Tag Archives: Agriculture

Agriculture will be the most pressing issue of our time

Below is a great TED talk that brings some awareness to what seems will be the most pressing issue of our time (in 10-30 years) as it is the prime contributor to our rapid resource depletion and increased risk of cataclysmic climate change.

I feel that economics is best for sorting out this problem. How best to get others to eat less in the more developed nations when high food costs prohibit people’s decision to over-consume. The same could be said of high costs of oil and decreased driving habits. Many pricing distortions that the modern economies experience directly impact the relatively cheap pricing of food; specifically water, fuel, and choice of production. (corn subsidies)

Although as much as economics has a benefit, there is a cost. Producers will be focused on maximizing gains by irrationally increasing output. (a la tragedy of the commons) This will drive already poorly productive agricultural producers to expand their output into valuable biodiversity resources such as the rain-forest.

The best solution IMO, would be to end the developed worlds price distortions in combination with aggressive conservation policies for the developing world that would limit our total % of land used for agriculture and offer appropriate support to help current fertile land gains to reach 90-100% of its maximum productive capacity.

The two should limit over-consumption while also promoting increased productivity.

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Breakthrough spotlight: Edible cottonseed, biodegradable chemicals and cyborgs!

I currently have a recurring “theme post” entitled “Internalizing Externalities.”  I have been trying to think about what other ways I could incorporate different stories I come across that happen to fall under the same theme of interest.  “Internalizing externalities” was a way of pointing out unintended consequences of particular actions – usually externalities such as pollution.

I believe I am going to begin another “theme post” entitled “Breakthrough Spotlight.”  Considering that this blog name is Pushing Possibilities, I would figure that illuminating different scientific and technological breakthroughs would be able to jump start the imagination and hopefully ignite optimism in our future.  So without further ado, I have three scientific and technological breakthroughs that I have come across that I believe are not only incredible, but practical, providing enormous amounts of added value to our economic future and hopefully make our world a better place.

The first breakthrough: Edible Cottonseed.

A Texas researcher has found a way to reduce toxin in cottonseed that until now could only be eaten by cattle. The bovines’ multiple stomachs gradually digested the poisonous substance called gossypol.

The new seeds can be eaten by pigs, chickens, fish and humans and could show up in protein bars, shakes, breads, cookies and other foods within about 10 years. The amount of cotton already grown worldwide contains enough protein to feed 500 million people per year, researchers said.

Besides the obvious economic benefits, it may also prove to have a significant health benefit. Raw soy has too much phytoestrogens, putting its hopes of being the usual suspect at the dinner table at the level of red meat. Therefore, this could be a healthier, long-standing alternative, especially for vegans and vegetarians.

The second breakthrough: A movable prosthetic that is controlled by the mind.

A robotic hand has been successfully connected to an amputee, allowing him to feel sensations in the artificial limb and control it with his thoughts…

The experiment lasted a month, and the scientists say it was the first time a patient has been able to make complex movements using his mind to control a biomechanic hand connected to his nervous system.

The future is here!

And last but not least, my favorite: A replacement for toxic industrial chemicals.

it’s a biodegradable, environment-neutral chemical that could be used in everyday materials, such as road salt and detergents, to replace harmful persistent petrochemicals and phosphates, which can last for centuries.

But wait, it gets better…

They’ve not only invented a chemical process using a computer-controlled reactor to make the product cheaply in large volumes, they’ve discovered a process that is adaptable and can produce other environment-friendly building block chemicals.

There is one more benefit I have to add: This is made from sugar so therefore this chemical isn’t dependent upon being made from oil. Make these guys national heroes for leading us one step forward to oil independence!