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Are crop yield trends on track to meet future demand?

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Several reports estimate that global crop production needs to double by 2050 to meet the demands of more people, more people eating meat, and more crops being used for biofuel production.

I previously wrote a post about five strategies for increasing food security while improving the environment. One strategy is quite obvious: increase crop production. We need more food, so let’s grow more on our current cropland or expand into new areas. Sounds simple, right?

Let’s unpack a few of the details to see if we’re on track to meet projected needs in the coming decades.

Wheat, rice, maize, and soybean are a good starting point since they collectively comprise two-thirds of the calories produced on croplands. To assess how crop yields are trending, my colleague Deepak Ray, I, and a few others at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment recently compiled over 2m yield observations from agricultural census records across 13,500 counties and other sub-national political units.

We found that yield trends are stagnating or declining in about 25-40% of areas growing these four crops. Some of these are places where the green revolution arrived and plateaued, whereas others are places that got left behind and have had little investment in new technology and management in the past few decades.

Yet, this finding still did not quite address the more basic question of whether yield trends are on track globally. Could the gains in some areas outweigh the losses in others?

Unfortunately, current yield trends over the last two decades suggest we’re on track to increase production of these four crops by only 38-67% by 2050. These increases are far from the estimated 100% increase needed.

Expanding croplands is certainly an option, but clearing land for agriculture often comes with environmental problems, such as greenhouse gas emissions from the carbon stored in the lush natural vegetation, loss of habitat, and decreased water quality. Further, we’re already farming on soils best suited to produce crops, and expansion largely happens in marginal areas.

But all is not doom and gloom. Although it is not a complete roadmap of how to overcome local and regional obstacles, the analysis helps pinpoint places to target investments in technology, training, and management to increase yields. It also illustrates that increasing production needs to be one several strategies. Other major opportunities to meet future needs relate to reducing the demand.

About two-thirds of calories produced from crops are used to feed livestock. It takes around 30 calories of feed to produce a calorie of beef, so reducing meat consumption frees up many calories already produced.

A second major opportunity is reducing waste. Around one-third of the food produced is wasted. Reducing the demand for crops by using what we already grow more efficiently, combined with increasing production, can meet future needs and is a more sustainable path forward.

Want more details? You can read the entire science article here.

Paul West is an ecologist finding ways to feed the future while sustaining our planet. Through his job as chief collaboration officer at UMN’s Institute on the Environment, he works to get science out of the ivory tower and into the hands of people affecting change on the ground. Follow him on Twitter @coolfireconserv.

Further reading:

We must improve the efficiency of food production

World wasting up to half of global food

Nutrients and water: closing yield gaps

Global food system crisis

Tackle food waste to tackle inequality, government report says

Paul West is an ecologist finding ways to feed the future while sustaining our planet. Through his job as chief collaboration officer at UMN’s Institute on the Environment, he works to get science out of the ivory tower and into the hands of people affecting change on the ground. Follow him on twitter @coolfireconserv.

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Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands

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Running a company isn’t easy. From reporting wages in an efficient way to meeting deadlines and targets, there’s always something to think about – with green business ideas giving entrepreneurs something extra to ponder. While environmental issues may not be at the forefront of your mind right now, it could save your business thousands, so let’s delve deeper into this issue.

Small waste adds up over time

A computer left on overnight might not seem like the end of the world, right? Sure, it’s a rather minor issue compared to losing a client or being refused a loan – but small waste adds up over time. Conserving energy is an effective money saver, so to hold onto that hard-earned cash, try to:

  • Turn all electrical gadgets off at the socket rather than leaving them on standby as the latter can crank up your energy bill without you even realizing.
  • Switch all lights off when you exit a room and try switching to halogen incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes as these can use up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent and are therefore more efficient.
  • Replace outdated appliances with their greener counterparts. Energy Star appliances have labels which help you to understand their energy requirements over time.
  • Draught-proof your premises as sealing up leaks could slash your energy bills by 30 per cent.

Going electronic has significant benefits

If you don’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork, why not opt for digital documents instead of printing everything out? Not only will this save a lot of money on paper and ink but it will also conserve energy and help protect the planet. You may even be entitled to one of the many tax breaks and grants issued to organizations committed to achieving their environmental goals. This is particularly good news for start-ups with limited funds as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is keen to support companies opening up their company in a green manner.

Of course, if you’re used to handing out brochures and leaflets at every company meeting or printing out newsletters whenever you get the chance, going electronic may be a challenge – but here are some things you can try:

  • Using PowerPoint presentations not printouts
  • Communicating via instant messenger apps or email
  • Using financial software to manage your books
  • Downloading accounting software to keep track of figures
  • Arranging digital feedback and review forms
  • Making the most of Google Docs

Going green can help you to make money too

Going green and environmental stability is big news at the moment with many companies doing their bit for the environment. While implementing eco-friendly strategies will certainly save you money, reducing your carbon footprint could also make you a few bucks too. How? Well, consumers care about what brands are doing more than ever before, with many deliberately siding with those who are implementing green policies. Essentially, doing your bit for the environment is a PR dream as it allows you to talk about what everyone wants to hear.

Going green can certainly save your money but it should also improve your reputation too and give you a platform to promote your business.

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