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 26 2012: Thanks for clarifying your question, Mark. I guess I'm the wrong person to ask. I usually try to work more on very small, specific problems, it is hard for me to work on really big, vast problems. For example, something I might work on is that if I see someone has painted graffiti in my neighborhood, I'll call the city to ask them to send their unit to paint it out. In my mind, this makes life better for the people right in my neighborhood because they don't have to look at the ugly graffiti. In general I think the world would be better if more people worked on small, local problems like this.

    I still think one thing you could do to reduce global warming is drink more milk. As I said, I looked at a study that compared twenty foods for how much global warming they produced in their production and distribution, and milk produced the least. For me here in Glendale that makes sense, Glendale being on the edge of Los Angeles, because milk is the food that is produced most locally, most of our milk here comes from the Ontario-Pomona-Chino area about fifty miles east of Los Angeles. When the food is produced locally, it doesn't have to be transported as far in trucks to markets, and thus you don't get as much of the truck emissions, which contribute to global warming. I would guess that most of your milk down there in El Centro comes from that same Ontario-Pomona-Chino area, and that for your area also milk is the food that is produced the most locally to you. Do you produce any other kind of food down there in abundance?
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      Dec 27 2012: We produce alfalfa and care for livestock mostly. I think that could be left alone and turn Salton Sea into a cornucopia of sea food. My proposal is here:
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        Dec 31 2012: Yeah, that sounds like a great idea, to revitalize the Salton Sea. I remember being there as a kid and it smelled really bad. I saw a rather excellent film, "Little Birds," a fictional story set around the Salton Sea and Los Angeles. You'd probably enjoy it.

        Surfing the Net, I see that there are many beef feedlots in the Imperial Valley, but almost no dairies. Since the beef is being finished right there locally, you ought to get excellent beef in your local markets. Do you eat beef? How is it around there?

        The dairies around Chino-Pomona-Ontario are still some of your closest major food producers here in Southern California, so I still maintain that by drinking more milk you would be reducing global warming since the milk wouldn't have to be transported as far as other foods.

        What about Mexico? What foods are coming into the Imperial Valley from Mexico?
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          Jan 1 2013: There used to be dairies in Imperial Valley. We have excellent sweet onion, asparagus, Sudan Grass, and some specialty crops as well as sheep and cattle. Each animal requires fossil fuel for alfalfa transport, fertilize, spray for insects and transport of products for sale, but I personally don't eat red meat nor eggs nor dairy products. I seldom eat meat of any kind myself, with seafood and turkey or chicken once or twice a month.

          Mexico gets almost no irrigation water from the Colorado River because the water is mostly directed through the canal system north of the border. Mexico raises cattle from birth to feedlot age and they transport here. Half dozen years ago I tasted excellent steaks served in restaurants here.

          I know most people have a real appetite for meat, but I think we would be better off (health and ecology) with eating habits closer to vegan. Rather than telling people what to eat, I think we should do a better job at calculating the natural capital we use, including the petroleum needed to produce things and bring them to market.

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