Population and Agriculture: A Crisis

Introduction

The human population keeps on growing. People need food, and they get most of it from large scale farming of one crop, such as corn. However, large scale farming has a significant environmental toll. Farming large numbers of one type of plant depletes nutrients in the soil before it can naturally replenish. In addition, farmland has to be cleared to get rid of trees, shrubs, and animals. Feces and fertilizer runoff from the farm fuels humongous algal blooms which smother ocean life, depletes the ocean of dissolved oxygen, and releases brain-damaging toxins. According to https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/toxic-algae-causing-brain-damage-in-sea-lions-along-california-coast/, many Californian sea lions died from brain damage or seizures after an algal bloom in 2015.

Eighty percent of arable land is taken up by farms. The UN predicts that food production will need to double by 2050 in order to keep up with population growth. If large scale farming keeps up, the environmental and land toll would be even more disastrous (than it already is). However, there are two main solutions to this.

Population Reduction

There have been many nations who have tried to reduce the population inhumanely. An example is China’s one-child policy. It was successful; China’s population would have had 300 million more people without it. However, this method encroached on human rights. Another way to humanely reduce the population in a developing country is to give electric cooking stoves. As you might notice, families in developing countries are generally larger than families in developed countries. This is because having more children gives a higher amount of workers in the household, and therefore more income. It also reassures the parents that they will have someone to take care of them when they get old. In other developing countries, the traditional households have men that either work, farm, or hunt, and women who cook. What do the women do besides cooking? The truth is that they have to collect wood to cook in the first place. This chore takes upwards of four hours, as deforestation makes forests creep farther and farther away. With an electric cooking stove, families suddenly have much more time. With this time the women can join the workforce and lift their families out of poverty. There is a difficulty of providing electricity. However, this problem can be solved without too much difficulty. A wind turbine can provide plenty of electricity for one village. The upfront cost will be nothing in comparison to giving families a higher quality life with less poverty. The next generation won’t need so many children because of money difficulties.

Alternative Farming

Conventional farming is not the only method of growing food. Other methods include hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics, and vertical farming. Here I will do a run-through of these practices and how they are beneficial.

Hydroponics

Hydroponics is simply growing plants in water. A stream or bucket of water is placed below a plant holder suspended above. Nutrients are added to the water for the plants to grow. This is beneficial because there is always the perfect amount of nutrients for the plants. Additionally, hydroponics is much more efficient at using space. Plants can be stacked vertically, so they do not use so much land. There are many more reasons at https://www.epicgardening.com/hydroponics-vs-soil/.

Aquaponics

Aquaponics is basically hydroponics, except that the plants are grown with fish. Here is an image showing how it works:

As you can see, the fish poop gets pumped to the plants where is is transformed into nutrients via bacteria. Then, the plants absorb the nutrients. Clean water is then pumped back into the fish tank. Aquaponic systems are highly efficient because they grow fish and plants.

Aeroponics

Aeroponics is very similar to hydroponics and aquaponics, in that it is soil-less and space-efficient. Have you ever been to the produce aisle in a grocery store and seen little machines mist the plants? Aeroponics is just like that, except the water has nutrients and is misted at the plants’ roots.

Vertical Farming

Vertical farming, a.k.a. indoor farming, is a system of hydroponic or aeroponic units stacked vertically. Traditional farming is inefficient because there is only one way to grow more crops: Use more land. Vertical farming solves this problem by growing upwards.

Much more efficient!

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