Sustainable Life Supporting Ecosystems Are Essential For Food Security Of Man
By Dr. Satyendra Nath Maitra (Ex-Associated Professor in Zoology, A. P. C College New Barrackpore, Guest Faculty at State University, A. P. C College in Rahorah, V.C. College for PG in Botany)
Ever since man has switched over to the agricultural mode, from hunter-gatherer mode of food procurement he had to depend on rainfall, ecological condition and the environment of the area to be destined for human habitation with agro based potentiality. On the basis of this assessment only human civilization could develop and as a consequence all the ancient civilizations thus were established on riverine basins to flourish. Thus human life, like all other lives, requires water for his thriving both for drinking, household purposes and the agriculture.
Moreover the water is the main component part of various ecosystems to maintain flow of energy in other word the life process comprising of plants and animals. Thus water is essential to create, nurture and maintain any ecosystem in nature except some desert and semi desert ecosystems. But man assimilating the idea of natural ecosystems started to create artificial ecosystems for procuring food that has been termed as Agroecosystem meaning thereby after deforestation at some areas the empty land used to be created to cultivate for food production. The plantation at any area with human design and watering to grow the specified plants to be harvested later on to get the produce as food. The entire process of this type of cultivation requires an artificial ecosystem to develop which has been termed as Agro based ecosystem by modern agricultural scientists. As various evidences suggest that actually man started systematic cultivation from the Neolithic period (8000 to 4000 years BC) probably as a result of prolong observation that plant grows anywhere if water and empty land are available. In prehistoric time human food used to be comprised of various fruits, roots of plants and or uncooked marine and fresh water fish and or meat of jungle animals. With the advancement of technological knowledge man has redefined his food dimension with a view to consume carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals in definite proportions to have a balanced and healthy diet. Thus now-a-days food of man means production of cereals, eggs, meat ( from various domesticated animals and birds mainly but for some tribal populations gathering meat from the jungle animals also prevails still now as a mark of their perpetuation from generations) fruits, various diary products and varieties of vegetables and even spices. At the moment human population has crossed 7 billion marks on this planet and it is estimated that by the 2050 the expected population to touch around 9 billion mark. Already by now about one billion human population of sub Saharan Africa and the south East Asia live well below the poverty level with malnutritional sufferings. With those above stated facts it can also be added that the rapid deterioration of underground water level, increased CO2 (reaching 400 ppm in 2013 recorded by UNO due mainly to rapid increase of greenhouse gases for Anthropogenic activities only) in this biospheric air, ever increasing temperature in the atmosphere and some other man made factors together ushered a very complex non-life friendly atmospheric condition leading to a quite unpredictable seasonal behaviour in air and oceanic water movement, rain fall and the formation of pressure turf to the various parts of the planet Earth. Inspite of the fact that the World has passed through several green revolutions within the last two decades or so that resulted soil becoming less fertile, almost all food chains being impregnated with various life threatening toxins from rampant use of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and larvicides favouring higher yielding of crops . In addition, injudicious overexploitation of underground water, especially by means of welling for agriculture, drinking and for other day to day households activities that include washing, bathing etc. throughout the World. Fracking is another human menace in the natural domain of underground water. At this juncture sustainable water availability and food security is a great challenge to the Agricultural scientists and to the World leaders especially to policy makers within the next couple of decades or so. It is estimated now that by 2050 the World has to increase about 70% more food production from today to feed over 9 billion human being attainable by then. This very fact appears to be a startling and paradoxical as with less available water, same area of farm land, more food has to be grown. Considering the environmental unpredictability it has been highly perturbing challenge to the world community within the coming two to three decades or so. If this challenge fails to materialize an intense intra specific struggle for food would be imminent as the have- nots would surpass the haves by then. In this respect, however, a much better management system has to be ensured for water availability by conserving rain water as much as possible throughout the world along with storage from riverine-flow water at one hand and the judicious and controlled usage of available water has to be emerged not just in writing but in practice on the other hand. The very epitome of the problem has to be assimilated by each and every people of the globe within their conscious mind and heart otherwise if it also passes only through the governmental files of various countries or for that matter debates go on, no within environmentalists, intellectuals and NGOs the problem would be multiplied without any proper solution causing dreadful, detrimental and dangerous intra species struggle for food in man to prove Charles Darwin’s Natural selection as the strongest guiding force in this regard. Both water scarcity and land shortage have to be addressed within the next 5 to 10 years with a fact that still now about 95% of agriculture depends on rain water in African countries and about 60% in Indian peninsular region. As a result extraction of ground water has become essential to maintain the agricultural productivity if seasonal rain falls occur scantily. Thus already for the last couple of decades or so a large part of the world agriculture had to depend on ground water extraction even after normal seasonal rain falls. However, over-use, or overdraft of ground water, can cause major problems both to human users as well as to the entire environment. The most evident of this problem (as far as human use of groundwater is concerned) is a lowering of the water table beyond the reach of existing wells. As a consequence, wells must be drilled deeper to reach the groundwater; in some places (e.g., California, Texas and India) where the water table has already dropped hundreds of feet because of extensive well pumping. In Punjab region of India, for example, groundwater levels have dropped 10 meters since 1979, and the rate of depletion is accelerating. A lowered water table may, in turn, cause other problems also such as ground water related subsidence and the intrusion of saltwater.
Groundwater is also ecologically very important. The importance of groundwater to ecosystems is often overlooked, even by freshwater biologists and ecologists as groundwater has to sustain rivers, wetlands, and lakes, as well as subterranean ecosystems within karsts or alluvial aquifers. Of course not all ecosystems need groundwater, Some terrestrial ecosystems for example, those of the open deserts and similar arid environments exist on irregular rainfall and the moisture it delivers to the soil, supplemented by moisture in the air and by means of adopting various modes of adaptations for both plants and animals. While there are other terrestrial ecosystems in more hospitable environments where groundwater plays no central role but the groundwater is in fact fundamental to many of the world’s major ecosystems. Water flows between groundwater and surface waters. Most rivers, lakes, and wetlands are fed by, and (at other places or times) feed groundwater, to varying degrees. Groundwater feeds soil moisture through percolation, and many terrestrial vegetation communities depend directly on either groundwater or the percolated soil moisture above the aquifer for at least part of each year. Hyporheic zones (the mixing zone of stream water and groundwater) and riparian zones are examples of ecotone largely or totally dependent on groundwater. Ground water level always supports a specific ecosystem especially for agro ecosystem its typical presence and normal distribution is essential. Natural gas extraction process also very much disturb the ground water’s natural distribution. For extracting Natural gas from shale sediment, hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) is used at about 300 feet deep inside the ground. This process requires an invasive extraction technique by which pressurized water, sand and corrosive chemicals are to be flushed in to the shale reserves 300 feet below the ground. When this potent cocktail is pumped in at high pressure, the shale fractures, as a result the natural gas buried in the shale comes out to be collected. Fracking is a particularly contentious method of natural gas extraction, largely because of the myriad of possible human and environmental health concerns associated with the practice. The fracking process requires large amounts of water, which is commonly taken from local bodies of water. After fracking, the water is contaminated with chemicals and therefore cannot be returned to its original location, resulting in major changes to freshwater ecosystems.
Thus for sustainable food security water management is one of main important criterion as the water plays role to maintain favourable ecosystem required for Agriculture that includes cereal, fruits and vegetable production, pisciculture, diary products , animal framings etc. For those entire productivities, environment plays also a great role. Most unfortunately man has been polluting and irreversibly destroying the entire Biospheric environment by means of rampant injudicious deforestation, erecting concrete jungles, burning billion tons of fossil fuels worldwide every day, adding various poisons in the agricultural and other food producing processes in the form of injudicious quantity of chemical fertilizer, various types of pesticides, insecticides and larvicydes. All of those poisons have been impregnated in each and almost every food chain especially in Asian and African peninsular regions.
As a consequence of all the above human activities for the last about 5-10 thousand years or so Nature has been tremendously vitiated from its Natural control system which was essential to nurture and maintain a well balanced Biological diversity on this Biosphere basically created by all live friendly but not only human friendly manner . The environment of the entire Biosphere, since its inception say about a billion of years ago or so from now, has been quite changing steadily without any bit of static situation for even a moment Thus the main efficacy of the environment is its variability in it species supporting character that means for example at one place a particular type of ecosystem for few years and then afterwards an altogether different type of ecosystem may appear there. For this reason some species of plants and animals used to be flourished at some area for some thousand or more years and afterwards those species became disfavored to be disappeared. But this process of favor and disfavor of Nature for any plant and or animal species used to be very slow, gradual but a continuous process all along during the prehistoric time as the various geological and fossil studies suggest. Recent studies also suggest that in pre human era, species destruction rate was 0.1 species per million per year but now it has reached to 100 species per million per year and this rate has been steadily accelerating in day, month and year. The man made artificial compounds and articles by rampant material conversion within the last two thousand years or so, that otherwise Nature would not have allowed to develop, have been accumulating to convert its interactive force totally non conducive to global mode of life process that was initiated, nurtured and guided by the pre human Natural selection. But this very fact man failed to assimilate even up to last hundred years or so as a result the very operative mode of the Natural selection has assumed completely new dimension in consideration with all those man made unwanted artificial nuisances and rubbish junks. Most unfortunate part in this matter is, even after the scientific realization about the emergence of the new and totally furious natural selection, world political leaders (both of developed and developing countries of the globe) totally failed to fathom the rapidity of the changed natural force in the making. The scientific realization, about the human effect on the Natural selection, even when was achieved could not be effectively translated timely to the World leaders to be convinced that this man made pollution cannot be addressed by any country or few countries but there should have been collective, conscious and cooperative attempt to resist the World people from continuous pollution creating devices otherwise future debacle man in particular has to face. Now I believe it is too late to change the future menaces of the changed selective force keeping the present scenario of so called rapidly developing form of neo civilization process intact. Thus with the changing environmental scenarios and decreasing soil fertility due to over exploitation of the soil various ecological changes are imminent in the coming decades. Thus following international and national measures would be essential for the food security of nearly 9 billion man estimated to be fed by 2050. Actually environment supports ecology and the well maintained ecology can only give guaranty for food security of man. Therefore the environment management is the only and main step to create a sustainable food security for man on this globe.
- Energy production and its distribution should be controlled under the strict surveillance of the International body, for example, UNO appointed body to the various countries. Within the next 10 years or so fossil fuel burning has to be shun completely instead enough number of nuclear reactors are to be devised for every country with a very high expertise hand selected by the International body. Site selection for each reactor has to be destined in such a way so that human habitation can be avoided within 150 to 200 hundred km around each reactor of course with very safe preservative arrangement for ash from the reactors. Yes even after remembering incidents of Chernobyl and Fuccushima reactors’ disasters. In this aspect I would request all to consider two facts first before jumping to negative conclusion about this energy yielding units which are: a) half ounce of Uranium fuel can produce amount of energy equivalent to 1 million metric tons of coal burning. At the moment 473 nuclear power plants throughout the world generate 12% of world’s energy which is equal to 327.5 GW. In a reactor the large and unstable atoms such as uranium or plutonium are split in to smaller and more stable atoms after releasing huge energy that energy can be captured as electric energy in the electrical grid. France alone is having 58 nuclear reactors that produce 75% of its required energy. Now if the reactor disaster has to be considered then in that light one has to think of huge emission of CO2 and other green house gases causing more damage to the entire planetary environment only by retention of heat and destroying ozone layer protecting the biosphere from the sun. But with careful and proper expertise hand ling by holistic attitude the reactors can be protected and maintained safely. Actually that is where the Juno’s vigilance and strict surveillance is mandatory in this aspect as any corrupt practice may cause disaster. Thus one should consider thetruth behind the events in this matter and then only predict but not by just any preconceived idea.
- In the same way the storage of rain water as much as possible in each and every country, its judicious usage and its proper distributing management should be strictly under UNO surveillance for all the countries of the world collectively.
- Human habitation has to be vertically expanded by means of constructing average 50 to 60 storied buildings, wherever possible, to evacuate at least 50% of today’s occupied land for human habitation. Thus rescued 50% clear land have to be utilized properly making half of that to be reforested and the other half has to be converted as farm land developing agro ecosystems. The entire operation has to be planed and supervised by UNO appointed expertise group otherwise this step would never be materialized as in most of the countries various political parties will try to create unruly squabble to extract as much mileage from this type of program if even is launched by any country’s Parliament and ultimately it would be abandoned.
- Each and every person of every country has to be made convinced about the relationship among the Environment, Ecosystem and the Food production. Only passing legislation in the law houses and thereby creating a new department with new minister and secretary will not solve the problem. The Political party running the government has to be convinced by the concerned scientists that if the steps as stated before failed to be materialized the entire human population would be perished within coming six hundred to thousand years. Not only this in every years from now environment would be changing to create unbearable condition for man in particular with shortage of usable fresh water, accumulating intolerable CO2 in the air, increasing environmental heat, gradual increase of sea water level inundating several cities year by year and extreme scarcity for food.
- For the purpose Government has to introduce a syllabus from class one level to make each child aware of the fact illustrating the relation between man and the environment and for that what we the man should do and what we should not do to have a congenial environment. Gradually they must learn, along with all other job oriented and thus modern life oriented syllabi, the evolutionary history of man and how today’s environment has been so antagonistic with man in particular and life process in general.
- Auto emission rule has to be perfectly, with highest priority basis, implemented. Along with this government should arrange easy public traveling system discouraging personal vehicles to lessen the production of unburned hydrocarbons to poison the air.
- Rotational multi crop system as far as possible has to be developed using mainly the organic manure with least possible chemical fertilizer for better yield per acre of land. Co operating farming is essential to increase the crop.
- Pest management has to be achieved by organic control; use of various pesticides must be limited as least as possible
- Food distribution system should be and must be holistic, sincere and need based. There should be no difference between policy and the practice.
Finally I would like to say, with all my humility and folded hands to all the people of the World in general and the politicians, policy makers of all the countries in particular, that it is all ready a too-o-o-o-o-o late to tame the natural environment but still there could be some way left as yet to correct our and all predecessors’ totally inadvertent mistakes regarding the human relation with the nature. Nature is almighty and the nature is all pervading thus we should have been properly behaving for the last 8000 to 10000 years and till date with some very uncalled for modulations to its age old ever existing propulsion by addition of many anthropogenic prudency, acute poisons and constant injudicious material conversions. Anybody may contradict my thinking about the natural perspective in respect of human relation with it but please try to assimilate through both heart and the consciousness you would definitely hear the helpless crying of the nature only due to totally ignorant behaviours of man through the ages that totally misled the nature.
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- Environmental Science: Earth as a living planet (3rd edition) , Daniel B, Bodkin and Edward A, Keller. Published by John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 2000.
- Evolution: Nicholas H. Barton et al. 2007 Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, New York
- Nuclear power as a tool for sustainable development: Fall.Winter.2013. Vol: XXV.No.3,4: World information transfer.