This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Power of Plants to Save the Planet

The new UN report on the quickness with which climate change will dramatically our lives has attracted more attention than I was worried it would, and I was especially drawn to an article in the Washington Post reminding us that it is not just cars, trucks, and planes that are the problem--we are ruining the environment with our unsustainable pattern of food production.
The human population has reached 7.6 billion and could number 9 billion or 10 billion by midcentury. All those people will need to eat. A sobering report published Wednesday in the journal Nature argues that a sustainable food system that doesn’t ravage the environment is going to require dramatic reforms, including a radical change in dietary habits. 
To be specific: Cheeseburgers are out, and fruits and veggies are in.
Global warming has typically been linked to the burning of fossil fuels, but food production is a huge and underappreciated factor, and the new report seeks to place food in the center of the conversation about how humanity can create a sustainable future.
I've discussed the planetary benefits of a plant-based diet on other occasions--check out this post from August or just search in the blog for "plant-based". In that August post I comment on the increase in meat consumption in China, which is a wrong-way trend that the whole world needs to reverse. Indeed, I was thinking about that today as I read another Washington Post article about the dilemma faced by North Dakota soy farmers who are caught up in the Trump administration's trade war with China:
For the past decade, North American soybean production has exploded, driven by an intense demand from China. Peterson and other Great Plains farmers directly fed the overseas markets, harvesting more than 243 million bushels in North Dakota, at a price of $2.1 billion in the last market year. The majority of that crop fattened Chinese livestock.
If the majority of that crop were to start going to soy-based food for humans (or if farmers were growing potatoes!), we would all be better off and, in fact, that is what we are going to have to do if we are to sustainably feed the next generation of humans and, more generally, sustain life on this planet. 

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