In order to graduate with a degree in International Relations I have to take a course called, ESM 105 or Introduction to Environmental Studies. This class is turning out to be a anti-agriculture class and a real pain in my a$$. As a matter of fact, today was not the first time I had a problem with topics and claims my professor made. One of our topics was on agriculture and land use, here is what our notes read:
1. Under the Topic: Increase Food Supply
Protect soil from eroison and conversion to non-agriculture use
- Increase productivity of existing farmland
- Reduce pest damage
- Improve food storage and distribution
- Develop new food source and expand land under cultivation
Does anyone else feel that these contradict one another? So I questioned him by saying, "I feel like these contradict one another for example, how can we increase our food supply if we convert agriculture land to non-ag? How will we develop new food sources that are as sufficient as the ones we have today? I feel like you failed to mention that farmers have increased yields by 37% and decreased the use of land we farm on."
and here is his response:
Just to clarify, you are right, the way it reads is confusing. The bullet point says: "Protect soil from erosion and conversion to non-agriculture use". This doesn't mean "convert to non-ag", it means "Protect from conversion to non-ag". It would have been clearer if I had separated the two thoughts into two bullet points:
- Protect soil from erosion
- Protect land from conversion to non-agriculture use
I combined the "Protect." Separating them certainly makes more sense. I will make the adjustment to my slide. Thanks for pointing out how confusing this is.
As far as the second point you make. I didn't say it exactly as you did (37% increase in yields on less land), but it is certainly there. The third slide says "World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase." That's my way of saying "increased in yields". I've just always thought it was more impressive to put it in terms of "food per person." Really is quite remarkable.
The "Farmland Conversion" slide clearly shows that this is being done on less land. "Agricultural land shrank from 0.94 acres (1970) to 0.56 acres per person (2000) – By 2025, this could decline to 0.42 acres." I also point out that this is a loss of 3 million acres per year of prime farmland. I made the point that this is a serious issue if we expect to keep feeding everybody. (As a planner, land conversion from agriculture bothers me very much. If I didn't emphasize the fact that farming is being done on less land, it is because I didn't want to sound biased in favor of farmers. Perhaps I downplayed it too much.)
I'll admit I'm a little curious about your comment about "our side" not being represented. I hope "our" means "me" (Dr. K) and "you" (Danielle). I am a very strong advocate for agriculture. After air and water (the environment), what is more important than food to human survival? But I try not to impose my personal values on the class; I just present those things that are issues in our society and why. I think you'll agree everything we touched on in the lecture is an issue to someone. The idea is to get students thinking about where they stand on these issues, not tell them where they 'should' stand or where I stand. I try to give all sides a chance to air their perspectives in the "issue panels." That's the whole point of those. I ask hard (often controversial) questions to get students to question their own assumptions. These don't reflect my own opinions, I rarely share those, but they always reflect someone's opinion in our society. In the end, all I want is for you to decide for yourself what you believe based on what you know.
So today we talked about climate change and he said, "We have to be extremely concerned about climate change since we live in the midwest and there is a lot of Agriculture which is a major contributor from green house gas emissions to methane gas put out by cows."
Does anyone else want to check his credentials?? I do.