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The Ethics of Sustainable Agriculture for 7+ Billion
Peter M.J. Hess, Ph.D.
March 7, 2014
The challenge of keeping seven billion people alive may well reach crisis proportions, with chronic food shortages and spasms of overpopulation-induced genocide taking their toll. Two converging factors exacerbate this: (1) The inexorable decline of the fossil fuels that enabled this temporary population spike (2) Global climate change caused by the burning of these fuels. Sea level rise and episodic agricultural failures will create famines and ecological refugeeism on an unprecedented scale. Here is our ethical dilemma: Do we revert to past low-yield farming practices or do we employ the latest in agricultural technology to feed our existing population until through encouraging replacement-sized families we have reduced our population to a sustainable level? Using the most advanced scientific tools and an intercultural, interreligious, and intergenerational ethic, we must strive for an agriculture that (1) maximizes genetic diversity of plants and animals, (2) is ecologically rich and sustainable, and (3) is respectful of local autonomy and agricultural customs.