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Feeding a Greener World

Though most people take food production more or less for granted, it is a critical front in all of the most pressing environmental issues of the day. Without more sustainable agricultural practices, humanity can look forward to a future of runaway climate change, ecological destruction, and food insecurity.

NORWICH – There is unequivocal evidence that most contemporary agricultural practices are unsustainable, and have been a significant source of terrestrial biodiversity loss in recent decades. But this need not be the case. Feeding the world and enhancing conservation are complementary – and even closely interdependent – goals.

Nature, after all, is an “asset” on which we all depend. But while most of its “provisioning” services have increased in the last 50 years, its “regulating” and “cultural” services are in decline, primarily as a result of unsustainable agricultural extensification (conversion of natural habitats) and intensification (the inappropriate use of water and chemical fertilizers and pesticides).

Far from being just a source of food, timber, and fiber (provisional services), natural systems also sustain the quality of air, fresh water, and soils; regulate the climate; facilitate pollination and pest control; and reduce the impact of natural hazards (regulatory services). And for communities around the world, nature is a critical source of inspiration, education, recreation, psychological wellbeing, and personal identity (cultural services).

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