Agriculture & the Environment (from a research publication)

More and more food has to be generated for the growing world population. This food production will have to come partly from an extension of agricultural areas and partly from intensifying agricultural methods in existing areas. Besides this there are also the possibilities of synthetic food production and of “ocean farming”. This growing demand for a sufficient supply of food will increase the load on the carrying capacity of soil, fresh water, vegetation (including forests) and fauna. But the existing “capital” of the natural resources and existing biological conditions on earth is finite. Therefore, it is the immense and responsible task of mankind to search for an acceptable equilibrium. On the one hand, we must seek methods for increasing food production per hectare and for extending agricultural areas in connection with the methods of producing this food. On the other hand, mankind has to contend with the stability or carrying capacity of the biosphere. By biosphere we mean the system of plants, animals, soil, water and air, which sustains all life on earth and maintains it together with the sun. To avoid lasting or irreversible disruption of the biosphere we will have to proceed to the next decades with great insight, wisdom and resolution. However, at the same time the millions of mouths daily asking for food have to be fed.

Let us first look at the demand for food. The more people draw from natural resources, the more waste from these man-used resources enters the biosphere and the bigger is the load on the earth’s total available “capital” of soil and surface waters and its regeneration possibilities. Actually we should only consume the “interest”, as a result of the circulation of materials. By technology we can often increase the rate of interest. However, we often deceive ourselves, by thinking that technology that increases the rate at which we exploit the “capital” is really effecting an increase in the interest rate. We have to use the “interest” in a way which does not affect the durability of the production capacity. That this has not always been done is shown by the occurrence of deserts where once there were prospering civilizations, and by the presence of man-made savannas, where once there was jungle. Meanwhile the world population is growing faster than ever before in history (Ehrlich and Ehrlich, 1970). Its present growth is exponential. In April 1975 world population is estimated to reach 4 X 109 of which 2.9 X 109 live in developing countries. In the poor countries (income per person less than U.S.$100.- per year) the increase is 2.4% per annum; in the developed countries 1.1%. Even if the almost inaccessible goal of each family averaging two-children was to be reached by the developed countries in the year 2000 and by the developing countries in the year 2050, the population would increase from the present 3.9 X 109 people to at least 15 X 109 within 80 years, or 4.5 times as many as at present. It is difficult to say with certainty (apart from the possibility of wars, large-scale illness and plagues) if the current rate of growth can continue in the future. There is, after all, no experience with removal of growth curve constraints of the world human population. Until now every biological growth has found its natural end, and it is possible that mankind itself may provide a voluntary solution to population expansion by more efficient ‘family-planning’ or by external means of control directed by society. More and more people, ranging from economists and biologists to sociologists and theologians, are occupying themselves with population politics. Reward systems for family planning, as an intervention in the biological reproduction process, are opening quite new fields for synthesis of the theological, moral, psychological and sociological disciplines. Mankind faces the question of how to re-establish a population balance, which was formerly regulated by disease, starvation and natural disasters, but which now has to be regulated by a more humanitarian mechanism………… To read more on this, download the full document from our widget for free. Please leave a thank you note!

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