Growing all over the world

March 14, 2019 1 Comment

It is well known that human activities disrupt some of the normal or “natural” processes that occur around the earth and in the atmosphere. Various societies and small populations have suffered some negative effects from these disruptions, mainly in the form of toxic pollution. So far though, we have managed to avoid total ecological collapse. It has been predicted for decades and even centuries in some specific instances, but society keeps rolling along.

How have we managed to do it?

As mentioned in previous blog posts, it has mainly to do with our ingenuity, inventiveness, entrepreneurship, and hard work. With seemingly greater potential challenges ahead due to theoretical anthropogenic global warming (AGW, aka “Climate Change”), there is likely more work to be done.

While it would be nice to live “lighter”, lower our impact, restrict our urban sprawl, and use less energy, for most people this is not an option. I can handle the heat and the cold, but I know many people who wouldn’t last a day if they didn’t have air conditioning constantly keeping their office, home, and car exactly 70 degrees all Summer long. Most people are enjoying increasing levels of wealth and comfort and are not going to give it up.

This leaves us with the challenge inventing and engineering new ways to live in order to help the environment without lowering our standard of living. But how are we going to grow food when some areas of the world might become too hot, too dry, or even too wet for normal agriculture?

Entrepreneurs and scientists are working on it.

Coffee

Even I am working on it. Have you seen hyperbolic headlines like this recently? “Coffee Catastrophe…” Some people are worried that coffee trees will be devastated by AGW and we won’t have anymore coffee to drink. Good thing coffee trees can be grown pretty much anywhere in the world – with access to adequate energy. I grow my own coffee. I have one tree that produces about a pound a year. I have three other plants getting close to the productive stage and I plan on adding to my “plantation”. Some of them are the coveted arabica variety.

The same goes for almost any plant in the world. Cheap energy and water allow almost anything to be grown almost anywhere. I even attempted to grow cocoa plants last year. Two of them sprouted, but they didn’t grow much. I needed a heating pad underneath the plants to keep them warmer but I didn’t want to spend the extra money.

Salad can be grown indoors

With more traditional (mainly non-grain) crops, every year it is becoming more simple and efficient to grow large volumes indoors. You might recall I first blogged about this a few years back here, here, and here. Just last year AeroFarms grew 500 million plants and 300 different varieties in their highly efficient indoor facilities. Phillips Growise facilities are evening producing strawberries now. A new competitor in the field is Ironox, using robotic technology to grow more efficiently indoors – pretty cool technology.

The point is, almost anything can be grown anywhere in the world. Cold weather plants can be grown in the tropics and tropical plants can be grown in the arctic. This is a good thing. If some areas of the world change too much or are disrupted in some way, it is good to know we can grow plants – at scale – anywhere. The primary ingredients are cheap energy and water.

Coral reef

Amazingly, this also goes for non-food flora. Check out the story of Coral Vita. They are growing coral with the intention of replenishing (seeding) areas of the ocean that have recently lost coral.

Traditional agriculture is getting more efficient every year as well. Farms are becoming more networked and digitized with robotic assistance. This should mean ample food supplies into the near future. I still like traditional farming and getting my hands dirty, but I have ordered a weeding robot to help me along.

If meat production becomes a problem, there is always lab grown meat. Aleph farms has created small pieces of steak that pass for the real thing.

Vegetarian burger

For those who are worried about too much meat production and consumption ruining the environment, vegetarian and vegan options continue to expand and they taste quite good. The impossible burger’s new version is available for sale!

As mentioned earlier, it would be ideal to reduce our impact on the atmosphere and environment, but not many people are beating a path toward sustainable living. Most people want comfort and consumption over everything else. Therefore, we need to work hard at coming up with mitigation efforts, cleaner energy, and win-win solutions. Even if some ecological niches of the world are disrupted, we should be able to make it through to a better future.

Meteorologist Justin Loew

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  1. Jean says:

    Very, very interesting and informative Justin! Thank you!

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