The earth is increasing its population by 90 million people per year, and yet we still have 5.9 billion people left to feed and to give shelter (Mitchell, 1998). Along with the increase in the population, there are also more people on Earth who are living longer lives. The global population boom has coincided with the improvement of health, and of productivity, around the world. On average, the human population today lives longer, eats better, produces more, and consumes more than at any other time period in the past (Eberstadt, 1995). Agriculture feeds people, but will it be able to feed the expanding global population, especially with its exponential increase?
One way for the population of today and tomorrow to live in harmony in regards to nourishment provided by the environment is to be able to intensify agricultural yields. With a projected population of 10 billion people, an increase of global average grain yields from 2 to 5 tons of grain per hectare would ensure a per capita diet of 6,000 calories and would save a land area twice the size of Alaska (Waggoner, 1994). Most of the world’s increased output is no longer a result of expansion of area used in agriculture, but resulting from the intensification of production on existing agricultural areas.
In the last 50 years, agriculture has intensified and yields per hectare have been rising. Intensification has allowed for a reversal of destruction of land. More land has been spared due to increased intensities. In India, 42 million hectares of land have been spared, approximately the size of California and globally, the world has saved an area the size of the Amazon (Ausubel, 1996). Of all human activities, agriculture transforms the...
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... and supported in a sustainable manner, agricultural intensification might just be able to keep up with the demand. In the up-coming decades, we will soon find out.
Ausubel, Jesse H. 1996. Can Technology Spare the Earth? Scientific American 84; Pages 166-178.
Brown, Lester R. 1997. Can We Raise Grain Yields Fast Enough? Worldwatch 10(4): Pages 9-17.
Eberstadt, Nicholas. 1995. Population, Food, and Income: Global Trends in the Twentieth Century. The True State of the World. Pages 7-48.
Mitchell, Jennifer D. 1998. Before the Next Doubling. http://www.worldwatch.org/may/1998/98-1.html. March 1, 1998.
Vitousek, Peter M. et al. 1997. Human Domination of Earth’s Ecosystems. Science. Vol. 277. Pages 494-499.
Waggoner, Paul. 1994. How Much Land Can Ten Billion People Spare for Nature? Council for Science and Technology, Ames, Iowa.
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