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Home » Collapse » UN report sounds alarm on farming land-use crisis  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

UN report sounds alarm on farming land-use crisis  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

UN report sounds alarm on farming land-use crisis  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

To feed the world’s burgeoning population while saving it from exhausting natural land resources, the United Nations today issued a report for policymakers, “Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption With Sustainable Supply,” published Jan. 24 by the International Resource Panel of the United Nations Environment Programme.

“Over the past 30 years, we’ve been increasing production on agricultural land, but scientists are now seeing evidence of reaching limits,” says Robert W. Howarth, Cornell’s David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology and a lead author of the United Nations report.

“We need to stop over-consuming land-based products. For example, one of our key challenges is overusing agricultural land for growing meat. There is just not enough land on Earth for everyone in the world to eat like Americans and Europeans,” says Howarth. “We don’t need to become complete vegetarians, but to put this into context and to help sustain feeding a burgeoning global population, we need to reduce our meat consumption by 60 percent – which is about 1940s era levels.”

The U.N. predicts the world’s population will be around 9.2 billion people in 2050, with the world’s less-developed regions contributing the most people. More cropland will be required to feed them. The report explains wide-ranging scientific options for sustainable, global land management. Expanding global cropland forever depletes environmentally needed savannahs, grasslands and forests.

If current conditions continue, by 2050 the world could have between 320 million and 849 million hectares more natural land converted to cropland. “To put things into perspective, the higher range of this estimate would cover an extension of land nearly the size of Brazil,” says the report.

Further, the U.N. report – compiled by noted international scientists – says that decoupling fuel and food markets would be a major component of sustainable resource management. Howarth says that countries must halve their current biofuel expectations to ease potential crises. “With widespread use of biofuels, rising petroleum prices will inevitably also drive food prices because biofuels are derived from cropland,” says the report. “Intolerable price increases for food may lead to spreading hunger, cause riots and sociopolitical disturbances.”

This difficult challenge reaches beyond agriculture and forestry. The report delves into energy, transportation, manufacturing, global health and family planning, climate protection and conservation.

Large areas with degraded soils must be restored, and improved land-use planning must be implemented to avoid building on fertile land, according to the report. An estimated one-fourth of all global crop soils is degraded, but nearly 40 percent of this degenerated land has strong potential for easy restoration.

To ease land pressures, the U.N. suggests more programs for economywide sustainable resource management; promoting a healthy diet in countries high in meat consumption; programs in family planning that slow population growth; and reducing food loss at the production and harvest stage in developing countries by increasing infrastructure, storage facilities and bolstering cooperatives.



  1. My comment:
    “…To feed the world’s burgeoning population while saving it from exhausting natural land resources…”
    The UN is either totally unaware of the pernicious attributes of exponential growth (both populatoin and economic), or purposely misinforming. I believe we are well into the overshoot phase of the classic overshoot and collapse scenario. A report that suggests some tweaking of the various crises will ease things adequately is reflective of either total ignorance or extreme hubris. Or, as the conspiracy theorist in me tend to believe, purposely misleading so as to keep the masses consuming and supporting, as Murray Rothbard calls them, the parasitic caste in society (government).
    Until we recognise and admit that a true crisis is engulfing the globe, most will continue to be ignorant (some purposely) and do little to mitigate the coming collapse. Michael Ruppert, in the documentary Collapse sums it up best when he states that the exponential growth expectations of economics has run up against something stronger than it, finite resources (especially cheap conventional crude oil), yet we continue to believe we can overcome this ‘problem’ with some cosmetic changes.
    Sad to say I don’t have much faith in the-powers-that-be to rectify our dilemma. I think the onus will have to be on grass-roots organisations that prepare locally.

  2. thetinfoilhatsociety says:

    I don’t think the UN is necessarily part of a conspiracy scenario; while all the delegates are from the better-off sectors of their societies and countries, most of them are much more in tune with the poor in their own countries. If they are participating in a conspiracy, I think it’s in the original meaning of the word, ‘to breathe together’ rather than deliberate misleading, more of a group whistling in the dark effect.

    Having been a gardener for many years using intensive techniques, deep mulch, buried drip irrigation, and manure fertilizers, I have come to realize just how much land it takes to raise one’s own vegetables and fruits and to be self-sufficient in those things. And the fact is, we are not self sufficient by a long shot. I don’t think the average person in a middle class or up lifestyle anywhere in the world is aware of just how much land it takes to grow food for one person for one year. I agree with your assessment, even better management isn’t probably going to make a difference; though putting every American’s lawn into productive use would certainly help at least here in America; we are truly in overshoot as a species on this planet.

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