Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 20, 2019

Earth Concerns News

Sharing Our Planet's Resources by Janet Derby, CSJAssociate

It seems apparent from the reading I have done, that all major problems faced by humanity on this planet are so complex that traditional institutions, policies and the present political climate are unable to address them adequately. Currently, a growing number of colleges and universities, including Yale, Harvard and Columbia, are supporting studies on how humans can best manage and share our planet=s limited resources.

Last year, the Home/land Committee focused on the topic of water since it is such a precious resource for the majority of people who inhabit our planet. As a result, much awareness has been raised about the scarcity of water in different parts of the world and what we, who live in a land of plenty, can do to help conserve this precious resource. This year, the committee chose food sustainability (conservation of another resource) as the focus of discussions and articles appearing in Carondelet East. The purpose of this first article is to introduce you to the topic by increasing your awareness of some facts related to food sustainability.

The statistics are awesome! For instance, it is estimated that about four percent of our nation=s energy budget is used to grow food, while about ten to thirteen percent is needed to put the food on the dinner table. That means about seventeen percent of America=s energy budget is consumed by agriculture! Surprised?

When we think of the need for oil or its depletion, most of us think in terms of fuel for all types of buildings and vehicles. In reality, however, the depletion of oil will make it impossible to provide enough energy for agricultural needs related to fertilizers, irrigation and pesticides.

Scientists have warned us that there are visible signs already that the capacity of the Earth=s ecosystems to produce enough food for everyone is rapidly declining. Some scientists claim that the Earth=s biological capacity to sustain present standards of production will decrease 30 percent by the year 2050 (when the population will go from the current 6 billion to 9 billion persons). Many of us could say that by that time we will not be around; so it will not affect us. What about our responsibility to be good stewards for those who come after us? There are 51 billion hectares on the Earth=s surface, but only 1.3 billion hectares make up land that is arable, and only another 3.3 billion are available as pasture land!

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization says the world has the resources and know-how to feed everyone, but half a billion people will go hungry, and millions more will starve to death because of war, economics and politics more than because of climate changes, natural disaster, famines or epidemics. The world can produce enough food for each person to have between 2,190 and 2,720 kilocalories per day. Approximately 60 percent of the ecosystem that supports life on Earth (fresh water, fisheries, air and water regulation and natural hazard-and-pest regulation) is being used unsustainably! As long as the ecosystem=s services continue to decline, there will be no progress in addressing the goals of eradicating hunger or poverty on the planet.

It is now November and election time. How many of those running for office are concerned about this topic? If this generation of lawmakers does not address the problems associated with food sustainability, who will? If not now, when? Are we going to be proactive? In the here and now, it appears that we are already on the edge of being reactive!


(November 2006)