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PMC Articles Tagged 'agriculture'

More Prime California Farmland Feared to be Lost

August 13th, 2012 by PMC | Add a Comment

July 2012 statements made by a representative of the California Department of Conservation.

More prime farmland feared to be lost to population growth

By STEVE ADLER/ Special from Ag Alert

Created:   08/05/2012 03:46:05 PM PDT

See: http://www.dailydemocrat.com/news/ci_21241505/more-prime-farmland-feared-be-lost-population-growth

New pressures from high-speed rail and solar-power development, added to California’s continued population growth, threaten to accelerate the loss of prime farmland, according to experts.

“California’s population is approaching 40 million people. Population growth in and of itself is one of the most significant forces in the quest to develop land for interests other than agricultural production and open space,” said John Lowrie of the California Department of Conservation at the July meeting of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture in Sacramento.

While California is the nation’s most populous state, because of its geographic size its overall population density is fairly low, he said, but because population is concentrated in a few areas, those locations feel the effects of urban growth more than other regions.

“One of the more alarming developments, at least to me, is the increasing density in the San Joaquin Valley, which is one of the major agricultural areas of the state,” Lowrie said. “The conversion of agricultural land to urban uses starts slowly; it doesn’t happen overnight. It can be driven by a number of forces and factors, many of which began as very localized and then expanded over time.”

Edward Thompson Jr. of American Farmland Trust told the board that 30 percent of the developed land in California was originally prime farmland. In the Central Valley, the percentage is even higher – more than 60 percent.

“Since most of the cities are located in the vicinity of the best farmland, if we are going to save farmland while cities continue to grow and accommodate more people and jobs, we need to think in terms of yield per acre the same way that farmers look at crops,” he said.

Statewide, there are just under 10 people for every developed acre of land and in the San Joaquin Valley it is about eight people per developed acre. This includes residential and commercial areas, such as shopping malls and parking lots, Thompson said.

“We are likely to lose another 2 million acres of prime agricultural land by mid-century,” he said. “While Southern California bears an enormous amount of that growth, again it is the San Joaquin Valley that is responsible for 60 percent of our agricultural production that is going to bear an equal amount of that growth.”

To read the full article, click here: http://www.dailydemocrat.com/news/ci_21241505/more-prime-farmland-feared-be-lost-population-growth

Jeremy Grantham–Investing, Population, Environment

September 1st, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Fred Stanback for this article.  See http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/magazine/can-jeremy-grantham-profit-from-ecological-mayhem.html

Can Jeremy Grantham Profit From Ecological Mayhem?


Published: August 11, 2011

Sitting in a Panera in Boston’s financial district in early July with Jeremy Grantham, I suddenly found myself considering how I might safeguard my children’s and notional grandchildren’s future by somehow engineering the U.S. annexation of Morocco. Grantham, the founder and chief strategist of the asset-management firm GMO, was reading aloud from a rough draft of his next quarterly letter to investors, in which he ranks some long-term crises of resource limitation along a scale from “merely serious” to “dangerous.”

Energy “will give us serious and sustained problems” over the next 50 years as we make the transition from hydrocarbons – oil, coal, gas – to solar, wind, nuclear and other sources, but we’ll muddle through to a solution to Peak Oil and related challenges. Peak Everything Else will prove more intractable for humanity. Metals, for instance, “are entropy at work . . . from wonderful metal ores to scattered waste,” and scarcity and higher prices “will slowly increase forever,” but if we scrimp and recycle, we can make do for another century before tight constraint kicks in.

Agriculture is more worrisome. Local water shortages will cause “persistent irritation” – wars, famines. Of the three essential macro nutrient fertilizers, nitrogen is relatively plentiful and recoverable, but we’re running out of potassium and phosphorus, finite mined resources that are “necessary for all life.” Canada has large reserves of potash (the source of potassium), which is good news for Americans, but 50 to 75 percent of the known reserves of phosphate (the source of phosphorus) are located in Morocco and the western Sahara. Assuming a 2 percent annual increase in phosphorus consumption, Grantham believes the rest of the world’s reserves won’t last more than 50 years, so he expects “gamesmanship” from the phosphate-rich.

And he rates soil erosion as the biggest threat of all. The world’s population could reach 10 billion within half a century – perhaps twice as many human beings as the planet’s overtaxed resources can sustainably support, perhaps six times too many.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/magazine/can-jeremy-grantham-profit-from-ecological-mayhem.html

The decline of agriculture?

July 11th, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Please see: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/07/201173114451998370.html

The Decline of Agriculture

By Dahr Jamail

Climate change induced extreme weather events and shifting weather patterns are challenging farmer’s ability to feed us.

Wendy Johnston with Oakwyn Farms in Athens, West Virginia, is deeply concerned about how shifting weather patterns are impacting farmers’ ability to feed the global population.

“This year we’re off to a slow start,” Johnston, who farms 40 hectares, told Al Jazeera. “Last year in April we were able to plant, but this year we even had rain, cold and snow a few days in April. The weather has become very unpredictable, and that’s the real problem.”

Climate change is making farming more difficult for her, and she wonders how much worse things will become.

On March 31, The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned of “potentially catastrophic” impacts on food production from slow-onset climate changes that are expected to increasingly hit the developing world.

The report filed with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, warned that food production systems and the ecosystems they depend on are highly sensitive to climate variability and change.

Changes in temperature, precipitation, and related outbreaks of pest and diseases could reduce production, the report said. Those particularly vulnerable are poor people in countries that rely on food imports, although climate change events are already driving up food costs around the globe, including in developed countries.

April broke many weather-related monthly records in the US, including 292 tornadoes and 5,400 extreme weather events, which combined to cause 337 deaths.

To read the full article, please click here: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/07/201173114451998370.html

Jared Diamond: The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race

May 23rd, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Peter Goodchild for this article.  See: http://www.sacredlands.org/jared_diamond_01.htm

Jared Diamond: The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race

(Originally published in the May 1987 issue of Discover magazine, found at Iowa State University Agronomy 342 course materials, Ricardo J. Salvador, Associate Professor.)

To science we owe dramatic changes in our smug self-image. Astronomy taught us that our earth isn’t the center of the universe but merely one of billions of heavenly bodies. From biology we learned that we weren’t specially created by God but evolved along with millions of other species. Now archaeology is demolishing another sacred belief: that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress. In particular, recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence.

At first, the evidence against this revisionist interpretation will strike twentieth century Americans as irrefutable. We’re better off in almost every respect than people of the Middle Ages, who in turn had it easier than cavemen, who in turn were better off than apes. Just count our advantages. We enjoy the most abundant and varied foods, the best tools and material goods, some of the longest and healthiest lives, in history. Most of us are safe from starvation and predators. We get our energy from oil and machines, not from our sweat. What neo-Luddite among us would trade his life for that of a medieval peasant, a caveman, or an ape?

For most of our history we supported ourselves by hunting and gathering: we hunted wild animals and foraged for wild plants. It’s a life that philosophers have traditionally regarded as nasty, brutish, and short. Since no food is grown and little is stored, there is (in this view) no respite from the struggle that starts anew each day to find wild foods and avoid starving. Our escape from this misery was facilitated only 10,000 years ago, when in different parts of the world people began to domesticate plants and animals. The agricultural revolution spread until today it’s nearly universal and few tribes of hunter-gatherers survive.

From the progressivist perspective on which I was brought up, to ask “Why did almost all our hunter-gatherer ancestors adopt agriculture?” is silly. Of course they adopted it because agriculture is an efficient way to get more food for less work. Planted crops yield far more tons per acre than roots and berries. Just imagine a band of savages, exhausted from searching for nuts or chasing wild animals, suddenly grazing for the first time at a fruit-laden orchard or a pasture full of sheep. How many milliseconds do you think it would take them to appreciate the advantages of agriculture?

The progressivist party line sometimes even goes so far as to credit agriculture with the remarkable flowering of art that has taken place over the past few thousand years. Since crops can be stored, and since it takes less time to pick food from a garden than to find it in the wild, agriculture gave us free time that hunter-gatherers never had. Thus it was agriculture that enabled us to build the Parthenon and compose the B-minor Mass.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.sacredlands.org/jared_diamond_01.htm

Peak phosphorus

May 2nd, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Charles Hall for this article.  See http://www.energybulletin.net/node/33164

Published Aug 13 2007 by Energy Bulletin, Archived Aug 13 2007

Peak phosphorus

by Patrick Déry and Bart Anderson

Peak oil has made us aware that many of the resources on which civilization depends are limited.

M. King Hubbert, a geophysicist for Shell Oil, found that oil production over time followed a curve that was roughly bell-shaped. He correctly predicted that oil production in the lower 48 states would peak in 1970. Other analysts following Hubbert’s methods are predicting a peak in oil production early this century.

The depletion analysis pioneered by Hubbert can be applied to other non-renewable resources. Analysts have looked at peak production for resources such as natural gas, coal and uranium.

In this paper, Patrick Déry applies Hubbert’s methods to a very special non-renewable resource – phosphorus – a nutrient essential for agriculture.

In the literature, estimates before we “run out” of phosphorus range from 50 to 130 years. This date is conveniently far enough in the future so that immediate action does not seem necessary. However, as we know from peak oil analysis, trouble begins not when we “run out” of a resource, but when production peaks. From that point onward, the resource becomes more difficult to extract and more expensive.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.energybulletin.net/node/33164

Commerce News: Mexico’s New Agricultural Crisis

April 2nd, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Many thanks to Bill Geoghegan for this article.  See http://www.grass-roots-press.com/2011/02/12/commerce-news-mexicos-new-agricultural-crisis/

Commerce News: Mexico’s New Agricultural Crisis

February 12, 2011

February’s freezing fury has left a path of crumpled crops, pummeled harvests and dashed dreams in the countryside of northern Mexico. Hardest hit was the northwestern state of Sinaloa, known as the “Bread Basket of Mexico,” where about 750,000 acres of corn crops were reported destroyed after unusually cold temperatures blanketed the north of the country in January and early February.

Sinaloa is among Mexico’s major producers of white corn, the variety of maize used to make staple tortillas.

Heriberto Felix Guerra, secretary of the federal Secretariat for Social Development (SEDESOL), called the weather-related losses “the worst disaster” in the history of Sinaloa.

Altogether, more than 1.5 million acres of corn, vegetable, citrus and other crops were either damaged or destroyed in Sinaloa, with a preliminary economic loss of approximately one billion dollars.

To read the full article, please click here:  http://www.grass-roots-press.com/2011/02/12/commerce-news-mexicos-new-agricultural-crisis/

Reflections of a Naturalist: Human Overpopulation

March 28th, 2011 by joe | 1 Comment

Thanks to Bruce Snyder for this article.  See http://rolandcclement.blogspot.com/ where you can read all of Roland Clement’s blog entries.

Reflections of a Naturalist

Roland C Clement

Friday, February 18, 2011

Human Overpopulation

Starting from different bases on different continents, and different cultural assumptions, all three major civilizations had nevertheless overpopulated their environments by the turn of the 20th century.

Although biological evolution had given humans a high reproductive potential to compensate for the high mortality of hunter-gatherer life styles for the first 200 millennia, it was the advent of agriculture about 10,000 years ago that initiated our unbalanced relationship within Nature’s productive systems. Indeed, that is what  Nature is: a set of evolving, mostly living, and interdependent systems and their byproducts.

So long as our numbers and our technologies were modest, we were just one species among many, adding diversity and contributing innovations in the use of the same building blocks that the rest of the life process utilizes to maintain itself, the atoms and molecules.  At first nomadic, our demands were scattered and replenished in a few seasons of vegetative growth. In fact, native vegetation is the mainstay of all higher animal life on planet Earth, hence a principal index to Earth’s carrying capacity for animal populations.

Agriculture is a specialized form of exploitation for seasonal crops grown especially for human use. Such crops therefore contribute much less to the larger biotic community than native plants. Being seasonal, they also induce more erosion. And since we contest the tithe competing insects impose, we end up with impoverished biotic communities, a high price for the maintenance of one species, since we resorted to chemical pollution to do this.

To read the full article, click here: http://rolandcclement.blogspot.com/2011/02/human-overpopulation.html

Restoring Food Security for All Takes Action on Many Fronts By Lester R. Brown

February 4th, 2011 by Chantelle Routhier | 4 Comments

Thanks to Lester Brown for this article.

Today there are three sources of growing demand for food: population growth; rising affluence and the associated jump in meat, milk, and egg consumption; and the use of grain to produce fuel for cars.

Population growth is as old as agriculture itself. But the world is now adding close to 80 million people per year. Even worse, the overwhelming majority of these people are being added in countries where cropland is scarce, soils are eroding, and irrigation wells are going dry.

Even as we are multiplying in number, some 3 billion of us are trying to move up the food chain, consuming more grain-intensive livestock products. As incomes rise, annual grain consumption per person climbs from less than 400 pounds, as in India today, to roughly 1,600 pounds, as among those living high on the food chain in the United States, where diets tend to be heavy with meat and dairy products.

For full article, visit:

African Farmers Displaced as Investors Move In

February 1st, 2011 by Chantelle Routhier | Add a Comment

Thanks to David Sussman for this New York Times article.

The half-dozen strangers who descended on this remote West African village brought its hand-to-mouth farmers alarming news: their humble fields, tilled from one generation to the next, were now controlled by Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and the farmers would all have to leave.

“They told us this would be the last rainy season for us to cultivate our fields; after that, they will level all the houses and take the land,” said Mama Keita, 73, the leader of this village veiled behind dense, thorny scrubland. “We were told that Qaddafi owns this land.”

For full article, visit:

Feeding a larger population on a warmer planet

January 29th, 2011 by Chantelle Routhier | 4 Comments

Thanks to Joe Bish for this article from the Post Carbon Institute’s Energy Bulletin.

At a recent event hosted by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington D.C., Mark Rosegrant, Director of the Environment and Production Technology Division, said, “Income and population growth drive food prices higher, putting pressure on our food system.” And climate change adds more pressure to these already big challenges. “We can expect to see more extreme events – more floods, more droughts, more shocks to agriculture,” noted Sherman Robinson from the United Kingdom’s Foresight Programme on Global Food and Farming Futures Project. There is, therefore, an urgent need to manage these challenges in a more sustainable way.

For full article, visit:

The full report can be downloaded at http://www.ifpri.org/publication/food-security-farming-and-climate-change-2050