Thursday, June 26, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT POST: Global Food Production

While reading the following articles (they’re short), keep these questions in mind:

What are global trends in grain production?
What are the principal uses of grain in the United States and the world?
Can global food supplies feed a growing population?

Articles

Why Ethanol Production Will Drive World Food Prices Even Higher in 2008
By Lester R. Brown

http://www.earth-policy.org/Updates/2008/Update69.htm


WORLD FACING HUGE NEW CHALLENGE ON FOOD FRONT
By Lester R. Brown

http://www.earth-policy.org/Updates/2008/Update72.htm


Critically answer one or several of the following questions and post your answers to our blog:

1. How do you think substituting ethanol for oil as a transport fuel will affect grain supplies (how has it already affected global grain supplies)? What evidence supports your view?
2. What percent of global grain harvest was fed to animals in 2006? Do a little research to find out. Should we discourage meat consumption or encourage grass feed instead of grain for livestock to free grain to feed the world’s hungry? How would your decision affect you personally?
3. What is the current global population? Check out this website to find out:
http://math.berkeley.edu/~galen/popclk.html
Do you think it is possible to feed a global human population of 9 billion? Support your answer.
4. Lester Brown doesn’t offer any alternatives to the use of ethanol as a source of fuel. Can you offer a solution to our growing energy needs that will not adversely affect global food supplies?
5. Have you or your family members noticed an increase in food prices? Find out. Discuss the issue with your parents or whoever buys the bread in you household. Share with us what you find out.

4 comments:

Jessica said...

The world's oil prices are big news in today's headlines and it seems that the change in price for that is affecting a lot more, from the price of all goods increasing to the price of airline tickets also going up. Although Lester Brown says there aren't any alternatives for ethanol as a fuel, there are other ways to power cars which could eliminate the NEED for fuel, such as electric cars, solar powered cars, or vegetable oil converted car. Although you need a little diesel fuel for the vegetable oil converted cars, it would eliminate the dramatic need for oil. I think everyone has noticed the increase in food prices because it's such a noticeable increase, its amazing! When substituting ethanol for oil as a fuel, more corn would be produced which could lead to other problems, like nutrient depletion from the soil, which would make the soil inadequate for growing other things. Like the law of motion, for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. The same goes for this: oil prices increase -> the idea for ethanol comes up -> more corn and grains are produced -> food prices increase -> problem. There are plenty of solutions, we just need to look harder and try to take steps that won't fix some problems and cause others!-Jessica Meyers

Katarina said...

Although I couldn't find the exact amount of grain that was consumed by animals all around the world in 2006, I don't think discouraging meat consumption will do our country any good. Seriously, most people don't really care that much about our economy or world anyway, and would probably not be willing to give up their meat. Instead, I think encouraging grass feed would have a greater effect. For starters, animals can survive on grass, so we're not actually hurting them or taking away any meat supplies by making the switch. Also, people don't eat grass, so I don't think there's andy way this would cause future hunger problems for humans. Third, the world gets more grain. So, we accomplish the goal without causing any other serious hunger problems. According to that website, in July 2nd, at 10:32:44, the total world population is 6,684,207,683 and growing by the second. If our world's population reached 9 billion, I think we'd all have some serious problems. If right now we're having problems feeding our population and there's this much social and political unrest, I don't even want to think about the consequences we would encounter. Unfortunately, just because the population increases by almost half, our food production doesn't. If we don't find a solution now, I don't think the world's population could even reach a number that large -- we'd all starve! As for alternate sources of food (other than the ones Jess mentioned), what about hydrogen? I mean, hybrids are kind of a big thing now, and I'm sure if they made hydrogen products easily accessible and cheaper than those run on gas, people would eagerly make the switch.

Ms. Stotler said...

Here's another wrinkle in the global food production story; check out the article at the link below about how nations in the Middle East are having to choose between growing crops and conserving water:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/21/business/worldbusiness/21arabfood.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Jessica Meyers said...

This reminds me a little of a blog that Ms. Jenkins posted about unsuitable water in the world, how little of it there is and how much of that little bit isn't contaminated. When countries in the Middle East are forced to choose between eating or drinking, this brings up issues other than the cost of oil and food, but how the world is changing for the worse...