Every one in a while a very important article comes along and I want folks to read it so much that I blast it to the world. This is one of those articles. Written by Jesse H. Ausubel, Director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University, it is entitled The Return of Nature: How Technology Liberates the Environment. Read the whole thing!
I have argued that both the United States and the world are at peak farmland, not because of exhaustion of arable land, but because farmers are wildly successful in producing protein and calories. To prosper, farmers have allowed or forced Americans to eat hamburgers and chicken tenders, drink bourbon, and drive with ethanol, and they continue to export massive tonnages abroad.
Wasted food is not decoupled from acreage. When we consider the horror of food waste, not to mention obesity, we further appreciate that huge amounts of land can be released from agriculture with no damage to human diet. Every year 1.3 billion tons of food are thrown away globally, according to a 2013 report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. That equates to one-third of the world’s food being wasted....
Rebound is already happening. Abandonment of marginal agricultural lands in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe has released at least 30 million hectares and possibly as much as 60 million hectares to return to nature, according to careful studies by geographer Florian Schierhorn and his colleagues. Thirty million hectares is the size of Poland or Italy. The great reversal of land use that I am describing is not only a forecast; it is a present reality in Russia and Poland as well as Pennsylvania and Michigan.
In America alone the total amount of corn fed to cars grows on an area equal to Iowa or Alabama. Think of turning all those lands that are now pasture for cars into refuges for wildlife, carbon orchards, and parks. That would represent about twice the area of all the US national parks outside Alaska.