28 August 2012

Rethinking vegetarianism

Some scientists think that global climate change will lead all of us to eating more vegetables. Of course we know that a change in that direction would be good for the health of the world. An excess of animal protein has led to so many health problems over the decades since meat became so affordable.

 If nothing changes 99% of us will get 5% animal protein in our daily diets instead of the 20% we now eat.

The Stockholm International Water Institute proposes that the lack of rain/snow/ice on our planet that is currently leading to extensive droughts and much higher animal feed costs, will, in the end make semi-vegetarians out of most of the population.

Their report for World Water Week is at this link

Water security is key to food security for the world's population. Of the 7 billion people on the earth, one billion are starving. By 2050 the world population will be 9 billion assuming population growth continues at its current pace. " ... each person requires 50 to 100 times more water to produce the food they eat than they use in their home." pg 13

30 to 50% of the food that is produced is wasted somewhere between field and fork.

Food production in line with current dietary trends is 20% animal product and a reduction to 5% is in our future due to water issues around the world.

"The analysis showed that there will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in Western
nations (3,000 kcal produced per capita, including 20 per cent of calories produced coming from animal proteins). There will, however, be just enough water, if the proportion of animal based foods is limited to 5 per cent of total calories and considerable regional water deficits can be met by a well organised and reliable system of food trade." pg 14

"Water, as put by Kalpanatai Salunkhe, a rural development worker in India, “is the divide between poverty and prosperity”. But using that water has a cost. “More rice, at the price of a river,” as succinctly articulated by acclaimed Indian author Arundhati Roy in The God of Small Things (1997)."

"For example, in South Asia most of the irrigated area depends on privately owned and managed wells. Some estimates put the number of privately owned wells in India at around 25 million, providing 70 per cent of all irrigation water (Shah, 2009). In Bangladesh 5.1 million of the 6.2 million irrigated hectares are under privately owned wells and 86 per cent of the area is served by privately owned pumps (BBS, 2010).

The situation is similar in Southeast Asia. In Indonesia the number of privately owned motor pumps used in irrigation increased from 1.17 million to 2.17 million just between 1998 and 2002 (Government of Indonesia cited in Shah 2009). In Vietnam the number of privately owned irrigation pumps quintupled during the 1990s to 800,000 (Barker and Molle, 2004). In Thailand there were 3 million privately owned irrigation pumps in the year 2000, up from 500,000 in 1985 (Molle et al., 2003). While recent data are scarce, it is likely that the trend observed in the 1990s has continued. Trends are similar in Africa ..." pg 20

"We face daunting agricultural water management challenges as demand increases and rural poverty and general food insecurity persist. There will be no single solution, but by thinking differently, we can craft case-specific solutions that are appropriate for given locations and points in time." pg 23

"There are numerous gender issues in agriculture water management, many of which relate to the existing inequality between women and men in agriculture. Women’s lack of ownership and weaker tenure of land, in comparison to men, impacts their ability to make decisions about water use on the land. Lack of ownership of land can also bar women from participating in water user associations, which can result in poor technical outcomes in water management (World Bank et al, 2009)." pg 28

"What is required is essentially a comprehensive assessment of the cultural perceptions of food and habits and their impact on natural resources. In rich and affluent societies, people are living in a “culture of abundance” (Stuart, 2009) and in “comfort zones” (Eliasson, 2010). With an abundance of food, consumers are accustomed to choose from shelves burgeoning with subsidised food items, accessible around the clock. This makes it easier and less costly to waste and overeat, and provides less incentive to cut down on waste and to enjoy a sustainable diet. Few realise that the price on the tag of the items in the shop is only part of the real price. Another part is paid by taxes (to cover subsidies), and the environmental costs are left invisible to the consumer." pg 37

"The market for farmland and water will become an increasingly large part of the global political economy and the global food and energy markets. Current and future ‘land deals’ can potentially contribute to an increase in agricultural production and help grow more food, cash-crops and biofuels. The question is: who is going to benefit from this ‘green revolution’?

Asymmetric power relations between regions, countries, and economic sectors are expected to play a role in determining the benefits and costs that land and water deals will bring for the different parties. Regulations are crucial to ensure that all parties gain a fair deal and that the land and water resources are used efficiently.

Through the adoption of international and regional principles and delegation of powers to regional institutions, it is possible to better protect the customary rights of local populations, decrease the negative impacts of the deals on the environment and endorse basin-wide integrated land and water management.

This would promote fairer terms of trade between the countries and corporations investing in land and the host countries and local populations. It would also help ensure that those investments enhance regional and national food security in Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America and globally." pg 49

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