Can ag feed the world without destroying it? Looking for the Minnesota answer

If you’ve heard Jon Foley on MPR News talk shows or seen him give presentations at the University of Minnesota or elsewhere, you’ve seen him work pretty hard at looking for a middle ground.

He directs the Institute on the Environment at the U and one of his main arguments is that the world needs to look at agriculture in a different way. It’s huge greenhouse gas emitter; it’s a huge consumer of the world’s water; it’s rapidly changing land use everywhere. But it’s not going away and it in fact has to provide more food for more people in coming decades. How does the world accomplish that? As Foley puts it, how do we feed the world without destroying it?


What brings this to mind is that a 17-minute TED talk he gave a couple years ago went up on the national TED home page this month. It’s worth a look.

Undoubtedly there are responses to Foley’s question that could be taken up at a variety of international and national forums. But, given the reporting we’ve done here on local food, cleaner water, hunger and other Minnesota community issues, seeing the talk made me wonder how people on the ground in Minnesota might address them. Locally, not globally.

So, what can people on the ground in Minnesota do to address the dual demand on modern agriculture — feed the world but don’t wreck it? If you have an answer, add a comment.

(Disclosure: One of my daughters works at the Institute.)