Most global nutrition forecasting shows we’re in a world of hurt. Global warming and poor farming practices are destroying nutrient-rich soil and raising temperatures to the point many crops can’t survive. Toss in some natural disasters like wildfires and tornadoes, then sprinkle in water shortages and we’ve got some obvious obstacles to feeding the world’s population.
With little likelihood any of that is going to change anytime soon, we need to be creating a plan for the future. The Future Investment Initiative Institute had the same thought, so it put together a comprehensive report covering some options for how a sustainable food future might look.
The starting point
We’re not in a good situation. When we look at the world’s population as a whole, we’ll see “at least one in ten of the global population of eight billion faces daily hunger and that three billion are malnourished. Nearly half of all deaths of children under five derive from this cause.”
This isn’t a new topic. We’ve been hashing it out for decades with varied results. Of late, we’ve been on a backward slide. It’s hard to imagine, considering all the innovations and the feeling that the world gets smaller every day. Yet, we’re doing it wrong and the world’s hunger continues to grow. Worse, if we don’t make changes to improve soil, slow erosion, eliminate toxic chemicals polluting the water and soil, get a handle on microplastics and find ways to get plants to grow in desert conditions, the situation will become even worse. So what can we do? What should we do?
1. Cut back on meat consumption
We know raising livestock is bad for the planet. It’s not sustainable, with the industry being a primary producer of greenhouse gasses and using massive amounts of water, land and feed in the process.
2. Regenerative farming
There are myriad aspects of regenerative farming, such as no-till planting, rotational grazing patterns and crop diversity. Put together, the efforts equal healthier, nutrient-rich and resilient soil.
3. Return to native plants
Not only are native plants naturally adapted to specific landscapes but they require fewer resources than non-native plants. In fact, well-established, native species thrive in the environment with very little intervention, including additional watering, fertilizers and insecticides.
4. Go organic
Chemicals applied to plants that help them grow faster, bigger or healthier affect more than the plants they are applied to. Those chemicals then travel through the air and absorb into the water, polluting everything in their path, including nearby organic food farms and the final ocean destination where marine animals suffer. Instead of relying on these toxins, we need to get back to organic farming by creating strong growing environments that are naturally resilient to insects, rot and drought.
5. Eat bugs
Yes, really. Many places around the world already consume bugs. Additionally, there’s no reason they can’t be used as a steady food source.
6. Develop food equity
Remote and poor countries suffer from distinct disadvantages when it comes to acquiring healthy foods. For example, goods shipped without refrigeration commonly spoil before they arrive.
7. Minimize food waste
On the opposite side of the spectrum, around 40% of food in developed countries is thrown out, either along the delivery route, at the market, or after it is brought home. It’s such a huge issue, it made the list of Sustainable Development Goals with a target to cut global food waste in half by 2030. This then requires an investment in refrigerated transport and more effective packaging.
8. Support farmers
Meanwhile, regenerative farming is the best way to rejuvenate soils decimated by quick crop fixes of previous generations. For decades, the standard practice has been to rely on chemical fertilizers and pesticides to ramp up wheat production and other crops. To amend and repair the damage done to that critical soil, we also need to support farmers who make it happen. Without support, they will continue to take shortcuts toward wins in the current season without attention to continued long-term destruction.
9. Find funding
Every day, desperate non-profit organizations, governments and citizens are pointing the finger at each other for answers. The truth is, food funding is an essential and basic right for every human. Rich countries need to help poor countries. Rich citizens need to help poor citizens. Governments need to provide for those suffering from food insecurity. The answers aren’t easy, but the need is obvious.
10. Embrace diversity
In order to continuously feed the people of the world, we must embrace a wide variety of foods. If everyone grows corn, wheat and potatoes, we’ll lose valuable nutrients and opportunities in the thousands of other fruits, vegetables and grains we could be consuming.
11. Invest in water sources
We also need water for animals and crops. Even with ultra-effective farming practices, some areas are just too dry. But there are ways to bring the water back through desalination and other technologies. However, it will require investments to make it happen.
12. Recognize the connections
The four primary reasons for hunger are wars, extreme weather, food waste and poverty. With this in mind, it’s essential we make food insecurity a priority — a mission that can’t be derailed even in war. We need a global pact to create systems and then ensure they continue. There’s not a shortage of food in the world, we’re just failing to manage it appropriately. There’s no reason anyone should go hungry when the planet provides adequate nutrition and enough of it. We need to rebalance the equation, making food affordable for everyone, not just the richest among us.
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