Unfortunately, we are on the verge of a sixth mass extinction. Human activities cause 83% of wildlife and half of all plants to disappear. As a result, biodiversity is declining faster than at any point in human history, and this rate is increasing day by day.
Food production is also seen as one of the important factors affecting environmental problems (therefore, biodiversity loss). The conversion of natural areas into industrialised farmland with a focus on monocultures and reliance on chemical pesticides and fertilisers is devastatingly affecting biodiversity.
Sadly, it’s estimated that more than a third of our planet’s ice-free land surface is currently devoted to food production. In the last 300 years, about 50% of natural grasslands and one-third of natural forests have been converted for food production. Moreover, these areas are also expected to increase as the food system seeks to increase production to meet the global population’s needs, estimated to reach 9.7 billion people by 2050.
An article published in the Journal of Nature Sustainability and led by academics from the Universities of Leeds and Oxford University examines how changes in our diet and food production habits will affect our future and what dangers we will face as humanity if these changes are not implemented on a global scale.
David Williams from the University of Leeds, the lead author of the article, underlines that millions of square kilometres of habitat could be lost by 2050 without fundamental changes. In the article, which deals with how developing food systems will affect biodiversity, it is stated that there may be severe losses, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of Central and South America.
''We estimated how agricultural expansion to feed an increasingly wealthy global population is likely to affect about 20,000 species of mammals, birds, and amphibians. Our research suggests that without big changes to food systems, millions of square kilometres of natural habitats could be lost by 2050. Nearly 1,300 species are likely to lose at least a quarter of their remaining habitat, and hundreds could lose at least half. This makes them far more likely to go extinct. Ultimately, we need to change what we eat and how it is produced if we are going to save wildlife on a global scale. We need to alter both our diets and food production methods.'' David Williams
Needless to say, existing agricultural practices (our diet culture, as well) and intensive agricultural production’s expansion into biodiversity hotspots threaten the world’s remaining biodiversity. If we do not change our diet and food production habits, we will lose most of the habitats that are home to 90% of the world’s land animals by 2050.
So, what can we do to slow biodiversity loss? The answer is ‘’agroecology’’.
As the adverse effects of highly harmful chemicals used in industrial agriculture and food systems on health and the environment increase, chemical-intensive agricultural practices are being replaced by nature-friendly agricultural practices. But this is not enough, indeed.
According to FAO, agroecology is a holistic and integrated approach/method that uses ecological and social concepts and principles to design and management of sustainable agriculture and food systems at the same time. It aims to optimise the interactions and interchanges between plants, animals, humans and the environment while also addressing the need for socially equitable food systems within which people can choose what they eat and how and where it is produced.
Agroecological farming methods, which require a labour-intensive system, are applied mainly by small-scale farmers. Peasant farming, which supports biodiversity 9 to 100 times more than the industrial food chain, creates a healthy and sheltered habitat for all living things. Comparative studies by the Rodale Institute reveal that the yield in organic production catches up with conventional production and even higher efficiency of organic output during dry periods.
Nature-friendly farming methods such as organic, biodynamic, protective and regenerative agriculture and agroecology make a positive contribution to the solution of the global climate crisis, as they also provide a significant amount of carbon embedding in the soil. Therefore, both consumers and producers need to be aware of their rights, participate in decision-making processes and review their food choices.
Agroecology is not just about interpreting and restoring ecosystems. It is also about ways of producing food, building human relations, making fair dealings and fighting for the rights of communities. Agroecology thrives on the practices, people and communities that organise sustainable agro-food systems. As mentioned before, there is ‘’peasant farming’’ in agroecology’s productive, cultural and economic roots. It is not only a way of producing and distributing food but also of reclaiming traditional knowledge and understanding that if you know how to listen and learn, each information system (as with the villagers' information systems) has its own logic, its own information carriers, and its own systems for sharing this information.
This kind of approach to knowledge and self-organisation of food communities emerged in the ‘’contact’’ between Latin American indigenous communities and scholars seeking to break the deadly mechanisms of industrial agriculture. Agroecology was subsequently recognised by the food sovereignty movement and became a way of ‘’rethinking and debating’’ food systems in many parts of the world.
Although agroecology was born in the contact between social movements and social and academic movements that wanted to rethink their role in the world of knowledge and social change, there was a ‘’change’’ later on. So much so that, along with agroecology, sustainability and ecological transformation have become issues that governments and transnational organisations also address. Yet, many things still need to be addressed and appropriately done in this regard.
Climate change, consumer preferences, urbanisation, demography, agricultural pollution and over-harvesting have adversely affected natural biodiversity, leaving living species around the world in danger of extinction without a doubt. With the decrease in the diversity of living creatures, the world’s deprivation of biological values a little more every day also threatens humanity's economic and social development by holding on to the web of life in nature and having a healthy, happy and prosperous future.
Industrial food production, one of the leading causes of threatening biodiversity, poses a great danger not only for human beings but also for the survival of all other creatures. In this regard, the responsibility we have as both producers and consumers is, of course, quite a lot. At this point, it is crucial to be conscious. We can prevent food scarcity and biodiversity loss with sustainable agricultural practices. Hence, we must approach nature-friendly solutions holistically.