Ah man. From now on, anytime anybody asks why I am studying what I am studying, I'll just refer them to Jonathan Foley, who gave a riveting TED talk in 2010 about what he calls "The Other Inconvenient Truth".
Some of his major arguments why agriculture is one of the main challenges of the future:
- Already today, 40% of the Earth's surface area is devoted to agriculture.
- Of this amount, 16 Mio. square km are used for crops - about the size of South America.
- Also, 30 Mio. square km are used for livestock pasture - around the size of Africa.
- We are already using 50% of all fresh water reserves - and 70% of that is used for agriculture.
- Agriculture is also responsible for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, the greatest overall contributor of all industries.
- We need to double agricultural production in the next 40 years to keep up with current consumption levels and population growth - but how are we going to do that without destroying vital ecosystems and depleting top soil, water and nutrient reserves that future generations depend on?
Riley calls for a new form of agriculture, what he calls "Terraculture" - agriculture for the entire Earth, which combines expertise and knowledge of conventional farmers, environmentalists, organic farmers, animal welfare experts and the like to find ways for a new way forward in collaboration. For more on Riley's views on the perceived efficiency of particularly American agriculture, check out this blog post on Chewswise.