Food and Population

March 2, 2010 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Dave Gardner for this article on food and population, where you can also see a comment by Frank Arundel.

Farmers are invisible people, and middle-class city dwellers choose to pretend that the long lines of trucks bringing food into the city at dawn every day have nothing to do with the white-collar world. Perhaps it is a mark of the civilized person to believe that the essentials of food, clothing, and shelter have no relevance to daily life. Yet if the farmers stopped sending food into the great vacuum of the metropolis, the great maw of urbanity, the city would soon start to crumble, as Britain discovered in the year 2000 [5]. The next question, then, is: Where does all this food come from?

Is there such a thing as sustainable agriculture, or is “sustainable agriculture” a self-contradictory term? To keep a piece of land producing crops, it is necessary to maintain a high level of various minerals. The most critical are phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and especially nitrogen (N). These minerals might be abundant in the soil before any cultivation is done, but whenever crops are harvested a certain amount of the three critical elements is removed.

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