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Energising Biodiverse Global Food Systems From Local Settings

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Over half the world’s population lives in urban areas and this is set to increase. Food systems can be perfectly blended in with the wild natural environment. Using the lessons learned from agroecological design, there are pre-set templates on how to create self-sustaining food systems on demand. The information for their tailoring to localised settings anywhere already exists and so does the technology. It has the potential to create human managed food productive biological communities that as eco-system services transition into the wilderness, enhancing it. The United Nations, in promoting a self-sustaining future for planetary human ecology, can as a one species political body, encourage the repurposing of national military armies as a protective food system policing force. National food systems that invest in local food production can flourish by supplying a local and global market in conjunction with indigenous exports, stably taking root on a biodiverse planet Earth in perpetuity.
Energising Biodiverse Global Food Systems From Local Settings
Dialogue must allow for communication, not only in the same language, but at the same level
of expertise common to all parties. All animal nutrition, including that of humans as consumers,
is derived directly or indirectly from organisms that are primary producers.1 Plants are one of
the primary producers situated at the base of animal food chains. The energy they extract from
inorganic sources, powers all other levels. It would be beneficial for every citizen on Earth to
learn about their relative position in food chains. This would enable them to understand the
connection with other life forms and their environments, in how our species sustains its
physical existence. Food chains taught globally as a required subject at schools from a young
age would create a widespread awareness permeating all social strata. Understanding food
chains at a governmental level is organisationally necessary if food systems are to be self-
sustaining. So, education on food chains ought to be a priority recommendation to all countries
by the United Nations. The future belongs to present day children2 as they will be those
deciding on food systems at a governmental level one day.
If the three dimensions of sustainable development are the economic, social, and
environmental,3 then how can we have global self-sustainability with these three criteria?
Technology is part and parcel of being human. Chimpanzees, our closest primate relative in
the evolutionary tree of life, also use technology at a most simple level. Anthropologists think
that it is a trait our own species developed further ever since we branched off from a common
ancestor to chimpanzees, 4 to 7 million years ago. Since the start of agriculture a bit more than
10000 years ago, the simple act of planting a seed in the soil in a hole made with a stick, evolved
as a more advanced technologically enabled behaviour. A comparable analogy is the wood
oven superseded by electric or microwave ovens as they are all technological devices, not one
less technological in essence than another. A computer is just as much a natural product as
structured honeycombs, a technology created by bees. It is a naturalistic fallacy to not use
technology because it is mistakenly thought of as not natural. Technology created by any
species is a by-product of biological evolution, a type of extended phenotype4 that in some
species is facultatively culturally transmitted, whilst in others it is an obligate expression. The
earliest drawings scratched out on the ground with a stick were technological expressions. A
stick was analogic of the mouse and keyboard, and the monitor was the substrate drawn on.
The simple plough was once a cutting-edge technological evolution permitting a more
manageable food system, so any beneficial technology however advanced, is an admissible
natural human extension.
Major threats to farming include infestations by insects, microorganisms and plants that
parasitise other plants. This is further exacerbated by harmful fluctuations in the weather. Out
in the open agronomical systems have a final crop output, but are very wasteful in the inputs
of water, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides they require. This waste leaches out of the soils
applied on, making its way downstream, eventually reaching lakes and oceans. Excess fertilizer
run off can not only kill crops, but also feed algae blooms, which in turn kill fish stocks, poison
livestock or people. Pesticides and insecticides can by the same means have deleterious effects
on human and wilderness ecologies. In agronomy, semi closed ecological systems reduce
external inputs to produce more cost-effective outputs whilst minimizing the work done,
resources used, and total energy needed per given amount of product.5 To envisage a semi-
closed ecological system, picture a greenhouse enclosure in which every or some input aspect,
such as air, water, soil, fertilizer, is precisely measured and filtered. In most cases infestations
of organisms are preventable, doing away with the need and costs of pesticides and herbicides.
Incoming microorganisms, pest insects and parasitic plants get processed out of the system so
no longer reach or destroy crops. If a plant disease does manage to get in, it is more easily
managed, therefore locally eradicable, preventing spreading to other nearby semi enclosed
systems. Fertilizer is directly applied to where the plant is, creating less waste, especially if the
plants can be grown hydroponically with the roots enclosed. This all adds up to substantially
lower costs after an initial investment in structural materials for growing plant foods, entailing
less space to do so.
Effects of present fertilizer/livestock excrement run off is additionally reducible, achievable by
planting trees along river courses, including all over their flood plains.6 Trees bordering
riverbanks lessen the number of pollutants from agriculture that enter watercourses. Tree roots
and trunks, along with surface roots, soak in and partially dam effluents, creating downstream
catchments. Positioned thus, they increase biodiversity, and the watercourses reinforced by
them provide niche habitats and wildlife corridors. Run off though, still reaches the seas and
oceans in substantial but reduced quantities where it continues to threaten organisms. Surface
waters are relatively poor in nutrients though at great depth they are nutrient rich.7 When water
currents from the oceanic abyss hit a body of land, these along with inherent nutrients rise to
the surface along with the flow. Deep water nutrients are useful as a resource from which to
create fertilizer. This is doable by extracting water with pumps from below and running it
through photosynthetic algae farms on the surface or on land. Microalgae farms are nutrient
rich water filled containers through which sunlight can pass through.8 In these containers,
normally free-living microalgae photosynthetically grow in huge amounts and faster rates
without choking open water bodies. In effect these are manageable and contained farmed algae
blooms. A salt free organic fertilizer is extractable from the algae to replace synthetic chemical
fertilizers. When applied to plants, algal fertilisers more readily biodegrade in the soil therefore
limiting excess fertilizer run off. Excess runoff from algae fertilizers reaching the large bodies
of water from where it originated would not generally be adding to nutrient content already
there. Run offs from synthetic fertilisers, add chemicals that did not originate in those bodies
of water, so it builds up.
Runoff from animal husbandry can also be dealt with in another way. There is huge difference
on both sides of the agricultural ratio between land used for plant food crops and 85% of land
used for livestock.9 Perennial fodders are trees and smaller plants whose foliage is edible and
digestible for livestock.10 These are obtainable cut down as whole branches, in the case of tall
trees, or browsed from in shrub form. Perennial fodders transform the agricultural landscape,
complimenting an idealized traditional horizontal pasture with a well-spaced vertically stacked
feed that is more productive per given area. This begs the question of why hasn’t this type of
agroforestry been available before on a large scale even if it is a known past practice? It is as
if modern monoculture grasslands grazing is a romantic fallacy relic of a now forgotten, over-
harvested, degraded countryside. From centuries back this now ingrained lack of biodiversity
has spread into a global tragedy of the commons. Imagine if in the future, livestock rearing had
everything to do with planting trees, not the low biodiversity nutritional deserts we have
become accustomed to. Perennial fodders have several advantages over exclusive grassland.
Growing fodder vertically, allowing for adequate distance between each planting to let light in
for lower plants as well as grass, requires less area to meet the demands of livestock. Deep
rooted plants are a more capacious carbon sink above and below ground. Their roots vertically
extract more nutrients from deeper soil than shallow rooted plants such as grass, so livestock
gets fed better. Digested perennial fodders can in some cases create less methane so produce
less greenhouse gasses than other feeds.11 Fodder trees can be periodically, mechanically cut
back and left to regenerate, in the long-term producing other products such as wood for fire or
tools. By their continued presence they create a habitat with increased biodiversity. Discrete
areas growing perennial fodders are linkable by corridors that permit livestock to move from
one area to another to feed in rotation. Different fodder species can cater for different livestock
species. Pigs are customarily fed oak acorns to fatten them up, or tree leaves from branches
served to cattle or goats. Fodder oriented corridors also permit wildlife traffic able to subsist
from the resultant greater biodiversity which can also connect to existing tree lined riverbank
wildlife corridors. More trees planted pre-emptively contain and slow surface water down
before reaching watercourses to lessen the danger of future flooding.
Emerging technologies could significantly reduce the total body mass of livestock on planet
Earth. Present livestock mass is 22 times the amount of the body mass of all other wild animals
globally.9 Artificially growing meat from healthy cells collected from choice livestock, used to
take a long time. Initial results were poor, but the technology has improved a lot since. Now it
is possible to grow commercially viable ribeye steaks in a matter of 3 to 4 weeks with plans to
further reduce this period.12 Meat cell culture farms grow muscle tissue in cultivator vats,
mimicking the physiological biochemistry of cellular environments without the need to kill an
animal. Those in the business claim to not need antibiotics nor GMO cells and that their product
is carbon neutral. If healthier meat is producible in vats without costing humans the Earth, there
is an appetite for that sort of market. Not only is it possible to grow mammalian meat in vats
but the technology is also accommodating growing fish flesh.13 Growing oily fish meat in vats,
and the healthy nutritional value associated with consuming it, is also working its way to be
available to the masses. On a more sinister note, potential aquaculture produced eco-system
collapse poses a comparable threat to terrestrial farming in terms of introduced invasive
species.14 It is easy for introduced aquaculture organisms to invade non-native ecologies and
so outcompete indigenous and keystone species. Aquaculture, because it involves water as its
aqueous medium, has a heightened susceptibility for the contamination of indigenous
ecosystems by non-native organisms. It is more productive to focus on raising locally native
stock, collocating with variable energy industries such as wind power or floating solar power,
to make the most on space.15 Indigenous production through national pathways not only feeds
the local economy first but provides a product unique in origins. If produced in enough
quantities, there being a global market for it, indigenous species can provide for that market.
A sustainable world economy relative to indigenous food production resources, creates jobs
locally or globally and safeguards local ecosystems.
Eight billion humans that make up the global population numbers16 all need feeding. Sustainable
food systems that work well are eco-system services that compliment and can integrate with wild
environments. To avoid a damaging drain on natural capital, we need renewable energy to power it
all and with the least carbon footprint to countervail atmospheric global warming. Geothermal
energy is normally thought of as only available at the rare locations where it naturally seeps close to
the surface at hotspots. This energy emanating from the interior of the Earth is available almost
anywhere on the surface of our planet, if the borehole is deep enough, allowing for proximity with
the human built up areas it serves.17 Therefore drilled for geothermal energy is a localised form of
energy providing that solves the great existing problem of electrical energy loss due to transmission
at long distances. Drilling at low or great depth for different thermal heat thresholds levels is already
standard practice. Generally, the deeper the borehole drilled the greater the energy tapped. To
produce steam to turn a turbine that generates electricity needs boreholes that are a few kilometres
deep. There is no need to drill so deep if it is only to heat up water hot enough to warm up buildings
or greenhouses of any scale. Present drilling technology makes use of developments of the well-
established oil drilling industry and newer technologies.18 Some long dried-up oil fields are now
repurposed for geothermal energy, but these are just for heating water rather than producing
electricity. Unlike variable renewable energy sources, such as daytime solar energy or intermittent
wind energy, geothermal energy is available on tap 24/7.19 It will continue to be so for the next few
billion years, until the inside of the Earth cools down. Though often described as prohibitively
expensive to drill a geothermal borehole, China is ahead in this.20 There it only costs a small fraction
of the many millions it might in Europe or USA. On the other side of the temperature scale, less
costly geothermally cooled environments are also possible rather than rely on costlier electrical air
conditioning.20 Water pumped up from flooded mines or from below 200 m in the oceans, ranges
from around 4°C to 1°C. In places with access to this resource, it is an alternative to cooling down
buildings in continually or seasonally hot climates. One country that uses a huge margin of its
electricity for air-conditioning is Saudi Arabia. At peak times there in summer, air-conditioning
accounts for 70% of electricity consumption in buildings.21 Pumping cold deep-sea water as a
coolant through such buildings, costs much less than electric air-conditioning. No energy is spent in
cooling per se and if water is pumped up in large volumes to cater for sizeable urban areas, the
energy of the water flowing down after cooling can be harnessed as hydroelectric power. Pumped
hydroelectric storage facilities are already in place around the world, making use of cut-rate
electricity costs at times of low energy demand to pump the water upwards, storing it as potential
gravitational energy. Letting it flow downwards through a hydroelectric installation at times of high
demand, produces electricity which eases the burden during that part of the day. It is a logical next
step to collocate hydroelectric facilities in combination with geothermal cooling. Geothermally
cooled buildings use the piped network of a heat pump. Heat pumps can either heat or cool and are
also economically effective in parts of the world that have cold climates, by providing heat from
shallow geothermal energy depths.
Drilling for hot geothermal energy has by chance led to the discoveries of high concentrations of
subterranean Lithium in many parts of the world.22 Lithium-ion batteries power all sorts of electronic
devices, from mobile phones to vehicles, so this geothermal offshoot creates more income and jobs.
There will always be a need for mass production of rechargeable lithium batteries in the foreseeable
future. Its development advanced the electrification of private transport, though this technology in
this respect is being supplanted by hydrogen fuel cells.17 One major drawback of electric vehicles
powered by a lithium rechargeable battery is its weight. A lithium battery powered engine must not
only provide power to carry the weight of the vehicle and the people or goods in it, but the large
weight of the battery itself. Hydrogen fuel cells are a sort of hydrogen powered battery though do
not normally get described that way.17 They are much lighter than lithium batteries due to the high
energy density of the hydrogen fuel, resulting in less weighty vehicles. In countries like Australia,
heavy goods vehicles are already powered by hydrogen fuel cells.17 Equivalent lithium battery
power was uneconomic because of the drag of the extra mass. To prove this in similar circumstances,
an experiment was undertaken in which the same type of drone was either powered by a lithium
battery or hydrogen fuel cell.23 The one powered by the hydrogen fuel cell reached substantially
further. Food systems depend on a lot of machinery than runs on greenhouse gas producing fossil
fuels. Renewably sourced hydrogen fuel cell power creates no greenhouse gases. Its relatively recent
technological evolution will be available for food systems technology, bypassing and overtaking an
electric heavy battery powered vehicles stage which it supersedes. Hydrogen produced from
different power sources is colour coded. Green hydrogen fuel comes from renewable energy so is
carbon neutral. Brown, black, and grey hydrogen all produce a greenhouse gas to make. If green
hydrogen fuel were to power the world economy and food systems, it will need a reliable renewable
source of energy to make it. The whole world rests on a treasure trove beneath our feet of renewable
geothermal energy everywhere. As with the lithium by-product obtained from geothermal
boreholes, other resources have cropped up, namely hydrogen gas that is also found at great depth.24
This is a recent discovery as hydrogen gas was not sought for deep below the surface of the Earth.
It was generally thought of not existing there so was not checked for. The future bulk of human
energy production could well be sourced from geothermal energy and the green hydrogen fuel made
from it. Geothermal stations are the most direct route at present to form a backbone of non-
contaminant generation of renewable energy, aided by other non-contaminant renewable energy
sources. Nuclear energy is renewable but has the latent danger of causing long term radioactive
pollution. If the sub-surface hydrogen discovered gets used up faster than is naturally replenished,
by that time there will be enough geothermal energy to also produce it as green hydrogen via
electrolysis. Industrial ecology is the study of material and energy flows through industrial systems.
It tries to mimic a natural system as an eco-system service by conserving and reusing resources.
Hydrogen produced by electrolysis creates a lot of waste heat which by integrating into industrial
ecology is recoverable for other purposes. Collocated green hydrogen production from equally
localised geothermal energy, overlaps in the by-product of waste heat, so both can be harnessed
together from the same place to warm up human environments. As electricity is needed for hydrogen
fabrication from electrolysis, it specifically collocates with kilometres deep geothermal boreholes,
built especially for electricity production. Countries such as the Netherlands, with extensive natural
gas pipeline networks, are repurposing them for a growing hydrogen gas economy.20 This
incorporates the philosophy of the circular economy in that the service life of these pipelines is
extended with no need to build a hydrogen gas distribution network from scratch.
Food systems have a lot of plastic enmeshed in them in one form or another. It is indispensable for
preserving food in wrappers or containers that would otherwise perish after producing. Plastic also
plays a role in the growing of food, in parts of tools or machinery, or for production of plant foods
in small scale or large mass production greenhouses. Some 98 per cent of single-use plastic products
are produced from virgin feedstock.25 Most of the waste plastic in the world is either incinerated or
landfilled rather than recycled. The bulk of the small percentage of plastic that does get recycled
uses a method called mechanical recycling. With mechanical recycling, the same class of plastic
keeps its molecular structure as it is mechanically crushed, remelting it into granulate. This granulate
is then used to make more plastic products of the class originally recycled from. Plastic waste
streams produced at different places around the world constitute plastics that are made using
dissimilar methods under varying standards. Sorting waste plastics out into specific categories to
recycle is labour intensive with many plastic types not recyclable by present methods. Even when
plastics of the same type are collected, produced in separate locations, distinct additives used in their
creation will render them unrecyclable as one batch. The world needs a global consensus on the
plastic additives used to make recycling easier for everyone. Chemical recycling, an alternative type
of recycling, can recycle most plastics, but it is energy intensive.26 Chemical recycling converts
plastic waste by changing its chemical structure. The outcome is products that are raw materials for
the manufacturing of other products, as well as other plastics. It also solves a major obstacle in
recycling: composite materials in, for example, packaging or electronics, are very difficult to assort
into component parts of the same grouping.27 Chemical recycling is, to a greater extent, adept in
rendering the latter into valuable separate purified resources. With it we will be able to recycle the
plastics and composites from a backlog of storage waste dumps or landfills, even if previously
labelled as unrecyclable. Constraints on energy source use are already coming into place as
humanity aims for carbon neutral net zero emissions in the next couple of decades. Only geothermal
energy as the main source of energy providing, backed by wind and solar energy, fits the bill to
environmentally achieve that goal safely. A world economy mainly powered by geothermal energy,
recycling most of its plastic waste by chemically recycling, will realistically be able to keep to
planned net zero emission objectives in the next few decades.
All life on Earth depends on water to exist and therefore do all food systems. In parts of the Earth
with a steady rainfall, or other access to freshwater, it is an easier task for plants and animals,
including humans, to acquire enough of it to sustain them. Many coastal areas though, near sea
water, are parts of huge deserts that spread deeply inland in great arid swathes. Solar stills distil salt
or brackish liquid water by using the energy of the Sun to evaporate it so when later cooled from
gaseous water vapour back to a liquid by condensation, it accumulates as freshwater.28 Arid climates
generally have more clear skies than other areas and so more sunlight to drive the distillation of
water. Giant solar stills have the agricultural potential to provide water with low energy costs for
food systems in arid areas and collocate to produce sea salt as a by-product when distilling seawater.
Giant solar stills can also collocate with algae farms that produce food or fertiliser. Instead of
relocating groups of people from places where farming is no longer possible due to increasing
aridity, it is possible to take the water to them. Arteries of piped water from coastal solar stills can
reach long distances inland with photovoltaic water pumps. Asides from providing agricultural jobs
or supplying markets with different products, such solar stills will require management employment
positions. Worldwide military forces should be routinely tasked with protecting national food
systems and other national natural resources. If territorial wars at any scale did not occur, everybody
would have their own internally shared resources to keep as well as making profits from internal
and external markets. Worldwide military should evolve in this aspect as a global environmental
Over half the world’s population lives in urban areas and this is set to increase. Food systems can
be perfectly blended in with the wild natural environment. Using the lessons learned from
agroecological design, there are pre-set templates on how to create self-sustaining food systems on
demand. The information for their tailoring to localised settings anywhere already exists and so does
the technology. It has the potential to create human managed food productive biological
communities that as eco-system services transition into the wilderness, enhancing it. The United
Nations, in promoting a self-sustaining future for planetary human ecology, can as a one species
political body, encourage the repurposing of national military armies as a protective food system
policing force. National food systems that invest in local food production can flourish by supplying
a local and global market in conjunction with indigenous exports, stably taking root on a biodiverse
planet Earth in perpetuity.
Andrew Planet 25/05/2022
1) National Geographic on Consumers
2) Remarks by UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham at World Children's Day
3) Achieving sustainable development: Integrating the social, economic and environmental
4) The Extended Phenotype. Dawkins R.
5) Regenerative, Semiclosed Systems: A Priority for Twenty-First-Century Agriculture
6) Riverbanks and watercourses to be planted with new woodland
7) Cambridge International As and A Level Marine Science Coursebook.
8) Slime. How Algae Created Us, Plague Us. Kassinger R 2019.
9) Tamsin Cooper | Rethinking our food system | Policy Lates 2021 | Royal Society of
10) Fodder trees for improving livestock productivity and smallholder livelihoods in Africa
11) Methane Mitigation Potential of Foliage of Fodder Trees Mixed at Two Levels with a
Tropical Grass. Valencia-Salazar, S.S.; Jiménez-Ferrer, G.; Molina-Botero, I.C.; Ku-Vera,
J.C.; Chirinda, N.; Arango, J. Methane Mitigation Potential of Foliage of Fodder Trees Mixed
at Two Levels with a Tropical Grass. Agronomy 2022, 12, 100.
12) Aleph Farms
13) Production facility for cultivated fish cells set to open in Singapore by 2022
14) Grant Stentiford | Rethinking our food system | Policy Lates 2021 | Royal Society of
15) The Royal Society. Energy-environment-society interactions.
16) Worldometer
17) British Geological Survey COP26 Lectures - Couch to net zero: What does geology and
climate change mean for you?
18) Webinar Geothermal conversion of oil and gas wells in Nevada, Feb 11, 2022
19) National Geographic
21) Arab News. Energy efficiency can save SR 7 bn annually
22) World’s highest level of lithium in geothermal waters found in Cornwall
23) Hydrogen Fuel Cell-Powered Drones
24) Hydrogen could be taken straight from the ground
25) UNEP. Our planet is choking on plastic.
26) Chemical Versus Mechanical Recycling of Plastic Waste
27) John Booth in a talk given by the Bournemouth Natural Science Society verifying my
question. What is the Environmental Impact of ICT?
28) On Solar Stills
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Enteric methane (CH4) emitted by ruminant species is known as one of the main greenhouse gases produced by the agricultural sector. The objective of this study was to assess the potential the potential for CH4 mitigation and additionally the chemical composition, in vitro gas production, dry matter degradation (DMD), digestibility and CO2 production of five tropical tree species with novel forage potential including: Spondias mombin, Acacia pennatula, Parmentiera aculeata, Brosimum alicastrum and Bursera simaruba mixed at two levels of inclusion (15 and 30%) with a tropical grass (Pennisetum purpureum). The forage samples were incubated for 48 h, and a randomized complete block design was used. Crude protein content was similar across treatments (135 ± 42 g kg−1 DM), while P. purpureum was characterized by a high content of acid detergent fiber (335.9 g kg−1 DM) and B. simaruba by a high concentration of condensed tannins (20 g kg−1 DM). Likewise, A. pennatula and P. aculeata were characterized by a high content of cyanogenic glycosides and alkaloids respectively. Treatments SM30-PP70 (30% S. mombin + 70% P. purpureum) and BA30-PP70 (30% B. alicastrum + 70% P. purpureum) resulted in superior degradability at 48h than P. purpureum, while in the AP30-PP70 (30% A. pennatula + 70% P. purpureum) was lower than the control treatment (p ≤ 0.05). At 24 and 48 h, treatments that contained P. aculeata and B. alicastrum yield higher CH4 mL g−1 DOM than P. purpureum (p ≤ 0.05). The inclusion of these forage species had no statistical effect on the reduction of CH4 emissions per unit of DM incubated or degraded at 24 and 48 h with respect to P. purpureum although reductions were observed. The use of fodders locally available is an economic and viable strategy for the mitigation of the environmental impact generated from tropical livestock systems.
Semiclosed Systems: A Priority for Twenty-First-Century Agriculture
  • Regenerative
Regenerative, Semiclosed Systems: A Priority for Twenty-First-Century Agriculture
How Algae Created Us, Plague Us. Kassinger R
  • Slime
Slime. How Algae Created Us, Plague Us. Kassinger R 2019.
Rethinking our food system | Policy Lates
  • Tamsin Cooper
Tamsin Cooper | Rethinking our food system | Policy Lates 2021 | Royal Society of Biology