Can we feed the world and stop deforestation? Depends what’s for dinner (recommended reading).

A new peer reviewed study concludes that feeding a world population of 9.6 billion people in 2050 without ruining the environment is indeed possible. How? The answer is called the plant-based diet.

I’ve come to really like the website The Conversation. It is independent and offers well researched and backed up information from the academic community. On this site I recently came across an article about deforestation and how this huge environmental issue is linked to our global hunger for meat. Acre after acre of our planet’s land surface is turned into crop land to grow the enormous amounts of grains and other food that the animals require. In 2050, the UN estimates the world population to hit 9.6 billion (we are 7.2 billion today) and ensuring food security for all these people without ruining the natural world is one of humanity’s biggest future challenges.

This article I found centres around a new study published in the peer reviewed journal Nature Communications where a group of researchers looked at the 2050 food issue by modelling how the world could feed itself by then without converting any current forests into agricultured land. They tested various scenarios from 500 different realistic assumption angles such as type of human diet, livestock feed, different yields, areas needed for farming etc. Their conclusion is that we CAN feed the world population without ruing the planet – if we switch to more plant-focussed diets. Here is what the lead author of the study says:

While a wide range of feasible options to feed a no-deforestation world were found, many only worked under certain circumstances. The only diet found to work with all future possible scenarios of yield and cropland area, including 100% organic agriculture, was a plant-based one. — Karl-Heinz Erb 

Take a look at these interesting facts from the article:

  • 91% of the deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is due to the livestock industry.
  • If we all woke up vegan in 2050 it would allow us to reforest an area the size of the entire Amazon rainforest.
  • Second best – if we all went vegetarian we would allow for an area the size of India to return from cropland to its natural state.
  • Overall, the study found that a meat eater uses at least double the resources as a vegan or vegetarian.
  • In the US it takes an entire 25 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of beef.
  • The US could feed 800 million people with the grain currently fed to livestock.

These facts remind me of what huge opportunity lies in changing one’s diet. I skip meat a couple of times to save 25 kilos of grain which instead – in the longer run – can feed people in poor parts of the world. This presents such a golden chance to become a power influencer for positive change – I reduce the global demand for meat, to reduce the global demand for grain, to reduce the need for land to therefore save loads of trees (not to mention saving water and reducing green house gas emissions…).

And there is no need to go vegan to contribute. But perhaps save meat eating for special occasions and choose plant-based foods whenever possible. Be mindful about your consumption and be aware of its impacts. Because while most of the environmental research of late bring very daunting news, this study presents a very positive angle: there is a realistic and uncomplicated solution in sight to one of our biggest humanitarian problems! How’s that for motivation?! It’s literally handed to you on a plate.

The article is a five minute read and you find it here:

http://theconversation.com/can-we-feed-the-world-and-stop-deforestation-depends-whats-for-dinner-58091

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