Others’ opinion: There is no time to waste as starvation chances increase

Published 7:58 am Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Free Press, Mankato

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Scientists are speaking up again, and there’s no time for long, drawn-out arguments about whether to listen or not.

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Human actions are taking a devastating toll on our most precious resources — water and soil. The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates” a recent United Nations report states. Climate change, of course, exacerbates the dire situation with its extreme conditions, speeding up the rate of land degradation.

The researchers confirm other scientific reports already compiled: Without action, more of the world’s population will face starvation.

The report points to clearing forests for grazing and animals’ methane emissions as a clear contributors to the problem, along with damaging agriculture methods, including drainage of carbon-storing wetlands. Food distribution and food waste also need to be improved, the report said.

If you think we have a population migration problem now, consider what will occur as more people move to find food when their countries’ crops die, whether it be from drought or floods.

And if you think this is just a problem for other places, consider that between 2001 and 2017, the lower 48 states lost more than 24 million acres to human development, according to a report by Smithsonian magazine. That amounts to a loss of roughly one football field-size patch of land every 30 seconds.

Closer to home, we know firsthand the headaches and damage caused by more extreme weather attributed to climate change. Just talk to a farmer. And in this year alone, soil erosion and recent flooding have caused roads to be closed in Henderson, North Mankato and Waterville, to name just a few local communities affected. Cities, counties and the state are continuously dealing with infrastructure problems caused by these big weather events. And that means your pocketbook is affected.

None of this information is a surprise. The longer we solely study the problem without taking action, the closer we come to more widespread catastrophe. Take the scientists seriously and urge government representatives to develop policy and legislation that aims to reduce carbon emissions, support conservation efforts and use better methods of growing the world’s food.

The U.N. report isn’t without hope. It outlines steps that could help control this international crisis. Meanwhile, soil is being lost between 10 and 100 times faster than it is forming. The world can’t wait.