Feeding A Growing Planet
14th April 2021
Most of you know that I focus on telling important conservation and environmental stories through my social media platforms. It is what I love doing most and it is what gets me out of bed in the morning – it’s what gives me my buzz, and it is where my passion lies the most.
Recently though, and since I watched Cary Fowler’s TED Talk: One seed at a time, protecting the future of food, I’ve become increasingly intrigued by human overpopulation and its potential impacts on food security and agriculture.
What is food security?
There is enough food for everyone on the planet (at the moment), but not everyone has enough food available to them.
Food security is the measure of two things:
- The availability of food. This can be affected by things like climate change preventing crop growth or just by supply/demand issues driven by a rapidly growing population.
- Each person’s ability to access available food. This can be affected by social, economic and political problems such as conflict and poverty.
Growing up as a child, I was always shadowing my farm clerk uncle in Northern Cyprus, or watching my Jamaican side of the family sending barrels full of food to help feed our family in the Caribbean. I never really questioned food security as a child, or the impacts of agriculture on our planet, or even the importance of food in general. However, having the opportunity to work at a small local farm shop in the South West of England since late last year has truly put things into perspective for me and allowed me to value food more. From looking at ways to eliminate food waste, ensuring that we’re eating seasonal produce, limiting the produce with a lot of travel miles, supporting local and small-scale farmers and how they grow their produce etc.
I believe it has never been a more important time to start thinking about food security!
So how can food security be achieved?
The world is rapidly changing on a daily basis meaning that old methods of handling the same issues have to be thought about differently. Achieving global food security is doable but everybody on our planet has to contribute towards making it happen.
Here are some top areas that need to be addressed:
- Population growth – At present there are approximately 7.9 billion people that inhabit planet Earth. These numbers are increasing daily, and it has been said that by 2050, the world will have at least 10 billion people. That is a lot of people, and it is also a lot of mouths to feed. Slowing the population’s growth through for example education and female empowerment means we are more likely to able to feed everyone with high quality nutritious produce.
- Climate change – A changing climate has the potential to disrupt ecosystems significantly, and we need many ecosystems to help grow our food. Many regions around the world have different climate conditions that allow specific and unique food products to grow. If the climate continues to change and we do not manage to mitigate it, then achieving global food security between now and 2050 could prove to be very difficult.
- Soil health and crop diversity – Many of us would never question the importance of soils. To many of us it is just dirt on the ground. However, soils are extremely important for life on Earth. It is the foundation for all our food crops and holds all the key nutrients and microbes to help our food grow. It is one of the main reasons why our planet is able to have a huge diversity of food crops. There are many variations of soils that help support different food types and other flora. If these important life-giving soils are lost to many of the worlds current environmental and (sometimes anthropogenic factors), then the likelihood of crop diversity diminishing is high! The #Grounded short film by the British Society of Soil Science and Earth Minutes is a very informative and illustrative video that will help you understand the importance of soils.
Wondering what you can do? Here are some individual actions to make a difference:
- Track the travel miles and CO2 emissions taken to produce the food you have in front of you and try choose local and meat-free options.
- Support Fairtrade and small-scale farmers initiatives, and truly see if your purchases are benefiting their lives. According to the Gaia Foundation’s book ‘We Feed the World’, small-scale farmers help produce at least 70% of our global food.
- Try your absolute best to limit food waste in your household and outside of it. The journey of all our food products would blow your mind. Check our ‘Follow the Food’ for more information, and change the way you view food for the better!
- Grow a variety of your own produce if it possible to do so at the convenience of your home.
- Realise that a wonky vegetable or a slightly bruised piece of fruit is still valuable and just as nutritious as many that aren’t. It is shocking how much gets thrown away in supermarkets and within the hospitality industry. We as the consumers can possibly be and make the change by purchasing these products or at least campaigning to use them in these places instead of getting thrown away.
In truth it will take many different scenarios and actions like these combined by us all to ensure that our planet has enough food, and good quality food here and now before we begin to think about what it could mean to provide for an increased human population.
My interests in conservation biology and many elements of the natural world remains the same. I love it and will always be driven to try and protect it. However, it is vital to acknowledge the importance of safeguarding our habitats, food systems, and fundamentally our human race.
Because in the end humanity and all life on this planet are inextricably linked. We are the caretakers of this planet, and for us to be looked after well; we must all live sustainably!