Archive for Agriculture, Fishing, and Hunting
e360.yale.edu 2nd November 2010
Quoted from source:
‘The conversion of the planet’s ecosystems into cropland — particularly in tropical rainforests — is stretching the Earth’s ability to store carbon, according to a new study. The demand for new agricultural land is growing most rapidly in the tropics, due to growing populations, changing diets, food security concerns, and a rising demand for biofuels. But not only is the crop yield weakest in those regions, the clear-cutting of tropical forest results in twice as much carbon released into the atmosphere per unit of land as in temperate regions, since the forests act as massive carbon sinks, according to the study published the Proceedings of the National Academies. “In terms of balancing the needs of food production and slowing carbon dioxide emissions, this is a tough tradeoff,” said Jonathan Foley, director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and co-author of the study, which researchers call the most comprehensive analysis on the tradeoff between carbon storage and crop production. Researchers suggest a better alternative to clearing new cropland is more efficient use of existing farmland.’
e360.yale.edu 14th October 2010
Quoted from source:
‘Global agricultural experts are calling for the widespread adoption of what they call “evergreen agriculture,” which relies on planting so-called fertilizer trees in and around fields to boost crop yields, replenish nutrient-depleted soils, and sequester carbon. Meeting at the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue in Iowa, food experts said that with the world population expected to grow from 6.5 billion today to more than 9 billion by 2050, agricultural production will have to double as global warming causes more droughts and overpopulation leads to deforestation and soil degradation. A key solution, the experts said, is to integrate fertilizer trees into agriculture. The trees draw nitrogen from the air and transfer it to the soil through roots and leaf litter. Hundreds of thousands of farmers in Zambia, Malawi, Niger, and Burkina Faso have seen yields jump appreciably when trees are planted around fields, the experts said. In Malawi, farmers increased their maize yields by 280 percent when the crop was grown under a canopy of a particularly effective fertilizer tree, Faidherbia albida, a type of acacia.’
www.guardian.co.uk 21st September 2010
The water shortage in Yemen is so severe that the government are thinking of moving the capital city from the land-locked Sana’a to the more coastal Ta’izz. Over the past 30 years rainfall has been steadily declining resulting in chronic shortages, particularly in more rural populations. The situation is not helped by the widespread cultivation of Qat plants which require more water than conventional crops. It is estimated that in Sana’a alone 50% of the water supply is diverted to watering these plantations. Shortages have also increased the number of illegally drilled wells around the country. Permission for well construction should be given by the government but increasingly local sheikhs are taking matters into their own hands. These wells can be up to 1000m deep and rarely last long making it necessary to build more to maintain water flow. Only 20% of Yemen’s population has a direct water supply in their homes. The rest are forced to walk up to 2-3 hours a day to fetch it from wells. Solutions to the problem include reducing Qat cultivation and desalinating sea water from the Red Sea. There is no political or social will to do either. The city of Tai’zz, the proposed site of the new capital, is suffering just as badly as Sana’a.
Yemen relies economically on fossil fuels but it is estimated that its oil supplies are running out, maybe as early as 2020.
e360.yale.edu 16th September 2010
Environmentalists and conservationists in Scotland have taken it upon themselves to restore the Scottish landscape back into its former splendour. In recent years the land has been taken over by agriculture and it has become monotonous compared to the days of the great Caledonian forest which used to stretch for 3.7 million hectares across the country. Today, barely one percent of this remains. The last wolf was killed in 1743, beavers went missing around 1600, boars around 1300, the lynx and brown bear 500 AD, and the European Elk (or Mongoose) died out before even the Romans. To restore the land by replanting woodland, the parties involved will have to deal with the still powerful landowners of Scotland. According to the book ‘Who Owns Scotland’, the country’s 19 million acres are owned by just 343 landowners. Even the two national parks are privately owned and subject to sheep grazing and forestation. The signs are good however. Environmental groups are buying up land to ‘rewild’ and beavers have been reintroduced. Also the Scottish parliament has restored the Scots ‘right-to-roam’ so any individual can go where they please. The largest ecological restoration project so far in Scotland is found at the glen of Carrifran.
www.guardian.co.uk 16th September 2010
The coal industry in China has experienced an astonishing expansion in recent years. From producing 357 gigawatts of energy in 2002, the sector is now responsible for 900 gigawatts causing 375 million tonnes of coal ash from 3 billion tonnes of coal, twice that of United States. 70% of China’s energy comes from coal and, although the government claim that 60% of the industry’s waste product, coal ash, is recycled, in reality most of it is dumped illegally. Fines for such actions exist but are minimal ( around £2.85 a tonne). Coal ash includes toxic chemicals such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead.
Greenpeace have highlighted the example of the Shentou number two power plant in Shuozhou, Shanxi province. The nearby towns of Mayi and Shuimotou have been heavily polluted by the coal ash fall out as there are little to no measures in place to prevent the ash passing over the settlements and the surrounding agriculture. Cattle and sheep are finding it difficult to reproduce and fields are no longer fertile. Despite numerous complaints the reaction by the plant’s owners has been its ‘ecological management system’ that erects dead maize stalks to act as ‘wind break’ (see image below). Livestock that feed on contaminated grass suffer high fatalities with one farmer saying 70% of his sheep has died of diarrhea following consumption of coal ash.
Sources: ourworld.unu.edu (United Nations University) 10th September 2010
For the first time in history the population of Japan’s capital city Tokyo is consuming more meat than seafood. The dramatic shift highlights the increasing ‘Westernisation’ of diets in Southeast and East Asia. In 1950 the average resident of Tokyo ate around 5 grams of meat per day compared to 90 grams today. That is a 160% rise in beef consumption since 1970 and a 90% rise in pork consumption. The demand for meat has gone beyond Japan’s production capacity and the country is now a net importer of every type of meat. In 1960 the country was almost self-sufficient in meat. Japan currently has the second largest number of McDonalds in the world.
Meat production in the world is spiraling upwards with a new study by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN stating that 30% of the worlds land-surface is now being used for livestock activities with 70% of this land created through deforestation. The demand for further pastoral land is such that 23 out of the 35 world’s biodiversity hotspots (as identified by Conservation International) are under pressure.
Sources: new.nationalgeographic.com 2nd September 2010
Encroaching farmland is threatening several delicate ecosystems found in South Africa’s wetlands. Species such as the Cadiscus aquaticus daisy are at such risk that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has placed them on the Red List of Threatened Species. South Africa is not the only country with threatened flora though as the IUCN’s Red List has grown from 5186 in 1998 to 8084 this year. The IUCN has also stated that more than 20% of Africa’s freshwater species are on the brink of extinction following a five year study of 5167 species.
With the world’s population growing at a relentless rate and changing climate conditions causing shortages in the world’s food supply, the expansion of farmland and the intensifying of fishing practices is not likely to end any time soon. Will such mechanisms as the Red List really prevent the expansion of agricultural lands? How else can delicate ecosystems be protected from human needs?
A debate has developed over the burden of bio-fuel plantations on the African continent. In recent years, the demand for bio-fuel crops such as Jatropha and palm oil have soared in response to an EU target of producing 10% of all transport fuels from bio-fuels by 2020. A campaign, spear-headed by Friends of the Earth, has attempted to highlight the problems caused by wide-spread growth of usually inedible bio-fuel crops. According to the charity’s report (link below), these crops not only cut down on the available land used for growing food-crops, causing hunger among the local populations, but also raise carbon-emissions. Bio-fuel companies counter these arguments by claiming they bring local investment and jobs to otherwise poor areas as well as produce fuels for the local economy. There is also debate as to the extent bio-fuel crops compete with food-crops for arable land with bio-fuel companies stating they use poorer soils not suitable for food crops.
See the full Friends of the Earth report here.