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How Do We Feed Nine Billion People (Or 7.6 for that Matter)?

The image above isn’t just pixels—it’s a satellite image of crop fields in Kansas. This intense agricultural matrix is not uncommon, and with population projected to spike to 9 billion people by 2050 and “developing” countries eating more animal products every year, this view might become ubiquitous in order to feed upcoming generations.

A possible solution would be to further mechanize agriculture and push the soil to its maximum yield. However, there is in fact enough food produced every year to feed 10 billion people. And yet, around 11 percent of people are hungry worldwide, and 98% of that hunger is concentrated in “developing” countries. So hunger is a more complicated problem than sheer quantity, and there is a issue of distribution. The model of development has shown us that gaining affluence means increasing demand for water and land-intensive crops and livestock as well as an increase in synthetic fertilizers, all of which are harmful in some way to the planet and to us in turn. If population increase is inevitable, there must be a better way to sustainably, ethically, and equitably distribute food to the many people who will be sharing the Earth and its resources in the coming years.

  • What are some of the prospective issues with expanding our current agricultural system to feed 2 billion more people?
  • What are the pros and cons of relying on technological advances to increase potential food yield?
  • What are some problems with how we currently produce food?
  • What are some alternative farming practices that are more sustainable?
  • What is food sovereignty and how can it help solve future agriculture issues?

Download an SOS playlist for this module.

2 Billion More Coming to Dinner

This video uses a skit along with global data to explain how our current agricultural system is unprepared to handle population growth projections. Unequal distribution of wealth is also a key factor in hunger and food insecurity.

Agriculture: Cropland Yield (potential)

These maps show where crop production could be intensified using technological solutions. Another option would be to increase natural and environmentally friendly agriculture practices in areas where yield is already high.

Agriculture: Food vs. Feed

This dataset shows which countries use their crops primarily to feed people or to feed animals. The global distribution aligns with other trends of poverty and "development". A plant-based diet is more environmentally friendly, and many people choose it do to economic constraints rather than environmental concerns. Larger systems of inequality could contribute to the disparity between people who eat a lot of meat (use most of their crops to feed animals) and those who don't.