It’s very easy to make food. Take some seeds or baby animals, add some of nature’s resources, like soil, grass, air, water or sunlight plus a few processed ingredients like animal food, fertilisers etc. Sit back, wait and sooner or later you will get some food, in the form of vegetables, fruit, grains, animals and so on. These foods can be combined with other foods and make even more food, like pies, sandwiches or jelly or vol-au-vents.
These basic ingredients that nature provides are the building blocks of food, which are vital requirements for us to carry on creating more food. A few weeks ago, I was talking about how there’s enough food in the world. You can read the article here, it explains how there are enough calories in the world to feed everyone, we just have trouble getting the right people get the right food.
WE’RE RUNNING OUT!!!
Only joking, we’re not running out, although people have been very scared about that idea for a long time. If you skip back a couple of hundred years you’ll find a chap called Reverend Malthus, an Englishman who came up with the outrageous idea that population will grow at a faster rate than our food supply will. He had a point, there have been huge struggles to produce enough food to feed the UK’s citizens, especially during the wars of the 20th Century. We have enough food at the moment, but the population is still growing, so our food supply needs to grow as well.
This idea that our food supply might suddenly run out lead to people doing everything they could to grow more and more food. We discovered clever ways to grow larger amounts of food using the same amount of soil or animals. We found ways to get more plants or animals into the same amount of space. We even discovered how to grow plants and animals in shorter periods of times. Almost everyone believed that we needed more food and that planet earth was our endless source of supplies needed to achieve this.
Take, take, take.
In the 20th century, most people thought the earth’s resources should utilised as much as possible, that we should dig into the ground, cut down trees, suck out the oil, pull the fish out of the sea and bury our rubbish in the ground. Farmers cut down hedges to make space to grow more crops, growing one type of food using seeds which scientists had cross-bred to make fast growing, disease resistant crops. The planet was treated like a resource to be mined, a place we could keep on taking, taking, taking from and the food would keep on coming.
Planet earth had provided these abundant natural resources which allowed us to create vast quantities of food to fill the mouths of a population that was rapidly growing. As time went on, food production increased at a greater rate than the population did, eventually reaching the point we’re at today where there is enough for everyone in the world. But the race isn’t over yet, because the population is going to carry on getting larger and larger for a fair while longer.
A Lightbulb Moment.
Meanwhile, something else has happened. People began to realise that if we only take things away from the planet, the resources will run out. Or they might become so depleted that they become ineffective, unable to work in the way they did. This is because the natural environment is a complex place, with lots of different elements reliant on other elements to exist. For instance, birds live in hedges in the countryside. So when the farmers cut the hedges down, lots of birds lost their homes. They didn’t go elsewhere, they just disappeared.
Similarly, farmers in Africa removed trees from their land, trying to make better conditions for their crops to grow. But they kept on seeing harder and harder conditions to farm in, drier, harsher, desert-like conditions where crops didn’t want to grow anymore. So they started putting trees back and paying attention to them. Over a few years, millions of new trees have been planted and they have ‘turned back the desert’. They are now seeing far greater crop production than they have for many many years.
Reap what you sow.
We’ve learned that burying our rubbish in the earth is damaging, as well as being a short sighted process because there’s a limited amount of space in the world to bury stuff. Taking too many fish out of the sea has created an imbalance in fish stocks. Cutting down the rainforest to breed cattle so that we can eat more hamburgers is questionable behaviour in the first instance, as well as removing areas of rich natural ecology.
People are beginning to realise that the main processes of creating food that we’ve used throughout the 20th century are not sustainable. The way we have mined the earth, used up all it’s oil and pumped greenhouse gases into the atmosphere cannot continue forever. Eventually, the oil will run out, the world will heat up and things will go really, really wrong. That’s why countries are committing to reducing greenhouse gases, because they realise there’s too much. That’s why people are making electric cars, because they need to stop using oil.
How to make food, forever.
Food is the same, it needs to be created in a way that works symbiotically, which means that every part benefits, through being related to each other. The earth needs to be rewarded for what it gives us, because it needs to sustain future generations of humans, rather than our generation taking what we need and legging it as soon as it runs out. That’s why the word sustainable is so popular at the moment, because it’s a very important concept, to ensure that the earths resources are sustained. Not drained, depleted or mined, but sustained for future generations to use after we’ve taken what we need form them.