Food Production: A Predictable Crisis

Nina Sidhu ('19)
Milton Academy

As our global population grows, our need for housing and land for development increases. Accordingly, land for food production is minimized just as the need to feed a larger population requires exactly the opposite, more land. It is an inverse relationship, and, in my opinion, a crisis. 

Before considering viable options to our food production crisis, the underlying causes of the problem must be understood. The root of the problem is population growth. Population growth means more mouths to feed and less land to grow food, and it therefore causes adverse environmental conditions for producing food. Extreme weather events are occurring more and more frequently due to global warming, one of the results of population growth. Because of this increase in world temperatures, our ability to produce food is ultimately affected at a most critical time (2).

Soil is one of the most important factors for food production. The growth of plants is deeply reliant on rich soil, and, for that reason, soil also plays a huge role in the lives of animals. Affecting plants and animals, damaged soil justifiably impacts all of our food sources. It is our job, as inhabitants of earth, to protect the soil. Jim Ritter, in a 2015 article called “Soil Erosion - Causes and Effects,” states that extreme weather events caused by climate change are basically magnified water and wind erosion, two conditions that affect farmland and soil. In addition to erosion, the quality of the soil is extremely important to food production. Other factors which can also be linked to population growth like deforestation, overgrazing, and the use of agrochemicals, have also hurt our soil. By helping to limit greenhouse gases and by being stewards of our planet, the increase in the Earth’s temperature can be, at the very least, minimized. Other factors leading to diminished soil quality, regulations and attention to maintaining a healthy ecosystem are also vital to our global food production.

Many well funded organizations have spent money and time working to develop viable remedies to improve food production despite the population growth and climate change. 
The information in the National Geographic article “The Future of Food” (3) is quite helpful, offering five steps to help ease population growth’s impact on food production. The first step is to limit future deforestation. The second step is to use the land on our current farms more wisely. The third step is to use these farms more efficiently and in so doing, improve soil quality. The fourth step is to educate people to shift diets. And the last important step is to limit wasted food. These methods deal directly with feeding our increasing population. Climate change’s impact on the environment, soil and the production of food is a given.

Food production could be headed for catastrophe as our population grows and our planet warms. In a global collaboration to reduce greenhouse gases, we could minimize extreme weather and improve soil quality. Additionally, we need to be more aware of the food we eat and the path it took to arrive on our plates. With more awareness on the consumer’s part and a stronger connection made to our food source, we can begin to slow the trend toward a food production crisis.

(1) “Soil Erosion and Degradation.” WWF, https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/soil-erosion-and-degradation.
(2) Jim Ritter, 2015 “Soil Erosion - Causes and Effects.” Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, October 2012,  http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/12-053.htm.
(3) Jonathan Foley. “A Five-Step Plan to Feed the World.” National Geographic, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/feeding-9-billion/.