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Posted by oliver

I thought it might be changed to write a blog on something more generalist within the sphere of food, nutrition, and health. This is particularly pertinent as we begin the New Year, 2015.

Firstly, in round numbers we find twice as many people are obese, compared to those severely malnourished.
 
Meanwhile, huge tracts of land are used to grow sugar: how does that "feed" the hungry people in the world? It does fuel the obesity and many of our modern diseases!
 
Even larger areas are used to grow cereals/soya/corn simply to feed livestock, often kept in the most horrendous corralled conditions causing pollution of both groundwater and the air at the same time.
 
Growing most of these crops uses ridiculous quantities of fresh water: do we need to really remind ourselves how scarce that is becoming? It's arguable that some of the wars being fought at the moment originate from increased tension in arid regions where water is the number one resource that they are majorly deprived of.
 
There is one significant move we can all make to alleviate much of this problem: cutting down the meat we consume, or perhaps cutting it out altogether, will lead to the following immediate bonuses: 
 
  1. Less soil loss. In case you hadn't noticed it's disappearing rapidly, and when gone there will be no way of producing any food. 2015 is the International Year of Soil, and we all owe it a great deal more respect. By undertaking to cut meat consumption, and therefore reduce grain crops, we will greatly assist the preservation of and even rebuilding soils.
  2. Much less freshwater will be needed to grow crops easing tension for that resource. You may not know that huge amounts are irrigated in many parts of the world to produce crops that are ultimately fed to animals that people then eat. Did you know that on the feedlot in America, not typical of a British farm, it takes 20,000litres of water produce 1kg of beef? That includes the water to produce the crop and quench the animals’ thirst. You can grow a lot of vegetables with that!
  3. Massive cutbacks in the amount of food we waste, as explained by Tristram Stuart, will reduce pressure on the need to produce. We can all do better!
  4. Big reductions in the amount of hydrocarbons needed by agriculture, both to run field machinery used in growing crops, but also required to produce the chemicals and fertilisers used in conventional agriculture.
  5. Huge tracts of land will then be freed up for other purposes. Some can grow grass and be grazed: this means we will still produce meat for the carnivore, but meat eaters will eat less and it will be better quality. With the animals grazing grass the soil will be protected and more likely improved.
  6. Further huge tracts of land can then be re-afforested, massively enhancing the carbon budget for the world and returning weather cycles to something nearer to “normality”.
  7. Finally, if we do all of this we then don’t need to mess around with chemistry and biology in the way we are, which itself is destroying much of the natural ecosystem which we need to produce food. We would be able to say by goodbye to GM crops for food production, a massive bonus in itself.
I appreciate that this all seems a little utopian to some people. However, what is wrong with the proposal?
 
Naturally, there will be big resistance to this. Firstly it will come from the airheads in government obsessed with their own power base, and the short-term election cycle that generally stops them making the essential and radical decisions needed, in advance rather than as a crisis reaction measure. They need to do this to ensure we have a planet worth living on. Failure to do this will likely mean that within a generation we could have irreversibly screwed it up.
 
The other major resistance point is of course the corporate world which has stitched up most of the political world.
 
So, will the change happened quickly enough and in an orderly enough fashion? It could do. Every single day of every single year that we are alive we open our mouths to eat and drink. Therefore with every meal we are making choices about the way in which agriculture should be, and our health consequent to the diet we adopt. Therefore we have the power, and we all need to deploy it to the maximum of our capability and budgetary affordability.
 
Remember, the journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. This step may have to be quick, and the march may be fast, but it behoves us all to try and achieve that. Take a look at the world odometer to see how fast everything is changing, how much we are consuming, etc. It is a fascinating fast moving statistical clock!
 
Happy (juicy) New Year!