As the population booms and climate change threatens our resources, addressing our future food security is more important than ever. How do we ensure that we’ll have enough food to feed everyone? Increasing the diversity of what we eat – including bugs and invasive species – is a major component of the solution, as is taking food production into our own hands when possible. Here are 10 ways to make the future of food more sustainable.
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Insects are the food of the future, says the United Nations, so we might as well get used to eating them. As meat production puts a major strain on our planet’s resources, and the population continues to grow, we’ll have to turn to bugs as a plentiful protein source. Many cultures across the world already consume insects as a regular part of their diet, but Westerners have been resistant. Like it or not, these crunchy treats are a crucial part of future food security.
Growing Your Own Food
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Turning your yard into a mini farm – or at least growing some veggies in your apartment window – is a more effective act of protest than attending a demonstration. We can take back some of the power from big agriculture and the major food companies by growing whatever food we can on our own. It’s economical, reduces food miles and gives us more of a connection to what we eat.
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It takes 6.7 pounds of grain, 52.8 gallons of drinking water, 74.5 square feet of land and 1,036 BTUs of fossil fuel energy to produce a single quarter-pounder hamburger patty. In America, we eat more meat than any other country in the world (other than Luxembourg.) That’s a huge impact on the planet. That doesn’t mean that meat is never sustainable, but factory farming definitely isn’t. Do your part by reducing your meat consumption; Meatless Mondays is a great way to start.
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In 80 years, we lost 93% of the variety in our food sources, narrowing what was once an incredibly rich and vibrant array of fruits, vegetables and other foods down to the small range that’s now seen on most grocery store shelves. This lack of diversity strips the land of nutrients, and makes our food supply incredibly vulnerable to species-specific diseases and other problems. The solution? Heirloom and artisinal seeds. Heirloom vegetables produce seeds again and again, preserve genetic diversity and make our plates a lot more interesting.
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Sustainable management of water use in agriculture is integral to our food security. Climate change could dry out the plains where much of our food is currently grown, requiring more irrigation than ever and displacing large numbers of rural poor who rely on farming for survival. Reducing the strain of agricultural water demand will require many new conservation measures. You can help by saving water at home and making your own garden as water-smart as it can be; get some tips at Organic Gardening.
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Invasive plants and nuisance species take over local ecosystems, wreaking havoc on the balance and often seriously threatening native species. Nutria, pictured above, is one example. This river rat native to South America is multiplying in Louisiana and other Southern states, damaging crops and levees. (Part of) the solution? Eating them. Eat the Invaders is a website that will guide you through the species that are posing the biggest problems in America. It even provides recipes.
Native Plants & Animals
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One of the reasons some of our food crops are so resource-intensive is that we’re growing them where they don’t belong, and ignoring the plentiful but less common food sources that grow within our own regional areas. Native foods are more resistant to disease, require less water and fertilizer to thrive, and help preserve food diversity. Increasing demand for plants and animals that are native to your local area also helps preserve those species for future generations.
Local Food Production
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Eat local! Not only does local food reduce food miles and support your regional economy, it supports small farms and food producers who are less likely to douse their products in fertilizers and pesticides. Produce, dairy, meat, beer and wine are among the food products that you can likely find made within 100 miles of your town.
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From small community gardens to massive high-rise vertical farms, urban food production reduces the need to import large amounts of food into cities from rural areas, preserving undeveloped land and reducing pollution and fossil fuel consumption. The vertical farms of the future harvest and recycle rainwater, use wind and solar power, and have the potential to feed hundreds of thousands of people on an extremely small footprint of land.
An End to Big Agriculture
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What’s wrong with big agriculture? The Union of Concerned Scientists gives us eight major ways in which Monsanto, the world’s largest agricultural biotechnology corporation, fails at sustainability. The company, which is the world’s single largest provider of (non-reproducing) seeds, produces crops that promote pesticide resistance in harmful bugs, increase the need for herbicides, spread contamination of engineered genes, and suppresses independent research on its products. Allowing just a few entities to control global food production places us all at risk. Read more about why corporate agriculture is a problem.