Population Growth: The Other Inconvenient Truth

Larger than the threat of global warming is feeding humanity's ever-expanding population. Already, we use 40% of dry land on Earth to produce food. Are we simply running out of planet?

What's the Latest Development?

How to feed humanity's growing population is an environmental concern larger than global warming, says Jon Foley, head of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment. Global agriculture already puts more pressure on planetary resources than any other activity and is the single largest source of man-made greenhouse gasses. "We use 60 times more land to grow and raise food than we do to live on. Farming takes half the world's available freshwater, much of which is used for irrigation." With 6.2 million square miles dedicated to growing crops and another 11.6 million set aside for pasture lands, 40% of dry land on Earth is occupied by food production. 

What's the Big Idea?

The most immediate action to be taken, says Foley, is to improve yields in places where infrastructure and design is lacking, such as in Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa. Beyond that, things get tricky. Promoting Green Revolution techniques, i.e. irrigation and chemical fertilizers, which make American farm land so productive, carry environmental risks. Meat production is also highly inefficient, requiring 32 pounds of corn to produce a single steak. As global wealth rises and populations acquire a taste for diets more rich in meat, inefficient farming will be encouraged to grow. Foley says there is no one solution and that changes will be required of large corporations as well as individual consumers. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Trusting your instincts is lazy: Poker pro Liv Boeree on Big Think Edge

International poker champion Liv Boeree teaches decision-making for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to make decisions with the clarity of a World Series Poker Champion.
  • Liv Boeree teaches analytical thinking for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Stress is contagious. Resilience can be too.

The way that you think about stress can actually transform the effect that it has on you – and others.

Big Think Edge
  • Stress is contagious, and the higher up in an organization you are the more your stress will be noticed and felt by others.
  • Kelly McGonigal teaches "Reset your mindset to reduce stress" for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Five Hawks Down: watch the tragic migration of six Californian raptors

Tracking project establishes northern Argentina is wintering ground of Swainson's hawks

Image: @TrackingTalons / Ruland Kolen
  • Watch these six dots move across the map and be moved yourself: this is a story about coming of age, discovery, hardship, death and survival.
  • Each dot is a tag attached to the talon of a Swainson's Hawk. We follow them on their very first migration, from northern California all the way down to Argentina.
  • After one year, only one is still alive.
Keep reading Show less

5 short podcasts to boost your creativity and success

These quick bursts of inspiration will brighten your day in 10 minutes or less.

Personal Growth

Podcasts can educate us on a variety of topics, but they don't have to last an hour or more to have an impact on the way you perceive the world. Here are five podcasts that will boost your creativity and well-being in 10 minutes or less.

Keep reading Show less