What is the Environmental Impact of Feeding the World? | California Academy of Sciences

we’re living in a rapidly growing and changing world and human well-being has greatly improved in recent decades there are about three billion people getting wealthier and by 2050 they’ll be entering the global middle class our challenge as teens will be meeting the needs of these people all the while trying not to destroy the environment that supports life around us we are intricately connected to that environment beyond the resources that it provides nature is absolutely amazingly cool living organisms and the ecosystems in which they reside are complex intricate beautiful gross simply put our world is amazing to be a part of surprisingly a big way we interact with the environment is through the food we eat and how we grow it food production is a huge cause of environmental change in habitat destruction agriculture wishes farms and pastures take up the most amount of land on earth crop lands alone take up as much land as a continent of South America while pastures for grazing animals take up as much land as a continent of Africa on average it takes around 2,300 square meters of land to grow food for just one American that’s the equivalent of five NBA basketball courts in recent years five to ten million hectares of land have been cleared for food most of this land came from diverse tropical rainforest but not every diet takes the same amount of land diets different but on average takes three basketball courts to feed a person and that’s 40% less than the typical American diet meat production requires more land than vegetables fruits and grains in fact meat projection requires three-fourths of all agricultural land and this is because of the space needed to grow animal feed animal feed also needs a lot of water it can take up to 1,800 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef that’s as much water as 90 showers around the world people are making more money to buy things like food clothes and shelter and as people make more money they buy more meat which takes more land to produce if everyone wanted to eat like Americans do we would be twice the land we have to grow crops and where would that land come from individual diet choices like choosing between a hamburger or a veggie burger or even a chicken sandwich can have a big impact on the environment well what if you don’t have those options over 1 in 14 Americans have little or no access to fresh or affordable food that is necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle let alone the ability to make choices that are better for the environment these areas are known as food deserts food deserts are defined as urban neighborhoods or rural towns without ready access to fresh healthy and affordable foods these communities may only be served by fast-food restaurants or convenience stores that offer few affordable options lack of access contributes to a poor diet and higher levels of obesity as well as other diet related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease but lack of food isn’t just a problem sometimes we have too much food and one-third of that goes to waste that’s 20 pounds of food per person every month it also takes on a significant environmental toll to 31 percent of u.s. cropland and 25 percent of us fresh water goes to raise that uneaten food these are all large problems fortunately we live in a time in history with the opportunity and the technology to really change the fate of our planet by making smart decisions we can put the environment on a more stable path the actions we take today can greatly improve our future but if we don’t take any action then we may find ourselves with massive environmental problems later on it’s not adults that have to bear this burden and recognize this opportunity it’s us we’re inspired to think differently and together we can change the world we can do this we can find a solution to the problems of today you

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