“Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years” by Mark Hertsgaard focused on likely impacts due to environmental and concomitant implications arising out of unmindful scientific advancements and their technological deployments (Hertsgaard 176-217). The writer visualized vulnerable food and water supplies, drought, flood, mass migrations, deadly heat waves, and rising sea levels in the future fifty years, in section, entitled "How will we feed ourselves?" The chapter also suggested ways and means to “manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable”. Adaptation to the environmental changes and mitigation of problems are the two key factors of the entire effort. The chapter 8 of this book deals at length the fast food culture, and its impact on human health and environment. It dwells on the situations in the U.S. but sends a message to the entire humanity about the impending danger looming large on the existence of this earth. It also suggests simple ways of mitigating the implications arising out of it. Hertsgaard, a new father, bothered about the world and climate his child, Chiara, and others of her generation would inherit. His concern relates to climatic changes taking place due to actions of mankind. However, the writer is highly optimistic in approach, and suggests ways and techniques by which the inevitable could be averted, and the consequences could be mitigated. Netherland’s 200-year plan and such other measures by different poor, as well as affluent nations of the world, augur well for the posterity. The writer brings out the importance of citizen driven government actions to be crucial for the survival of human civilization.
The chapter starts with the caption “How will we feed ourselves”, and it shows the writer’s concern towards our intake of foods that have been produced by using chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and techniques detrimental to the health of people. He delineates two characters to bring home his ideas, and those are his daughter, Chiara, and the First Lady of the United States, Mitchell Obama. While Chiara represents the present generation which has to face the ordeal in the face of growing culture of fast food and junk food, the other is the embodiment of good Samaritans who are doing best efforts saving the planet. The system of industrial agriculture through which gigantic amount of food can be produced by the use of machines, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, irrigation, single crop plantings, miracle seeds, and the likes is detrimental to human health. The use of chemicals has resulted in deadening of soil, poisoning of wildlife as well as farm workers, and polluting of waterways. The fossil fuels used in large amounts for the production of fertilizers, operation of farm equipments, transportation of food items to markets, and such other activities lead to emission of greenhouse gases and pollution of local air. Food mills, restaurants, and food markets besides gas guzzling vehicles and power plants are responsible for greenhouse emissions and global warming. Biofuels appear prima facie to be the answer to this problem of fossil fuels, but it leads to reduced agricultural production and hunger. Unless drastically reformed, industrial agriculture has no future in the face of growing concern for man created climate change.
The climatic change due to global warming will adversely affect the level of grain production all over the world, and 1988 drought due to raised temperature is a live example. Even the richest of soil will not be able to keep the current level of fertility, production, and the situation will aggravate by ever increasing world population in the next fifty years. The extreme heat will cause immense harm even deaths to livestock as well as human beings. Warm weather will help weeds more than food crops. It will bring miseries on water front as well due to floods as well as droughts. While draughts will occur during summer when crops need more water to offset high temperature, it will rain heavily later to flood whatever survives the drought conditions. Agricultural experts suggest adaptation as the way out of the situation. They advocate growing of high temperature resistant crops, re-arrange cropping pattern, and type and varieties of crops planted. However, it is difficult to make adaptation with the emerging climatic conditions in the next fifty years. In order that people can get enough food in the 2nd phase of global warming (the writer considers the present phase as the 1st phase), two pronged approaches are required. First, greenhouse emissions related to the agriculture sector should be drastically reduced to "avoid the unmanageable" which will necessitate drastic changes in agricultural technologies as well as practices. Secondly, to "manage the unavoidable", strengthening of crop resilience is required so that level of production could be maintained and increased in the face of warm weather, water shortages, and other non-conducive conditions.
The continent of Africa is likely to be worst affected due to the climate changes in the years to come due to this region being the hottest in the world already, and where the temperature hovers around 45 degree Celsius normally. No wonder the region boasts of two largest deserts, namely Sahara and Sahel, in the world. However, locals in Sahel area even in the scorching heat take up organic farming by using manures in place of chemical fertilizers, growing different crops to replenish soil productivity, and using natural predators to offset pest menace instead of pesticides.
Trees work like lungs in human, and they could be of immense help in preserving the environment. Mixing of trees with crop can do wonders in crop protection. Trees provide shade, protect seedlings from gusting winds and dust, and also conserve water. In Sawadogo and Mali, we come across such kind of cropping pattern. Hence, it is between ecological balance, and industrial agriculture that we have to choose from. While Africa has taken the lead, China has attained great heights in food production. However, it is estimated that the food production probably to fall short of the requirement in China by 2030. Even in China, the efforts are directed towards intensification of current agricultural practices that have been termed as “industrial agriculture with Chinese characteristics.” The melting of snow in Himalayan peaks due to global warming may not adversely affect China in terms of water availability which is a bright spot in case of that country. Nevertheless, China is better equipped to transform its industrial agriculture system and take on climate changes than most other countries. So far as seeds are concerned, the issue is under serious research and consideration in China as to the suitability of genetically modified seeds. Another school of thought prefers transgenic seeds, but that are not cost effective. Another option is GMO seeds that perhaps hold the key factor to a bright future for humanity due to its cost effectiveness as well as environmental friendly. The writer sums up by saying that such little efforts as done by Mitchell Obama have no less significance. Also, Chiara is expected to have a beaming countenance.
The writer in his book “Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years” instills fear among the readers who come to know the devastating effects that may befall on human beings due to industrial agriculture, global warming, and greenhouse emissions. However, he suggests ways out of the awe inspiring and chilling effects of global warming. He cites examples from Africa and China to corroborate his contentions. Reduction of agricultural greenhouse emissions, organic agriculture, conservation of water, adoption of multiple cropping pattern on the same land, use of different types of seeds, and mixing of trees and plants are some of the measures suggested for mitigating the effects of global warming.
Hertsgaard , Mark . Living Through the Next Fifty Years. New York: New York Times, 176-217. Print.