We use more ecological resources and services than nature can replenish, says columnist. (STOCK PHOTO)

Food supply-and-demand balance is off

FOOD MATTERS: We use more ecological resources and services than nature replenishes, says columnist

BY MARJORIE STEWART

Norman Borlaug, father of the ‘Green Revolution,’ saved the lives of millions in Mexico and Asia with his improved strains of wheat. He also warned that this level of production could not be sustained indefinitely because of its reliance on massive inputs of water and chemical fertilizers. His efforts bought some time to deal with the underlying causes of hunger: poverty and population growth.

Wasteful industrial agricultural methods include separating crop production from natural replenishments of soils and people from the land which feeds them. Water for irrigation is moved from ground aquifers to fields and feedlots. Every quarter-pound cheeseburger with a glass of milk uses about 740 gallons of water. Aquifers do not magically refill and drained aquifers are no use in times of drought. The minerals excreted by feedlot animals become wastes leeched into rivers and oceans and the minerals from our food become sewage dumped into oceans. Peak oil is coming very close but so is peak food, the way we produce it.

Increased population is outstripping increased grain production and most of the grain is no longer being used to feed people. In 2008 about five per cent of grain was being used for biofuel, 47 per cent for animal fodder and nearly 50 per cent for food. All that water squandered on fodder and fuel and population increases, mostly because many people are living longer.

According to ecological footprint metrics, it now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year. By overfishing, overharvesting forests, and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the planet can sequester, we use more ecological resources and services than nature can replenish.

Attitudes about all this data are wildly divergent. The super-optimists think technology will: produce more food; and/or take us to the stars; and/or provide never-ending green renewable energy. The super-pessimists focus on irreversible damage we have already done; bad leadership in all sectors (government, business, civil society); and human nature as incapable of positive change.

Those of us realists who are alarmed but trusting content ourselves with doing what we can, where we can, when we can, so as not to contribute to the destruction while trying to support alternatives to what is obviously not working.

Meantime, world scientists recently brought out a 25th anniversary update to the Union of Concerned Scientists warning to the world of 1992, noting very little evidence of positive results over that period (the ozone hole is smaller and there has been some progress, in some places, in population containment through education and more equality for women). Unnecessary poverty and unrestrained population growth are still the issues, economic growth the curse, and loss of species and climate change our comeuppance.

So what can we do? Look after the planet, stop the waste, feed ourselves sensibly and support those local groups working for the positive alternatives.

We can’t say we haven’t been warned.

Marjorie Stewart is past chair of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at marjorieandalstewart@gmail.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo’s Lauren Spencer-Smith advances to American Idol top 20

Teen performs Respect at outdoor concert in Hawaii

Nanaimo will be the community hardest-hit by ferry layoffs, union says

B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union looking at its legal options

Woman arrested in Nanaimo after attempted RV break-in with owner inside

Incident happened April 1 in the 700 block of Drake Street

Community strength urged in combatting COVID-19 in Nanaimo

Health-care workers at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital saluted

‘Better days will return’: Queen Elizabeth delivers message amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Queen said crisis reminds her of her first address during World War II in 1940

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

‘Stay strong’ graffiti message offers encouragement in downtown Nanaimo

Boarded-up Modern Café regains some of its colour during COVID-19 pandemic

No more ferries will sail from Departure Bay during COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. Ferries announces major changes to sailing schedules starting Saturday, April 4

COVID-19: Hospitals remain safe for childbirth, say Vancouver Island care providers

North Island Hospital has been asked to share its perinatal COVID-19 response plan

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

B.C. VIEWS: Pandemic shows need for adequate care home staffing

Seniors in B.C. care homes face challenging times

Most Read