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Eat the Sky?

January 20, 2011

 

FaceBook social graph, from http://www.halfapixelshort.com/

 

Anna Lappe asks: Can we support a sustainable food system? (see: Eat the Sky: The Food and Climate Connection). My answer is: Yes we can. The question is, when will the necessary transformational change take place…

 

For a global community it is possible to realize a sustainable food system. No doubt, a global community can realize a sustainable global society.

Over the last 10,000 years of societal developments, we have been eating the sky. Land-plants fix carbon dioxide, we eat them directly, or, as societies learned later in their developing cycle, they feed some of the plants to animals and eat the animals.

Water-plants fix carbon dioxide, in fact the plants (called phytoplankton) in the oceans fixed about half of all fossil-fuel-based carbon. And they served as the only feed for all life in the oceans including fish, much of which mankind in the more recent stages of their development learned to collect at a high efficiency and blind vigor leading to a visible depletion of this otherwise perfect food source.

In contrast to the land plants, ocean plants and animals that live from it do not use any drinking water. In addition, by virtue of the combination of biological and chemical phenomena, the oceans are a sink for carbon dioxide.

So there it is, once more, a natural ecosystem shows how human societies can create a sustainable food system. No, I don’t think in term of further exploiting the oceans – that is madness, not a solution. The solution is to learn from the ocean principles, transfer those principles on land, preferentially land which does not fulfill an ecological and/or support function for human life directly, apply our society’s impressive engineering know-how and make the earth more productive to become sustainable and to meet the needs for an ever growing population sharing the same living room.

I coined a term for such a development, Marine Agriculture. By pure reasoning, there is no argument which would disprove such a sustainable system to be possible, sustainable and profitable. The technologies are known, though they still need a significant further development before they can meet the inherent promise of Marine Agriculture.

But technology is only one (minor) component of all required drivers to create a paradigm change – because that what is needed if we want to make a truly sustainable food system. Fortunately, by virtue of the fact that the global community is the force that creates market demand, all other drivers towards a sustainable food system are in the hands of the global citizens. If they want a sustainable world, then there will be a sustainable world.

The commercial infrastructure will follow the opportunities, be it as early adapters based on insight and healthy foresight, or be it motivated by subsidies to create appetite and motivation to play their part in this transformative journey. A journey, which will only see winners on the left and on the right of the path, and at the end destination.

Using Anna’s words, I believe that a global community can and will roll up their sleeves. The question is, how many will be left to do so, and how much more suffering must pass before the community starts seeing what is so logically and inevitably the only path towards a sustainable world.

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