The world is growing more food on less land, deflating Malthusian fears of humanity outstripping the planet’s natural limits. That’s according to a scientist associated with prominent green group The Nature Conservancy, who noticed “good news lurking in global [agricultural] data.” The Breakthrough Institute reports:
While agricultural expansion was pretty steady on a global scale for over 30 years, in 1995 we saw the first recorded decrease in agricultural land area. It peaked in 1998, and has been lower ever since. In fact, until 2011 (unfortunately the latest year this data is available from the FAO) it was continuing to decline slightly over time.At the same time we have managed to produce more food on less land, and are keeping ahead of population growth (although that doesn’t mean we have addressed inequity in food distribution and nutrition).
Read the whole thing. It’s a nuanced look at agricultural intensification, and it runs counter to the nightmarish future many greens like to predict to further their goals. Your typical Malthusian will be quick to point to graphs showing the seemingly inexorable growth of the human population, and lament our inability to feed those future generations. What that particularly pessimistic brand of thinker conveniently forgets is humanity’s remarkable ability to innovate and adapt.The pace of technological change is accelerating; that’s evident to anyone trying to keep up with the latest laptop, cell phone, or tablet. But that isn’t just true with consumer electronics, it also applies to less sexy but much more important areas, like energy and agriculture. We’re learning to do more with less, and our ability to feed future populations will depend on ever-increasing efficiencies. The data shows we’re already on that path, and it suggests the future is a good bit brighter than many environmentalists want you to believe.