There's a lot of interest in alternative energy tech and ways to utilize fossil fuels more efficiently. There's considerable push now for more nuclear power. And all that makes economic and ecological sense: energy is at the base of the economic pyramid, less energy means less of everything for nearly everybody on earth.
But I'm beginning to suspect that the crucial green tech of the coming decades will not be energy-focused. The most-prized new tech will be agricultural. What do humans fear even more than having to walk a long distance? Or being cold on a winter night? Hunger. And a number of events and trends are all pointing in one direction: major tech advances in agriculture will be required to avoid even worse disasters. I recently blogged about new rice growing procedures that apparently save water and up production.
Here are some further areas of human endeavor that await improved tech for growing food.
America's fertile farmbelt. Notice those extensive floods recently in Iowa and surrounds? Made worse by farming and land use practices. Drained marshes. Channelized creeks. Over 100-thousand acres put into production. One Iowan had the temerity to say: ""We've done numerous things to the landscape that took away these water-absorbing functions. Agriculture must respect the limits of nature."
The first Green Revolution has come and gone. Now India's continued population growth makes hunger a problem there again.
African leaders fear coming disasters. Their farming practices are largely dependent on rainfall. They do not have the rich energy resources that make farming arid parts of California and Mexico possible. Here's a summary from African church leaders. "Most of Africa relies on rain-fed agriculture. As a result, it is highly vulnerable to changes in climate variability, seasonal shifts, and precipitation patterns. Any amount of warming will result in increased water stress. Roughly 70% of the population lives by farming, and 40% of all exports are agricultural products. One third of the income in Africa is generated by agriculture and livestock husbandry. Climate change will affect agricultural yield directly and indirectly through changes in soil quality, pests and plant diseases. In particular, the yield of cereals is expected to decline in Africa. As the temperature rises, conditions will be more favourable for pests like grasshoppers to complete a number of their reproduction cycle and increase their population." Grasshopper plagues--positively Biblical.
And it's not just on land where we've harvested with limited understanding and concern for tomorrow. Here's just one of the many simmering problems in our increasingly polluted and over-fished oceans: tuna melt. As in meltdown of the tuna industry.
Time to plant a garden.