from the world's big
The writing on the wall: The coming collapse of the industrial livestock industry
A new report sees a major disruption in where we get our food.
- We're just a few years from the tipping point in engineered food.
- Traditional agriculture's 10,000-year-run is about over.
- Better foods, tastier foods, and cheaper foods are on the way.
From 2012 to 2023, the costs of protein in the U.S. from cows vs. precision-biology food technology will reach parity, says independent think tank RethinkX. It will be a tipping point after which acceptance of modern foods will accelerate quickly, leaving the cattle industry effectively bankrupt by 2030 and five years later down to 10 percent of its current size.
This "protein disruption" will be followed by the collapse of a wide range of related and supporting industries by 2035, it will be, according to the researchers, "the deepest, fastest, most consequential disruption in food and agricultural production since the first domestication of plants and animals ten thousand years ago."
RethinkX's startling predictions are published in a report released September 16 titled "Rethinking Food and Agriculture 2020-2030 — The Second Domestication of Plants and Animals, the Disruption of the Cow, and the Collapse of Industrial Livestock Farming." The ramifications, the group says, will be profound, far-reaching, and overwhelmingly positive, affecting people everywhere. In sum, things are about to change. Big time.
Building better food
Microorganisms are at the heart of the upcoming disruption, as they were when humanity began domesticating plants and animals 10,000 years ago by manipulating the evolution of microorganisms via the breeding of their macro-organisms. Within about a thousand years, we were controlling microorganisms through fermentation, producing bread, cheese, alcohol, and preserving our fruits and vegetables.
And so things have basically stood for thousands of years, harvesting the nutrients on which we depend through the time- and cost-intensive breeding, extracting, and consuming of the macro-organisms in which microorganisms reside.
It's the microorganisms, though, that we're really after — they're the specific source of the nutrients we seek, and today, we have tools for directly accessing them, unplugged from their macro-organisms. We can build nutrients ourselves, programming complex molecules using precision fermentation (PF).
In the biological sense, food is simply packages of nutrients, such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Of these, proteins — the large molecules that are needed by all cells to function properly — are the most important. They are, quite literally, the building blocks of life. — RethinkX report
Moving food production to the molecular level promises a more efficient means of feeding ourselves and the delivery of superior, cleaner nutrients without the unhealthy chemical/antibiotic/insecticide additives required by current industrial means of production.
RethinkX says, "Each ingredient will serve a specific purpose, allowing us to create foods with the exact attributes we desire in terms of nutritional profile, structure, taste, texture, and functional qualities." Even better, the report predicts that future food will be "more nutritious, tastier, and more convenient with much greater variety."
RethinkX coins a term for a worldwide informational platform serving future food production: "Food-as-Software." It consists of databases of engineered molecules, molecular cookbooks, if you will, that allow for decentralized, stable, and resilient production anywhere — RethinkX cites "fermentation farms" even in densely populated areas. It will provide a means for the continual reiteration and perfection of food molecules. It will also signify a "move from a centralized system dependent on scarce resources to a distributed system based on abundant resources."
Of course, food isn't the only thing we derive from animals and plants, and RethinkX also foresees the replacement of their use with PF products in pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and materials products.
The many impacts of the coming disruption
The ramifications of the protein disruption extend across a range of areas by 2030 and 2035, and the report breaks them into four categories.
- PF foods and products will be at least 50 percent, and as much as 80 percent, lower as current products. This will result in substantial savings for individuals. The average U.S. family will save $1,200 a year, adding up to $100 billion a year for the nation by 2030.
- The revenues of the U.S. beef and dairy industry and their suppliers will decline by at least 50 percent by 2030, and in 2035 by nearly 90 percent. The other livestock and fishery industries will follow.
- The volume of cattle feed crops required in the U.S. will fall by 50 percent by 2030. Revenues for cattle feed will therefore fall by more than 50 percent.
- Farmland values will collapse by 40–80 percent, with regional variations dependent upon alternate uses and other variables.
- Countries heavily invested in animal-product production will suffer significant economic shocks. An example would be Brazil, where 21 percent of GDP is derived from such industries.
- Oil demand from the agriculture industry in the U.S. for production and transportation will largely disappear.
- By 2035, 60 percent of the area currently allocated to livestock and food production will be freed for other uses. This is enough land that if it were dedicated to the planting of trees for carbon sequestration, it could completely offset U.S. greenhouse emissions.
- The greenhouse gas contribution of U.S. cattle will drop by 60 percent in 2030, and nearly 80 percent in 2035. Modern food production will lower the net emissions from animal agriculture by 45 percent in 2030, on route to 65 percent in 2035.
- Water consumption related to cattle will drop by 50 percent by 2030 and by 75 percent in 2035. Modern food production will lower water use from animal agriculture by 35 percent in 2030, on route to 60 percent in 2035.
- More nutritious, cheaper, and higher-quality food will become more widely available. Access to cheap protein, particularly in the developing world, will have a "hugely positive impact on hunger, nutrition, and general health."
- In the declining industries, about 600,000 jobs will be lost by 2030, leading up to over a million in 2035.
- The new industries will add back about 700,00 jobs by 2030 and just over a million by 2035.
- Decentralized food production will cause relations between countries to shift as it will be less affected by climatic and geographic conditions.
- Current major exporters of animal products will lose some of their current controlling leverage over other nations dependent on their products.
- With vast tracts of arable land no longer a prerequisite to food production, even smaller or densely populated areas will have an opportunity to become major food sources.
Image source: P Stock/Shutterstock
Guiding the Future
While RethinkX sees the coming disruption as inevitable, they see as equally likely attempts by current industries to slow it down. The think tank suggests a conscious regulatory approach, warning about two hazards in particular.
RethinkX's model is based on their Seba Technology Disruption Framework. Unlike more mainstream modeling systems, it aims to more accurately predict the exponential growth that can result from the interaction of related and interdependent industries undergoing disruption in tandem. They caution wariness when attempting to read the future using more mainstream analyses that, "tend to make economies and societies poorer by locking them into assets, technologies, and skill sets that are uncompetitive, expensive, and obsolete."
Of particular concern to the U.S. as it attempts to find the truth in competing voices — such as those of currently entrenched agribusinesses — is that modern food production will be unbound by geographic factors. It can take place anywhere. "So, if the U.S. resists or fails to support the modern food industry, other countries such as China will capture the health, wealth, and jobs that accrue to those leading the way."
You can download RethinkX's report by clicking here. It's a fascinating look forward.
Image source: RethinkX report
Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.
- If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
- Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
- In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
An MIT astronomer famously explained why aliens haven't contacted us yet.
A study finds people are more influenced by what the other party says than their own. What gives?
- A new study has found evidence suggesting that conservative climate skepticism is driven by reactions to liberal support for science.
- This was determined both by comparing polling data to records of cues given by leaders, and through a survey.
- The findings could lead to new methods of influencing public opinion.
Mind the cues<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="CabkeAzx" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="169377c88f392a86f6c42180b74820a5"> <div id="botr_CabkeAzx_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/CabkeAzx-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/CabkeAzx-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/CabkeAzx-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The gulf in accepting the science behind climate change also exists among party elites. It is well known to any American who is attentive to the news, as party leaders are often more than willing to discuss their take to journalists.</p><p>Using polling data going back to the 1980s, the researchers were able to create a chart showing the aggregate amount of climate skepticism among the general population. A similar diagram showing the Republicans' skepticism dating back to 2001 was sourced from a previous, similar study. It was shown to be highly correlated with the one produced for this study.</p><p>These charts were compared with media content from prominent newspapers that included implicit or explicit stances on climate change by significant political figures. These thousands of articles were classified by using key terms and which major political figures were quoted or referenced. The researchers compared the number of cues over time to measured skepticism and looked for "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granger_causality" target="_blank">Granger causality</a>," the tendency for one variable to predict the future value of another variable.</p><p>The model shows evidence of both in and out-group cue effects, though the repulsion to out-group cues was much more evident. A significant increase in Democratic cues in favor of climate science was followed by a rise in skepticism among Republican voters. Importantly, the cues lead, rather than follow opinion, and do so with consistency. Changes in view did not predict changes in the number or direction of cues. </p><p>The researchers also surveyed nearly 3000 adults to demonstrate the concept. This involved showing them a statement on the scientific consensus around climate change and a cue from either a Republican or a Democrat. This test confirmed the previous observation and provided further support for the notion that signals from leaders cause an increase in skepticism among some respondents.</p><p>Before my left-leaning and Democratic readers get too smug, this research references previous studies demonstrating a similar effect in the lead up to the Iraq War. However, in that case, the Democratic Party elites' mixed messages were countered by a Republican Party united behind the idea of invasion. The effect on the Democratic party rank and file was similar to that observed in this case. </p><p>Several other studies have examined effects similar to this for other issues. This study's importance is its focus on out-group cues and the effort placed into demonstrating a causal relationship between the statements of certain party elites and public opinion. Most previous studies focused purely on in-group cues or failed to differentiate between the two. </p>
Can thinking about the past really help us create a better present and future?
- There are two types of counterfactual thinking: upward and downward.
- Both upward and downward counterfactual thinking can be positive impacts on your current outlook - however, upward counterfactual thinking has been linked with depression.
- While counterfactual thinking is a very normal and natural process, experts suggest the best course is to focus on the present and future and allow counterfactual thinking to act as a motivator when possible.
“Upward” versus “downward” counterfactual thinking<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ1NDYxOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDM2MDY2OX0.njWs1qrV1vDBxU1V75tUduUW4TjJvEHglDWsK8ZF2l4/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C556%2C0%2C209&height=700" id="a15fa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98314d4d2b256ed08f42d369fe4ae080" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="concept of man thinking about the past one line drawing counterfactual thinking" />
What are upward and downward counterfactual thinking?
Image by one line man on Shutterstock<p><strong>What is upward counterfactual thinking?</strong></p><p>Upward counterfactual thinking happens when we look at a scenario and ask ourselves "what if" in terms of how our life could have turned out better. </p><p>Examples of upward counterfactual thinking are: </p><ul><li><em>"I wish I had taken that other job instead of this one 10 years ago - my life would be so much better if I had." </em></li><li><em>"I wish I would have gotten the part in that high school play, maybe I could have gotten into a theatre school and became an actor…"</em> </li></ul><p>Both of these examples have the ideology that if you had made different choices, your life right now would be improved. </p><p><strong>What is downward counterfactual thinking?</strong></p><p>Downward counterfactual thinking is, naturally, the opposite of upward counterfactual thinking in that we think about how things could have been worse if other decisions had been made. </p><p>Examples of downward counterfactual thinking are: </p><ul><li><em>"I'm so thankful I studied secondary education in university instead of psychology like I had originally planned - I love teaching high school kids and I never would have gotten to do that…" </em></li><li><em>"I'm so happy I left David when I got the chance, I can't imagine still being in an unhappy marriage with someone who doesn't support me…"</em> </li></ul><p>In these examples, we see the idea that if you had made different choices your life would not be as good as it is right now. </p>
How counterfactual thinking can impact your life<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ1NDYxNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNjI2MDQxOX0.DIVQ-Yk0d6yE3tc743MH1Fz2pOg1TGHLmhp8dPp9UdY/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="522d7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="da7df6ad916b043e3610223900d0f8df" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="man thinking what if written on chalkboard" />
How do upward and downward counterfactual thinking impact your life?
Photo by Brasil Creativo on Shutterstock<p>While many people don't see the point in "what if" scenarios, various studies have found that downward counterfactual thinking can be more associated with psychological health compared with upward counterfactual thinking. Not only that, but research has also shown upward counterfactual thinking can be linked with current and future depression.</p> <p><strong>Downward counterfactual thinking tends to be more associated with psychological health </strong></p><p>According to a <a href="http://journal.sjdm.org/jdm06136.pdf" target="_blank">2000 study</a>, downward counterfactual thinking can be linked with better psychological health compared to upward counterfactual thinking. More importantly, in cases where downward counterfactual thinking did lead to negative feelings, those feelings acted as something of a motivator for people to take productive actions to better their current situation. </p> <p><strong>Upward counterfactual thinking tends to be more associated with depression </strong></p><p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272735816301714#:~:text=An%20upward%20counterfactual%20(as%20opposed,Markman%20and%20McMullen%2C%202003)." target="_blank">According to a 2017 study</a> that pooled a sample of over 13,000 respondents, thoughts about "better outcomes" and regret (upward counterfactual thinking) were associated with current and future depression. </p> <p><strong>Downward counterfactual thinking can actually improve your relationships and is more often engaged in by women than men.</strong></p><p>In a <a href="https://dspace.sunyconnect.suny.edu/bitstream/handle/1951/67589/Studer_Thesis.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y" target="_blank">2016 research paper submitted</a> to the Department of Psychology at the State University of New York at New Paltz, downward counterfactual thinking in regards to romantic relationships was associated with relatively positive relationship outcomes. Interestingly, women were more likely than men to engage in downward counterfactual thinking about their romantic life. </p> <p><strong>Upward counterfactual thinking can have some benefits in certain scenarios. </strong></p><p>When we look back after a failed test and think "I wish I would have studied more" - this motivates us to study harder the next time a test comes up. In this way, upward counterfactual thinking (or the negative version of "what if") can actually benefit us. </p> <p><strong>This can be difficult, though, because much of the time upward counterfactual thinking is more associated with a pessimistic outlook that can be unmotivating. </strong></p> <p>Thinking in the past tense can be motivational (and even healthy) at times, but the best thing to do is look forward. </p><p>While counterfactual thinking as a whole can be used to motivate us to make better choices or appreciate where we are in life, <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/darwins-subterranean-world/201809/the-psychology-what-if" target="_blank">this Psychology Today</a> article suggests that we should come up with ways to move on and focus on the present and the future instead of the past. Using counterfactual thinking as a motivational tool can be very helpful if we don't get stuck in the "what if" mindset that tends to pull us out of the present and back into the past, where things will always remain the same. </p>