Digital resources to strengthen the quality and quantity of geography education in classrooms the world over.
Curated by Seth Dixon
As a society, we have increasingly become disconnected from our food and food production. The wastefulness of this unnecessary packaging is so lazy it's hard to know where to begin. #food #foodprep #foodproduction #fieldtofork #consumerism #consumption #avocado #guacamole
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"Farm exports to the U.S. from Mexico have tripled to $7.6 billion in the last decade, enriching agribusinesses, distributors and retailers.
American consumers get all the salsa, squash and melons they can eat at affordable prices. And top U.S. brands — Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Subway and Safeway, among many others — profit from produce they have come to depend on.These corporations say their Mexican suppliers have committed to decent treatment and living conditions for workers. But a Los Angeles Times investigation found that for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the export boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship."
This is a hard read, but it is important to understand that there is a dark underbelly to many of the economic systems that are reshaping the world today. Sometimes we ask all the wrong questions, like "why is organic, local, or fair trade food so expensive?" We should really be asking why the other options are so cheap.
This, unfortunately is part of the answer. This is a 4-part series (I-camps, II-labor, III-Company Stores, IV-Child Labor) from the LA Times that has excellent pictures, videos, and interviews highlighting the working conditions of farm workers in Mexico. For an audio version, here is an NPR podcast interviewing Richard Marosi, the investigator behind the story.
"Cocoa, coffee and minerals are especially vulnerable to the weather pattern first named by Peruvian fishermen."
"The world eats cheap bacon at the expense of North Carolina's rural poor."
In a recent article by QZ (the video above comes from the same investigation), they explore the negative impacts of the pork industry. People love their bacon memes, but forget about social and environmental impacts of an increased global trend towards higher pork consumption.
Producers, sellers, and consumers waste tons of food. John Oliver discusses the shocking amount of food we don’t eat.
Food waste is a tragedy that we all know happens, but the economic system does not work efficiently to maximize the global food production (Disclaimer: it is HBO's John Oliver, so there is some language and references that might not be appropriate for all audiences).
People have been farming — and eating — a GMO for thousands of years without knowing it. Scientists have found genes from bacteria in sweet potatoes around the world. So who made the GMO?
Yes, the title is somewhat misleading (isn't that almost expected these days?), since humanity has been selectively breeding crops since the first agricultural revolution and genetic alteration can occur independent of human intervention. Humanity has always been using the best technologies available to improve agricultural practices. The term GMO though, is usually reserved for scientific, technological modifications that were unimaginable 100 years ago.
The world's population is projected to reach 11 billion by the end of the century. Feeding that many people will be a challenge, and it is further complicated by the impact of climate change on agriculture. That is why some people advocate an unusual way to boost the food supply and feed people sustainably: by eating less meat, and more insects.
While it might make economic, nutritional, and environmental sense, I'm sure that many are squeamish at the idea of insects primarily because in violates many deeply engrained cultural taboos. The main reasons listed in the video for promoting the production and consumption of more insects:
Questions to Ponder: Would you be willing to try eating insects? How do you think this idea would go over with your family and friends? What cultural barriers might slow the diffusion of this practice?
|Suggested by Kara Charboneau|
Pamela Ronald studies the genes that make plants more resistant to disease and stress. In an eye-opening talk, she describes her decade-long quest to help create a variety of rice that can survive prolonged flooding. She shows how the genetic improvement of seeds saved the Hawaiian papaya crop in the 1950s — and makes the case that it may simply be the most effective way to enhance food security for our planet’s growing population.
"Thousands of years ago, agriculture began as a highly site-specific activity. The first farmers were gardeners who nurtured individual plants, and they sought out the microclimates and patches of soil that favored those plants. But as farmers acquired scientific knowledge and mechanical expertise, they enlarged their plots, using standardized approaches—plowing the soil, spreading animal manure as fertilizer, rotating the crops from year to year—to boost crop yields. Over the years, they developed better methods of preparing the soil and protecting plants from insects and, eventually, machines to reduce the labor required. Starting in the nineteenth century, scientists invented chemical pesticides and used newly discovered genetic principles to select for more productive plants. Even though these methods maximized overall productivity, they led some areas within fields to underperform. Nonetheless, yields rose to once-unimaginable levels: for some crops, they increased tenfold from the nineteenth century to the present.
Today, however, the trend toward ever more uniform practices is starting to reverse, thanks to what is known as 'precision agriculture.' Taking advantage of information technology, farmers can now collect precise data about their fields and use that knowledge to customize how they cultivate each square foot."
"Yes. It’s true. In the meantime, I’d also like to live. Except, nobody wants to let me live--they all want to remind me of how I’m going to die, or how I’m going to cause my children to die. I was packing my kid’s lunch the other day, and tossed in a Twinkie with a smile and stroke of endearment, when I happened to glance at my kid's class newsletter on the table. It informed me that if I feed my child Twinkies, I might as well be feeding him rocket fuel."
I can't agree with everything mentioned in this article, but the overall message something that I do think is worth discussing. Our society can be swayed by fear and a few statistics to wildly overreact to a situation (Ebola, Y2K, etc.). So many movies tap into the our societal fears that an over dependence on technology or chemical alterations will destroy humanity (like Terminator, the Matrix, the Net, etc.). The anti-GMO movement successfully taps into that cultural zeitgeist, and some like 'the Food Babe' stir up fear to the chagrin of many scientists.
"Food. It’s something we all think about, talk about, and need. Food has been one major topic of interest at National Geographic because it connects all of us to our environment. The recent global population projections for the year 2100 just went up from 9 billion to 11 billion, making the issues of food production and distribution all the more important. For the last 3 years I’ve stored podcasts, articles, videos, and other resources on my personal site on a wide range of geographic issues, including food resources. I thought that sharing 10 of my personal favorite resources on the geography of food would be helpful to understand our changing global food systems."
This 12 question quiz is a great way to introduce students to spatial patterns of agricultural products in the United States. Sometimes just knowing regional stereotypes can be helpful, but being able to make an educated guess about where an agricultural product is comes from requires a basic understanding of economic and climate patterns. This quiz is a good way to test that knowledge and introduce them to these spatial patterns.
There really are two different Americas: the heartland, and the coasts....
These maps together show that most of the grain from the American breadbasket does not directly on the table but into the feed trough. I imagined before I saw this data that the percentage of animal feed in the Midwest would be higher than the rest of the United States, but I would not have guessed that it was that high.
Scallops pulled out of the waters off the western coast of France are taken on an incredible journey that sees them shipped off to China to be cleaned, before being sent all the way back to France to be cooked up. Producers say its worth the cost.
This type of nonsense only makes sense in a world where the bottom dollar is the only way to way to evaluate decisions. However, resource conservation (think of the food miles!), fair labor prices, and the preservation of local cultural economies are certainly issues that should be considered.
"In this Feed the Future video, narrator Matt Damon discusses the importance of increasing food production around the world and notes the importance of equipping women with the right tools, training, and technology to see as much as a 30 percent increase in food production. To feed our growing population we need to increase food production by 70 percent before 2050. Women make up the majority of the agricultural workforce in many areas of the world."
A colleague mine thought that the ideas in this video were so obvious and non-controversial, he said, "Why does this even need to be stated? Why would we exclude women from agriculture?" The simple answer is that it wouldn't need to be stated if women around the world did have equal access to resources. For many of the world's poor, this is where the rubber meets the road.
"Mr. Tom is as much a chief technology officer as he is a farmer. Where his great-great-grandfather hitched a mule, 'we’ve got sensors on the combine, GPS data from satellites, cellular modems on self-driving tractors, apps for irrigation on iPhones,' he said.
The demise of the small family farm has been a long time coming. But for farmers like Mr. Tom, technology offers a lifeline, a way to navigate the boom-and-bust cycles of making a living from the land. It is also helping them grow to compete with giant agribusinesses."
Corn, watermelon, and peaches were unrecognizable 8,000 years ago.
I think the term 'artificial' in the image might be misleading and it depends on your definition of the word. Humans have been selectively breed plants and animals for as long as we've been able to domestic them; that is a 'natural' part of our cultural ecology and has lead to great varieties of crops that are much more suitable for human consumption than what was naturally available. Long before climate change, humans have been actively shaping their environment and the ecological inputs in the systems with the technology that their disposal. This is a good resource to teach about the 1st agricultural revolution.
"The Sahel’s ability to produce food is not keeping pace with its growing population, and global warming will only exacerbate the imbalance, according to a new study. Among the 22 countries making up the arid region in northern Africa, the population grew to 471 million in 2010 from 367 million in 2000, a jump of nearly 30%. As the population grew rapidly, the production of crops remained essentially unchanged. Using satellite images to calculate annual crop production in the conflict-ridden Sahel belt, south of the Sahara desert, the researchers then compared output with population growth and food and fuel consumption."
Corn is not what you think. For starters: Most of the time, it's not human food.
Land use practices that determine what is grown in a particular place are partly determined by the health needs of a local population, but they are more directly shaped by economic markets. Over 75% of the corn produced in the United States is destined for animal feed or fuel; since global population projections are now supposed to be 11 billion by 2100, these are some important issues for us to consider before we are forced to reassess our societal choices.