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 30 2012: Make a similar but stricter one child policy
    • Dec 31 2012: I never understood why some people choose a one child policy over eating less meat. Does eating meat 5, 6 or even 7 days per week really mean that much to people?
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      Dec 31 2012: Joshua and John, policy changes are part of the solution. Rather than stricter in the sense of more sticks and carrots, perhaps more allowance for intrinsic motivations of autonomy, mastery and purpose. Promoting ecologically sound policy solutions for foods other than meat might also be worthy of pursuit for the greater good. Too many people present their ideas as "either/or" paths. Let's do more and/and.
      • Jan 1 2013: Of course, however a one child policy is much more drastic and doesn't necessarily have more effect than simply eating less meat (which could be accomplished through awareness campaigns, cutting subsidies, increasing animal welfare requirements and introducing a tax on meat). Growing food for livestock takes up about 2/3 of all agriculture and only 1 in 17 of the calories in these plants is stored in the meat. So a reduction in meat consumption of just 25% will yield over 15% more calories for humanity without an expansion of agriculture, that's enough food to feed another 1 billion people on top of the 7 billion we already have.


        I'm not sure urban gardens actually reduce net energy use, but those other options might, there is also a lot to gain by switching staple foods, for example potatoes are more efficient than rice. Much of the energy use comes from shipping food around the world because somewhere else farmrs work for less, which is the real problem: if there wasn't such a divide between rich and poor countries much more food would be grown locally.

        Btw, may I congratulate on the quality of this topic: it's really refreshing to have one that's 99 posts long and intelligently discusses real problems in a civil manner with no loonies.
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          Jan 2 2013: I agree on your logic of reducing meat consumption. How about another comparison, and maybe a step with more leverage: For every 1 calorie of food produced, we use 10 calories of energy in the form of fuel. Since it is that fuel which vents CO2 and causes the problem of blanketed warming, why not shift less energy intensive means of production such as agroforestry, mega-gardening, hydroponics, urban gardens on roof and wall, Permaculture, etc. That way we produce more food with less expenditure of energy, keeping it local and reduced livestock.

          I'm looking for ideas that might increase our "leverage."

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