We can feed the world without chopping down more forests

Posted: December 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

Grist

Maybe this is obvious, but expanding our agricultural footprint to feed the growing population — cutting down forests, plowing prairies — is a really bad idea.

What’s less obvious, and more interesting/troubling, is that farmland expansion is so harmful on so many levels that it’s worth doing just about anything that helps us avoid opening up new land — even things that have their own environmental costs.

I’ve been reading back through the papers of David Tilman, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota, from the last 15 years, exploring the effect of farming on the natural world. (I should mention that these are also the papers of his many deserving coauthors, who I can’t easily credit here.) In a 2001 paper published in Science, Tilman et al. calculated what would happen if agricultural expansion continued, business-as-usual style: In 50 years, an additional billion hectares of land — larger…

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