The National Geographic Society aims to be an international leader for global conservation and environmental sustainability. When we think about threats to the environment, we tend to picture cars and smokestacks, not dinner. Agriculture is among the greatest contributors to global warming, emitting more greenhouse gases than all our cars, trucks, trains, and airplanes combined—largely from methane released by cattle and rice farms, nitrous oxide from fertilized fields, and carbon dioxide from the cutting of rain forests to grow crops or raise livestock. The environmental challenges posed by agriculture are huge, and they’ll only become more pressing as we try to meet the growing need for food worldwide.
Unfortunately the debate over how to address the global food challenge has become polarized, pitting conventional agriculture and global commerce against local food systems and organic farms.
I was fortunate to lead a team of scientists who confronted this simple question: How can the world double the availability of food while simultaneously cutting the environmental harm caused by agriculture?
Starting in the 1960s, the green revolution increased yields in Asia and Latin America using better crop varieties and more fertilizer, irrigation, and machines—but with major environmental costs.
It would easier to feed the planet if more of the crops we grew ended up in human stomachs. Increasing yields on underperforming farms could significantly boost the worlda€™s food supply. Nearly all new food production in the next 25 years will have to come from existing agricultural land. Improving nutrient and water supplies where yields are lowest could result in a 58 percent increase in global food production. We already have ways to achieve high yields while also dramatically reducing the environmental impacts of conventional farming. Organic farming can also greatly reduce the use of water and chemicals—by incorporating cover crops, mulches, and compost to improve soil quality, conserve water, and build up nutrients. It would be far easier to feed nine billion people by 2050 if more of the crops we grew ended up in human stomachs. An estimated 25 percent of the world’s food calories and up to 50 percent of total food weight are lost or wasted before they can be consumed.
Taken together, these five steps could more than double the world’s food supplies and dramatically cut the environmental impact of agriculture worldwide. This is a pivotal moment when we face unprecedented challenges to food security and the preservation of our global environment. The magazine thanks The Rockefeller Foundation and members of the National Geographic Society for their generous support of this series of articles. Here's what you need to know about ?the warming planet, ho??w it's affecting us, and what's at stake. The Fornax dwarf galaxy is one of the Milky Way's companions and is home to globular star clusters (circled here) that have puzzled astronomers. The Hubble Space Telescope's recent images of giant balls of stars in a nearby galaxy, reported on Thursday, have astronomers puzzled as to the star balls' origins. Based on observations of our home galaxy, astronomers thought that globulars must form in galactic regions that are awash in elderly stars. These Hubble Space Telescope images show four globular clusters in the dwarf galaxy Fornax.
Globulars in the Milky Way are thought to contain two generations of stars, most of them younger ones.
If that theory's correct, then we should see a lot of old stars hanging around the globular clusters in the Fornax galaxy.
So now astronomers will have to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new theory to explain how these beautiful stellar snow globes came to be. This sky chart shows the Pegasus constellation and M15 globular cluster, visible in the western sky in the early evenings this time of the year.
Sitting just off the tip of the nose of the constellation Pegasus, Messier 15 (M15) is one of the most beautiful globular clusters in the entire sky and quite easy to find. This close-up telescope-based image shows the grandeur of the Messier 15 globular cluster in the constellation of Pegasus, the flying horse.
Shining at magnitude 6.2, M15 looks like a fuzzy blob through binoculars, but it's a dazzling, bright cluster through even a small telescope. Recent x-ray observations made by the orbiting Chandra Observatory of M15's highly compact core show that it spews out a lot of intense radiation. GeoHub is a portal of open location-based data from city departments that empowers both the public and city employees to explore, analyze and build on the data.
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Hundreds of runners and walkers gathered in the afternoon of November 8, 2015 at Ap Lei Chau for the 12th CyberRun for the Rehabilitation with the theme of “Sunset Jogging to Cyberport”. Esri China (HK) participated in the 20th Anniversary Ceremony of our long-term business partner NetCraft Information Technology (Macau) Co.
Esri User Conference (Esri UC) 2015 was once again successfully held in San Diego from July 18-24. In Esri User Conference every year, Esri presents hundreds of organizations worldwide with Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) Awards. GIS professionals, users and friends who open the website of Esri China (Hong Kong) every day may have a pleasant surprise in early August. Smart City promises to enhance the quality of city living by using Information and Communication Technology and related initiatives are generating interests among different sectors in the city.
The revamped Statutory Planning Portal 2 (SPP2) of Town Planning Board launched last fall has quickly become one of the most popular website providing public information.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake occurred in Nepal on 25 Apr 2015 has taken over 8,000 lives and injured over 19,000 people. Esri is supporting organizations that are responding to earthquake disasters with software, data, imagery, project services, and technical support.
The Hong Kong Council of Social Service in 2002, the Caring Company Scheme aims at cultivating good corporate citizenship.
The Esri Asia Pacific User Conference (APUC) has finally returned to Hong Kong after a decade and the 10th Esri APUC was successfully held in 27-28th January 2015. This year, about 600 delegates from 20 countries of Asia, Oceania, Europe and North America descended upon the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
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Leading by example, the Society has developed green initiatives related to water, energy, recycling, and employee programs that are in line with our belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world. Farming is the thirstiest user of our precious water supplies and a major polluter, as runoff from fertilizers and manure disrupts fragile lakes, rivers, and coastal ecosystems across the globe. The arguments can be fierce, and like our politics, we seem to be getting more divided rather than finding common ground.
After analyzing reams of data on agriculture and the environment, we proposed five steps that could solve the world’s food dilemma.
Many farmers have also gotten smarter about water, replacing inefficient irrigation systems with more precise methods, like subsurface drip irrigation. Production will have to far outpace population growth as the developing world grows prosperous enough to eat more meat. The good news is that we already know what we have to do; we just need to figure out how to do it.
Jim Richardson’s portraits of farmers are the latest in his body of work documenting agriculture. But there are different kinds of pollution—some visible, some invisible—that contribute to global warming. But Hubble's observations of the Fornax dwarf galaxy, a small satellite of the Milky Way some 460,000 light-years from Earth, have upended that idea. Many of the older stars, astronomers theorized, had at some point been ejected from the galaxy and had then gathered into populations of old-timers.
The Fornax dwarf galaxy and its globulars are visible only through large telescopes or in long-exposure images.
This stellar snow globe lies about 34,000 light-years from Earth, measures 170 light-years across, and is home to an estimated 400,000 stars. Those who favor conventional agriculture talk about how modern mechanization, irrigation, fertilizers, and improved genetics can increase yields to help meet demand.
We would be wise to explore all of the good ideas, whether from organic and local farms or high-tech and conventional farms, and blend the best of both.
To raise livestock, we’ve taken over even more land, an area roughly the size of Africa. Using high-tech, precision farming systems, as well as approaches borrowed from organic farming, we could boost yields in these places several times over. But commercial farming has started to make huge strides, finding innovative ways to better target the application of fertilizers and pesticides by using computerized tractors equipped with advanced sensors and GPS. Though many of us consume meat, dairy, and eggs from animals raised on feedlots, only a fraction of the calories in feed given to livestock make their way into the meat and milk that we consume. In poor countries food is often lost between the farmer and the market, due to unreliable storage and transportation.

Addressing our global food challenges demands that all of us become more thoughtful about the food we put on our plates. Generally any substance that people introduce into the atmosphere that has damaging effects on living things and the environment is considered air pollution.Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is the main pollutant that is warming Earth. A paper in the Astrophysical Journal on the Fornax galaxy shows that it's home to four globular clustersa€”yet there aren't many old stars in its host galaxy.
Messier 15 lies about 4 degreesa€”equivalent to eight full moons side by sidea€”to the lower right of the star. The spread of prosperity across the world, especially in China and India, is driving an increased demand for meat, eggs, and dairy, boosting pressure to grow more corn and soybeans to feed more cattle, pigs, and chickens.
Agriculture’s footprint has caused the loss of whole ecosystems around the globe, including the prairies of North America and the Atlantic forest of Brazil, and tropical forests continue to be cleared at alarming rates.
Many growers apply customized blends of fertilizer tailored to their exact soil conditions, which helps minimize the runoff of chemicals into nearby waterways.
For every 100 calories of grain we feed animals, we get only about 40 new calories of milk, 22 calories of eggs, 12 of chicken, 10 of pork, or 3 of beef. Consumers in the developed world could reduce waste by taking such simple steps as serving smaller portions, eating leftovers, and encouraging cafeterias, restaurants, and supermarkets to develop waste-reducing measures. For most of our history we have been blinded by the overzealous imperative of more, more, more in agriculture—clearing more land, growing more crops, using more resources. We need to make connections between our food and the farmers who grow it, and between our food and the land, watersheds, and climate that sustain us. Though living things emit carbon dioxide when they breathe, carbon dioxide is widely considered to be a pollutant when associated with cars, planes, power plants, and other human activities that involve the burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline and natural gas.
If these trends continue, the double whammy of population growth and richer diets will require us to roughly double the amount of crops we grow by 2050.
Of all of the options for boosting food availability, tackling waste would be one of the most effective. We need to find a balance between producing more food and sustaining the planet for future generations. As we steer our grocery carts down the aisles of our supermarkets, the choices we make will help decide the future. Trading tropical forest for farmland is one of the most destructive things we do to the environment, and it is rarely done to benefit the 850 million people in the world who are still hungry. Because people in developing countries are unlikely to eat less meat in the near future, given their newfound prosperity, we can first focus on countries that already have meat-rich diets. Maps, source: Global Landscapes Initiative, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota.
Most of the land cleared for agriculture in the tropics does not contribute much to the world’s food security but is instead used to produce cattle, soybeans for livestock, timber, and palm oil.
Curtailing the use of food crops for biofuels could also go a long way toward enhancing food availability.
But they also reflect light when released in the atmosphere, which keeps sunlight out and causes Earth to cool. Volcanic eruptions can spew massive amounts of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, sometimes causing cooling that lasts for years. But a result, not predicted until recently, is that the lower sulfur dioxide levels may actually make global warming worse.
Just as sulfur dioxide from volcanoes can cool the planet by blocking sunlight, cutting the amount of the compound in the atmosphere lets more sunlight through, warming the Earth.
This effect is exaggerated when elevated levels of other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap the additional heat.Most people agree that to curb global warming, a variety of measures need to be taken. On a personal level, driving and flying less, recycling, and conservation reduces a person’s "carbon footprint"—the amount of carbon dioxide a person is responsible for putting into the atmosphere.On a larger scale, governments are taking measures to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. One way is through the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement between countries that they will cut back on carbon dioxide emissions. Another method is to put taxes on carbon emissions or higher taxes on gasoline, so that people and companies will have greater incentives to conserve energy and pollute less.

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