TED Conversations

Kevin Jacobson

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What do you think is the biggest technological challenge the human race will face in the next 30 years?

I see a lot of things wrong with humanity and I just want another persons input.


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  • Jun 18 2012: The establishment of an agricultural system that is capable of meeting our needs while also reducing its impact on the environment will be one of the biggest challenges we face. We as a society, with the aid of large corporations, are quickly depleting biodiversity, increasing susceptibility to crop diseases, and polluting heavily with the use of ag-petrol chemicals/fuel.

    Biodiversity is what keeps an eco-system thriving and if we learn to work with it instead of against, its easy to see nature is capable of completing the same tasks as the chemicals we use. The organic/sustainable movement is working diligently to show us that local and seasonal can be much more rewarding than a mass transit ag system. The integration of buffer crops, green cover manure crops, crop rotation and selective pest management can offer gardeners and farmers alike a system that does not increase soil toxicity, kill wild plant species/ insects, or deplete organic matter from the soil. This can lead to higher yields and higher quality products with less chemical input.

    Our increase in susceptibility to crop diseases is two fold, one being the method of growing large mono-cultures and two being the heavy use of chemicals to treat disease, which leads to increased resistance. With the advent of chemical ready crops and BT crops, we are creating more resistant diseases. With proper implementation bio-diverse farming could help alleviate some of the dependence on such draconian techniques while helping the bottom line of the farmer.

    Finally there is the issue of fuel and how the agriculture system moves. There should be a push to get off of fossil fuel products for propulsion and chemical bases. Rather it is conversion over to CNG, bio diesels or some other source removing foreign, dirty fuels from farming would make it cheaper and cleaner for farmers. This has many added benefits and with soon to be 10 billion mouths to feed, we need to start addressing these issues if we are to succeed.

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