Author Archives: Earth Policy Institute

Peak Water: What Happens When the Wells Go Dry?

July 9th, 2013 | by Earth Policy Institute

Aquifer depletion now threatens harvests in China, India, and the United States. These big three grain producers together supply half of the world's grain harvest. The question is not whether water shortages will affect future harvests in these countries, but rather when they will do so


Full Planet, Empty Plates: Chapter 4. Food or Fuel?

July 3rd, 2013 | by Earth Policy Institute

The massive diversion of grain to fuel cars has helped drive up food prices, leaving low-income consumers everywhere to suffer some of the most severe food price inflation in history. As of mid-2012, world wheat, corn, and soybean prices were roughly double their historical levels


Full Planet, Empty Plates, Chapter 5: Eroding Soils Darkening Our Future

June 26th, 2013 | by Earth Policy Institute

The thin layer of topsoil that covers the earth’s land surface was formed over long stretches of geological time as new soil formation exceeded the natural rate of erosion. Sometime within the last century, soil erosion began to exceed new soil formation. Now, nearly a third of the world’s cropland is losing topsoil faster than new soil is forming, reducing the land’s inherent fertility. Soil that was formed on a geological time scale is being lost on a human time scale


Farmed Fish Production Overtakes Beef

June 13th, 2013 | by Earth Policy Institute

The world quietly reached a milestone in the evolution of the human diet in 2011. For the first time in modern history, world farmed fish production topped beef production. The gap widened in 2012, with output from fish farming—also called aquaculture—reaching a record 66 million tons, compared with production of beef at 63 million tons. And 2013 may well be the first year that people eat more fish raised on farms than caught in the wild.


China’s Growing Hunger for Meat Shown by Move to Buy Smithfield, World’s Leading Pork Producer

June 6th, 2013 | by Earth Policy Institute

Pork is by far China’s favorite protein, which helps to explain the late-May announced acquisition of U.S. meat giant Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s leading pork producer, by the Chinese company Shuanghui International, owner of China’s largest meat processor. China already buys more than 60 percent of the world’s soybean exports to feed to its own livestock and has been a net importer of pork for the last five years. Now the move for Chinese companies is to purchase both foreign agricultural land and food-producing companies outright


Full Planet, Empty Plates: Chapter 2. The Ecology of Population Growth

May 9th, 2013 | by Earth Policy Institute

Throughout most of human existence, population growth has been so slow as to be imperceptible within a single generation. Reaching a global population of 1 billion in 1804 required the entire time since modern humans appeared on the scene. To add the second billion, it took until 1927, just over a century. Thirty-three years later, in 1960, world population reached 3 billion. Then the pace sped up, as we added another billion every 13 years or so until we hit 7 billion in late


After Record 2012, World Wind Power Set to Top 300,000 Megawatts in 2013

April 3rd, 2013 | by Earth Policy Institute

Even amid policy uncertainty in major wind power markets, wind developers still managed to set a new record for installations in 2012, with 44,000 megawatts of new wind capacity worldwide. With total capacity exceeding 280,000 megawatts, wind farms generate carbon-free electricity in more than 80 countries, 24 of which have at least 1,000 megawatts. At the European level of consumption, the world’s operating wind turbines could satisfy the residential electricity needs of 450 million people


Falling Gasoline Consumption Means US Can Just Say "No" to New Pipelines and Food-to-Fuel

March 29th, 2013 | by Earth Policy Institute

Freeing America from its dependence on oil from unstable parts of the world is an admirable goal, but many of the proposed solutions—including the push for more home-grown biofuels and for the construction of the new Keystone XL pipeline to transport Canadian tar sands oil to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast—are harmful and simply unnecessary. Gasoline use in the United States is falling, and the trends already driving it down are likely to continue into the future, making both the mirage of beneficial biofuels and the construction of a new pipeline to import incredibly dirty oil seem ever more out of touch with reality



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