system, both willingly and unwillingly.
In the article referenced under Medicine, it was noted that “…it looks as if people in the United States and some other wealthy countries are, unexpectedly, starting to beat back the diseases of aging.” Do these people eat a healthier diet? Or a healthier diet in conjunction with other activities? But the state of obesity and type-2 diabetes is continually in the news, possibly being caused by consuming too many calories – food.
Concurrently, the “news” is replete with articles about people starving, not one or two, but millions or more. There seems to be a significant imbalance in the food supply – and the right food supply.
The solution to the array of problems appears to have several parts, possibly mutated by the observation. First is production and how you grow enough – especially in changing climates. Are genetically modified plants acceptable if they permit better production? Where do you grow the plants? Not in large, metropolitan areas but in “rural” areas. Are the metropolitan areas dependent on the rural areas for other things such as water? How about fertilizer as one drains the arable lands of nutrients? And how much can be produced? Just for the members of humanity, what is the minimal caloric intake requirement?
Closely related to plant production is the requirement for animals, including fish. The questions are similar with the additional concern that animal production places additional demand on plant production.
Next comes distribution. We often overlook this aspect assuming that a solution will easily be found and, for the most part, this is true. But consider a population of one billion people that have a consumption requirement of one pound (half kilo) of food per day. Further, assume that these people live on a continent with very minimal production capacity and are fully dependent on food supplies from another continent. This means that 500,000 tons of food must be moved and distributed every day. Of course, the challenge could be lessened by dehydrating the food, assuming adequate water supplies at the delivery sites. Or perhaps it would be better to export the agricultural capability while noting differences in arable lands.
The list of speculative requirements and “hows” can go on and on. But one final question is important to ask. What size population of human beings can Earth support above the survival level? And what does survival level mean? This implies asking what is the purpose of humanity which is far from the purpose of these articles, but some minimal speculation may be warranted.
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