Welcome to the Anthropocene
Feeding a growing population
Human population is expected to increase from 7.2 to 9.6 billion by 2050 (UN, 2013). This represents a population increase of 33%, but as the global standard of living increases, demand for agricultural products will increase by about 70% in the same period (FAO, 2009a). Meanwhile, total global cultivated land area has not changed since 1991 (O'Mara, 2012), reflecting increased productivity and intensification efforts.
Methane emissions from cattle
Globally livestock contribute 44% of anthropogenic CH4 (Rojas-Downing, et al.). The latest IPCC (2013) reported a warming potential for CH4 of 34 CO2-eq. The world’s transportation sector emits around 5656 Tg CO2-eq yr−1 and the livestock sector emits 7100 Tg CO2-eq yr−1 (DSI MSU, 2015, Gerber et al., 2013). Emissions from livestock production contribute more GHG to the atmosphere than the entire global transportation sector. For all the buzz about pea protein and lab-grown burgers, Americans are set to eat more meat in 2018 than ever before (Bloomberg, 2018).
Degradation from shrimp farming
Over 90% of shrimp in the US is imported, while only 2% is inspected by the FDA. Recent ex-poses have linked shrimp farming to human rights abuses. Shrimp farms are built along coastlines, and to make room for them, farmers have to destroy native mangrove forests that provide a buffer against hurricanes and flooding. Researchers have found that mangrove forests absorb and trap more climate-changing carbon dioxide than any other ecosystem on the planet, including rainforests. Yet, over the past 50 years, anywhere from 5 to 80 percent of the mangrove forests in Thailand, Ecuador, Indonesia, China, Mexico, and Vietnam (the five leading shrimp-farming countries) have been destroyed to make room for more coastal shrimp farms.