TED Conversations

Mark Hurych


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Imagine a scenario this century that is very bleak for agriculture. What do you think we should do to address humanity's thrivability?

Suppose two things:
Suppose that the food producing carrying capacity (the number of people that can be fed from arable land) of the Earth within this century becomes less than one billion due to climate change, what do you think we should do to address thrivability? Suppose that you had all the necessary resources to act. For full credit, apply empathy, logic, and self-integrating system properties. Yes, this might be on the final exam.

Jeremy Rifkin,

Paul Gilding,

Ray Kurzweil,

Michelle Holliday,


Closing Statement from Mark Hurych

Thanks to everyone that participated. I apologize to anyone who might have felt slighted.

The answer I got here is that people are on many different islands of being about humanity's current reality. We all have hopes and fears but our paradigms I've found are unexpectedly different. Our perspectives and priorities sometimes don't even seem to have common ground.

I very much want to find that common ground, across cultures, across the globe, across everything that separates and isolates us. One way I plan to address this yearning is by tuning my questions to be more inclusive and collective.

I feel that art does this, pulls us together and gives us common ground, even across language barriers and across time. I want to be good. This sounds so strange but I want to be a good ancestor. I don't see myself as an artist but I would very much like to do something for the greater good the way a composer or an artist might leave behind an inspiring artifact.


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    Dec 27 2012: Very on topic, peak farmland is here:

    Start of the piece:
    It's a brave scientist who dares to announce the turning point of a trend, the top of a graph. A paper published this week does just that, persuasively arguing that a centurieslong trend is about to reverse: the use of land for farming. The authors write: "We are confident that we stand on the peak of cropland use, gazing at a wide expanse of land that will be spared for Nature."
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      Dec 27 2012: Congratulations. Doing more with less is a welcome benefit but quantity must follow quality when we consider human health and natural capital. Increase quality of life and profits will follow, but not necessarily the other way around.
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        Dec 27 2012: I do reckon quality will increase.

        But when we talk about carrying capacity of planet Earth, we are talking about the capacity of planet Earth to feed the people organic strawberries, Champagne and organic Tenderloin Steaks then?
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        Dec 28 2012: That's why he will then later in the book argue among things, we have to use GMO (to overcome the carrying capacity).

        Nice quoting mechanism, I did not know that was possible.
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      Dec 27 2012: Our increased reliance on hydrocarbons to feed the machines of agriculture is at the root of our climate crisis dilemma. The loss of arable land in the hypothetical scenario I'm supposing is caused by CO2 blanketing the Earth and accelerating desertification.
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        Dec 27 2012: Again, baby with the bathwater,
        Embrace the positive effects of using HC's (which predominantly is not machinery, but fertilizers) and battle the externalities.
        That is the only way, any other option involves a lot of dying.
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          Dec 27 2012: OK I didn't mean we stop growing food because of our diesel powered machines we use to do it. But yes, local food and phase out practices that put most CO2 to atmosphere. Even switching from livestock feed to people feed would be an improvement.

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