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TIME Health & Science
Going Green
Why Global Warming Portends a Food Crisis
By Bryan Walsh Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009

It can be difficult in the middle of winter — especially if you live in the frigid Northeastern U.S., as I do — to remain convinced that global warming will be such a bad thing. Beyond the fact that people prefer warmth to cold, there’s a reason the world’s population is clustered in the Tropics and subtropics: warmer climates usually mean longer and richer growing seasons. So it’s easy to imagine that on a warmer globe, the damage inflicted by more frequent and severe heat waves would be balanced by the agricultural benefits of warmer temperatures.

A comforting thought, except for one thing: it’s not true. A study published in the Jan. 9 issue of Science shows that far from compensating for the damages associated with climate change (heavier and more frequent storms, increasing desertification, sea-level rise), hotter temperatures will seriously diminish the world’s ability to feed itself. Click for more…

TIME Health & Science
Verticle Farming
By Bryan Walsh Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008

Dickson Despommier became the guru of vertical farming because his students were bummed out. A professor of environmental health at Columbia University in New York City, Despommier teaches about parasitism, environmental disruption and other assorted happy topics. Eventually his students complained; they wanted to work on something optimistic. So the class began studying the idea of rooftop gardening for cities. They quickly discarded that approach–too small-scale–in favor of something more ambitious: a 30-story urban farm with a greenhouse on every floor. “I think vertical farming is an idea that can work in a big way,” says Despommier.

Why would we want to build skyscrapers filled with lettuce when we’ve been farming on the ground for 10,000 years? Because as the world’s population grows–from 6.8 billion now to as much as 9 billion by 2050–we could run out of productive soil and water. Most of the population growth will occur in cities that can’t easily feed themselves. Add the fact that modern agriculture and everything associated with it–deforestation, chemical-laden fertilizers and carbon-emitting transportation–is a significant contributor to climate change, and suddenly vertical farming doesn’t seem so magic beanstalk in the sky. Click for more…

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