Sustainability Science
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Sustainability Science
How might we keep the lights on, water flowing, and natural world vaguely intact? It starts with grabbing innovative ideas/examples to help kick down our limits and inspire a more sustainable world. We implement with rigorous science backed by hard data.
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The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race

The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it

"Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny. Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and longest-lasting life style in human history. In contrast, we're still struggling with the mess into which agriculture has tumbled us, and it's unclear whether we can solve it."


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Seth Dixon's curator insight, September 22, 2016 2:32 PM

Jared Diamond wrote this highly controversial essay back in the 80's and it still can elicit strong reactions from anthropologists, geographers, historians, and other scholars.  This is a good reading to give students during an agricultural unit.  This can get students to question many of the assumptions about humanity that they probably never knew they had (Diamond challenged the mainstream progressivist position).

 

Questions to Ponder: What is the progressivist view?  What were the negative impacts that early agriculture had on human health?  What social problems does Diamond attribute to agriculture?  What evidence would you present to argue against Diamond's position?

 

Tagsagriculturefolk culturestechnologyindigenous.

Eben Lenderking's curator insight, October 12, 2016 3:07 AM

Is it too late to reprogram ourselves?

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40 Percent Of The World's Cropland Is In Or Near Cities

40 Percent Of The World's Cropland Is In Or Near Cities | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
Just how much of the world's cropland can we really call urban? That's been a big mystery until now.

 

Now, a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters has an answer: Somewhere around 1.1 billion acres is being cultivated for food in or within about 12 miles (20 kilometers) of cities. Most of that land is on the periphery of cities, but 16.6 percent of these urban farms are in open spaces within the municipal core.


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Evan Margiotta's curator insight, March 20, 2015 2:42 PM

This is a perfect application of how Von Thunen model still applies today. Von Thunen mapped how crops were distributed around cites. The crops near the city were labor intensive while the crops farther away from the city were labor extensive. Von Thunen's model is often disputed today in a world with such fast transportation, but this study shows that it still applies today. Unit 5 Agriculture

Ellen Van Daele's curator insight, March 22, 2015 3:34 PM

This research explores the concept of urban agriculture and the water supply needed and used. It came up with surprising results that state that 80% of urban agriculture is in the developing world and 40% of urban agriculture is in or near cities.  

 

The research also covered water supply, stating that most of urban agriculture relies on irrigation. This is especially true in South Asia, and since the water resources are already scarce, the farmers have to compete for water with the government.

Raychel Johnson's curator insight, March 22, 2015 7:55 PM

Summary: This article is mostly about how much of our agriculture is grown within 20 miles of a city. It turns out 40% of agriculture is grown in this proximity of a city, and this mostly occurs with irrigated agriculture in South Asia. Most of these urban farms are in the developing world as well. 

 

Insight: This article relates to the von Thunen model because it directly talks about the rings that occur around a city, although it is a skewed version of it. I think this is also a good example of how cities have changed since the developing of the von Thunen model, showing that developed countries are supporting the idea of urban agriculture. 

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Organic foods are more nutritious, according to review of 343 studies

Organic foods are more nutritious, according to review of 343 studies | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
Most everyone who has ever selected their fruits and vegetables from the "organic" section while grocery shopping probably thought they were doing something good for their bodies and the environment.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

Hmmm...this is sure to get the Prius-driving crowd all in a tither. 

 

One of the chief arguments offered by proponents of organic foods (aka it is healthier for you) seems to have some validity.  And this a meta analysis no less.

 

But...and this is a BIG BUT, I still say the main reason one should consider opting for a more organic diet is the well supported fact that organic food generally has a lighter impact on the planet.  I know all the arguments that we "cannot meet our existing nutritional demands if we were to somehow instantly go 100% organic," etc., etc.  But the reduced impact from organic is usually (except for bananas) a kinder thing for Mama Earth.

 

Crunch away you granola heads!

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A fungal virus threatens 80% of the global banana production—far more than a previous strain in the early 1900s

A fungal virus threatens 80% of the global banana production—far more than a previous strain in the early 1900s | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it

During harvest last year, banana farmers in Jordan and Mozambique made a chilling discovery. Their plants were no longer bearing the soft, creamy fruits they'd been growing for decades. When they cut open the roots of their banana plants, they saw something that was turning banana plants into a rotting mass. 

 

Scientists first discovered the fungus that is turning banana plants into this rotting mass in Southeast Asia in the 1990s. Since then the pathogen, known as the Tropical Race 4 strain of Panama disease, has slowly but steadily ravaged export crops throughout Asia. The fact that this vicious soil-borne fungus has now made the leap to Mozambique and Jordan is frightening. One reason is that it’s getting closer to Latin America, where at least 70% of the world’s $8.9-billion-a-year worth of exported bananas is grown.

 

 

Chiquita, the $548-million fruit giant with the world’s largest banana market share, is downplaying the risk. ”It’s certainly not an immediate threat to banana production in Latin America [where Chiquita's crops are],” Ed Lloyd, spokesman for Chiquita, told the Charlotte Business Journal in late December, explaining that the company is using a “risk-mitigation program” to approach the potential spread.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
PIRatE Lab's insight:

For more about banana's see Dan Koeppel's Blog: http://www.bananabook.org

 

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Christian Allié's curator insight, March 8, 2014 4:01 AM

............."""""""""""""""""".........

 

[  ........  ]

......  And at $8.9 billion, bananas grown for export are only a fraction of the $44.1 billion in annual banana and plantain production—in fact, bananas are the fourth-most valuable global crop after rice, wheat, and milk. Where are the rest of those bananas sold? Nearly nine-tenths of the world’s bananas are eaten in poor countries, where at least 400 million people rely on them for 15-27% of their daily calories. And that’s the really scary part. Since the first Panama disease outbreak, bananas have evolved from snacks into vital sustenance. And this time there’s no back-up banana variety to feed the world with instead. .

 

[  .......  ]

.........

Agriculture and economy's comment, March 8, 2014 5:57 AM
Commentaire très instructif. . Après les problèmes du café, du cacao... Risques pour la sécurité alimentaire de nombreux pays et risques sociaux en vue ?
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Adding olive oil to California's salad

Adding olive oil to California's salad | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
ARTOIS, Calif. — Nestled in a corner of the Sacramento Valley known for its rice, almonds and walnuts, densely packed rows of manicured olive trees stretch toward the horizon.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

Industrialization can be one approach to more sustainable food systems.  but it must be done right (and it normally isn't).  This is possibly a case in point in that they are able to generate a higher yield of fruit without a corresponding massive increase in pesticides, water, etc.  While we need to see the hard numbers on water use, etc. this is an interesting model.  

 

So the upsides: reduced transportation costs of oil (for California/U.S. consumers) and more efficient agricultre.  The downside is that with increased mechanization comes fewer people jobs (although those that are there tend to be higher wage).

 

A similar "new" approach to agriculture can be seen with a local industrial tomato grower here in Ventura County, CA: (http://future360.tv/video/houwelings-tomatoes).  A wonderful approach (but their tomatos lack taste/flavor).

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California is drowning in ancient and unfair water rules: LA Daily News Editorial

When someone says that there are two Californias, the reference these days is usually to the political differences between coastal and inland residents rather than the historical split between north and south.But there is a third and even more...
PIRatE Lab's insight:

A rational water policy op-ed.  These are rare beasts in much of my state.

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The future of agriculture

The future of agriculture | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
The Economist offers authoritative insight and opinion on international news, politics, business, finance, science, technology and the connections between them.
PIRatE Lab's insight:
This well-researched article totally ignores issues of nutrition, soil health, water supply, food justice, etc.  This is an interesting read to be sure, but at times most closely tracks with big Pharma and the Monsanto-esque approach to food production that is firmly in the driver seat of our food policy these days.  Biotech approaches are truly impressive and are clearly part of the mix now and in the future.  But there are many more layers of the onion here than "simple" technofixes and whiz-bang things that appear to "solve" the hard choices and difficult decisions that are necessitated by a world of perhaps 9 billion very hungry humans.

Thanks to Rachel Langley for flagging this piece.
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Nicaragua's government is telling its hungry citizens to eat more iguanas

Nicaragua's government is telling its hungry citizens to eat more iguanas | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
Central America is suffering from a severe drought that's devastating crops and killing livestock. Nicaragua has one answer to the grim situation.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

Fight the drought with Iguanas???  This whole climate change end-of-the-world thing is getting interesting, to say the least.

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Wyke Farms to recover 95% of wastewater with £1.3m investment

Wyke Farms to recover 95% of wastewater with £1.3m investment | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it

The UK’s largest independent cheese-maker has officially opened a £1m water treatment plant that will recover up to 95% of its factory waste water.


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Waterless World: China’s ever-expanding desert wasteland

Waterless World: China’s ever-expanding desert wasteland | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
As climate change makes vast parts of Inner Mongolia uninhabitable, an official declares: ‘Land desertification is China’s most important ecological problem.’
PIRatE Lab's insight:

Great story and graphic video demonstration of one compenent of climate change.

 

I still find it amazing this lack of will amongst most scientists in China  when it comes to criticizing Chinese policies.  This may be something of a misquote, but my experience shows it may well not be:

 

"Our biggest concern today is not man-made problems, it is climate change and water resources"  Excuse me???  Climate change and you overdrafting of water supplies ARE FUNDAMENTALLY a "man-made" problem.  We have all seen the consequence of such incorrect phrasing and articulation.  We are creating this mess.  I would hope we could be mature enough to own up to the problem and face it head on.

 

This story also does a good job of putting yet another face of the greatest victims of climate change; the poor who eek out a living in marginal environs.

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