A Sustainable Food Cycle, Part 2

As a follow-up to my previous post, A Sustainable Food Cycle, I have done some research recently in the interest of covering some more ideas surrounding the subject. Talks from the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference, pro-business magazines like Fast Company have both been covering the topics recently and I think it’s worth noting. Admittedly this entry will not have nearly as narrow a focus as part 1, but I don’t think that will really matter.

First off it’s worthy to note that Fast Company, a magazine & website all about business innovation, recently put up an article entitled the Ten Best Green Jobs for the Next Decade. The very first job listed? Farmer. Why? Because the move to a sustainable food cycle invites urban/vertical farming to be a part of the solution. Translation – we’re not going to replace the farmers we currently have, we’re going to offset the lack of supply during non-growing months. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Indeed, it may be high time for a former client of mine to realize his dream of it “being a good time to be a farmer” fairly soon. And the message that Mark Bittman, cookbook author, journalist and TV personality, has been espousing recently just lends more credence to that.

Bittman, in his own TED Talk filmed back in December 2007 but not made available on TED’s website until May 2008, talks about the rise of meat in our diet in the last 100 years or so. If all of his stats are anywhere close to correct, it’s a little staggering! Bittman, like myself, thinks that less meat is a part of the solution. Not THE solution, but simply a part of it. More plants, less meat. It’s a fairly simple message that Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has been promoting for several years as well. And not only does Bittman touch on the malnutrition that eating too much meat causes us but also the vastly negative effects that producing livestock has had on our environment. I believe it was said that 33% of the Earth’s surface is being used either directly or indirectly for livestock production.

That’s a bit much, isn’t it? Surely 33% of our land isn’t being used for the production of edible plants!

Funny that, in the end, technology got us into this mess and that it ultimately will lead us out of it. The real difference is in how the technology is used and the motivations for using it.

When you factor in that so many areas of Africa are still under-nourished, yet we can’t seem to satisfy our hunger for food in North America, the need for new ideas, new development and a more local focus is now more necessary than ever. Projections have our world population hitting 8 billion by 2025 – approximately 2 billion more than we have now. Alex Steffen, founder of WorldChanging.com, talks about even more topics regarding sustainability in his TED Talk where he also talks about WorldChanging.com and the models for sustainability they are looking for and featuring on the site.

In the end, cities are going to have to become more diverse, more progressive and those who fear change or fight change are likely to simply be left behind. Cities need to begin attracting entrepreneurs who are interested in innovations in the farming and livestock industries. The city that can foster this type of innovation will a wide array of new jobs and, therefore, help protect itself from economic downturns. We’re in a vicious cycle that we need to plow through and change in order to avoid the mistake’s of our ancestors.

That being said, I’m going to do my best to produce a new entry on urban design ready to go for a week from now. I have been fairly busy lately but I have a renewed energy in me thanks to various feedback I’ve received! Look for more very soon!