moved to Minnesota just three years ago, so we can't really claim bragging rights to him yet, but by 2050, nobody will remember where the director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota first called home (Maine).
In 2050, people are just going to say, "It's so cool that all 9 billion of us are able to eat without the Earth getting completely trashed," and it will be because of work like Foley's.
Foley recently gave a TEDxTC talk which is a must-watch on YouTube. (The TED conferences are loaded with brilliant lectures from important scientists and thinkers, and the Common Man can get into the action by watching the talks on YouTube.)
His lecture, The Other Inconvenient Truth
, is a chilling explanation of how environmentally devastating current agricultural practices are. 40% of the Earth's land surface is occupied by crop production or livestock! 70% of all our water use goes towards agriculture! Agriculture is responsible for 30% of our greenhouse gas production--more than transportation or manufacturing! And that's with the current population of 6 billion people.
What's going to happen as our population rises by 3 billion in the next 40 years?
I want you to watch the video, but I'll give you a hint: it doesn't end with the Earth obligingly expanding its land surface area to accommodate the extra corn fields.
Okay, I know you are going to watch the video, so I won't torture you: Foley recommends a new approach, which he calls terraculture
. The concept involves combining the best ideas from commercial agriculture and the green
revolution with the best ideas of organic farming and environmental conservation. But in order for it to work, everyone with skin in the game has to come together and collaborate on the solution.
Last month, Foley took to the pages of Scientific American
to explain the five major actions we could take to keep our need for food balanced with our use of natural resources. The article is behind a paywall on the magazine's website, but it's available as a PDF: Can We Feed the World & Sustain the Planet?
For more Jonathan Foley, follow him on Twitter @GlobalEcoGuy