Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Food or Climate?

Which is more important, food or the climate? It is a question which has been debated many times since the 16th century when Malthus estimated that the popularity would one day not have enough food to sustain everyone unless steps were taken, which would in turn ruin the Planet's climate. 

The current food system is a significant contributor to climate change due to the carbon footprint of so many imported foods across the world each day, fertilizers and pesticides flowing into rivers and polluting ecosystems, and the deforestation of woodland to make room for crops. But should we continue this efficient system or change the way we grow and package food?

The food system is an important global market, with many benefits to humanity. These advantages include stopping starvation throughout the world, contributing to income for farmers in third world countries, creating jobs in the food industry for farmers, manufacturers and transporters. On the other hand there are also costs of this food system, such as the creation of pollution from transportation, the danger to ecosystems from plastic and tin packaging, and the deforestation of large areas of land like in Ecuador to make room for large scale food production.

Food has to be eaten all over the world. It is a basic sustenance, not a luxury. Therefore world trade is not an option but a necessity. Trade is a key factor in economic development; a successful use of trade can boost the progress of less developed countries. Food production generates jobs in many areas, from growing and cultivating to packaging and selling. Without this industry the world economy would never have advanced past sustenance farming. 

Unfortunately, importing and exporting food is expensive and pollutes the world with fuel waste. Pesticides and fertilizers contaminate land and water when they are sprayed aerially or allowed to run off the fields, ruining the area for future use.  Deforestation reduces the amount of carbon dioxide being recycled by the trees and also arrests the process of transpiration, upsetting the balance of nature. 

However Climate change causes extreme weather events which are feeding into a global food crisis. This disrupts agriculture and food production, forcing up the food prices, and hitting the world's most vulnerable the hardest. These abnormal weather patterns have been created through pollution, to which the food system has contributed. This has created a vicious cycle which will surely lead to the foreseen food shortage Malthus postulated...

Unless we change the way our food system currently works. 

We must change the way we grow, package and transport food in order to help stopping the pollution of the atmosphere. This would slow down climate change and allow the world to recover. Earth would then normalize its weather patterns and the droughts/floods/twisters would be less frequent. After all that, we would then be able to produce more food to support the growing population. 

Therefore in my opinion, there is no definitive line between food and the climate to make one more important than the other. Instead, the two seem to depend on each other to sustain humanity. 

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