Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Read My Lips: Vertical Farms Can Solve Hunger

For some reason, lots of people have stopped caring about words. From movies and music to cell phones and laptops, it's never been easier to get by without careful consideration of what exactly one communicates than it is now. WTF, BRB, ROTFL: we effort more to do life quickly rather than well, it seems. But most of us are not law-makers and shakers (at least yet), and so this is not where the intoxicating disregard for words is troublesome.

The troubling thing is that those in positions of social influence have fallen victim to this perfidious use of the English language as well; theirs is perhaps more insidious because it is more subtle.

From the New York Times today:
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, feeding humanity in 2050 — when the world’s population is expected to be 9.1 billion — will require a 70 percent increase in global food production, partly because of population growth but also because of rising incomes.
From the Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government this year:
By 2030, the demand for food is going to be increased by about 50%. Can we do it?...We've got to somehow produce 50% more by that time.
Notice anything?

The problem with these statements is two-fold. First of all, they are wrong. What we need to do in 2030 or 2050, just like what we need to do in 2009, is to feed everyone. We produce plenty of food; that's not the problem. It’s the distribution that’s the problem. In fact, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the Stockholm International Water Institute and the International Water Management Institute authored a policy paper in August of 2008 entitled "Saving Water: From Field to Fork - Curbing Losses and Wastage in the Food Chain," in which they show that 50% of the food we produce is wasted. 50%! Unbelievable. What we need to do is not produce more; we need to drastically change the distribution. And we need our influential experts and those people who can reach large audiences to recognize the difference between the two: this is the second problem.

It's OK for Average Joe to occasionally falter on these points: his effect on the general public is not much. But in times like these, when game-changing legislation is imminent, and when it will likely shape our world for the next 100 years or more, those in influential positions--the people on whose words millions form opinions--owe it to all of humanity to not misspeak. And I can only think that it is misspeech, because the alternative—that they actually believe what they say—bodes unbearably bad for the prospect of the planet.

Indeed, the food, water and energy crises are enormous challenges. And coupled with those of global warming, our situation is dire. If we hope to remedy the planet, then we must demand of our leaders that they remedy their speech. They must say what they mean to say, which is this: we need to figure out a way to feed everybody.

Guess what? Vertical Farms are part of the solution.

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